Recently, I was on an Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement panel with superstars Nick Cannon, Russell Simmons, and Lupe Fiasco. At the town hall meeting, I was definitely a little nervous. After all, I was the only kid on stage with the entertainment superstars, but I thought it was important for the hundreds of young black males in the audience to see me up there, because I am one of them.
I am proud to be a black male. I understand there will be obstacles in my life because of this, but I will not allow my skin color or negative images of black males to stop me from reaching my goals and neither should other young, black males.
It didn’t stop President Barack Obama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., BET-TV Founder Bob Johnson, Tyler Perry, Spike Lee, Russell, Nick, Lupe, Jay-Z, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, or Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Dr. Ben Carson from being successful.
It didn’t stop my dad, New York State Senator Eric Adams, or my grandfather, Retired Lt. of Detectives for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Wilbert Coleman. And it definitely did not stop my great-grandfather, John Major Miller, who was born in 1916 and dropped out of school in the second grade to help support his family. He hopped a train from Florida to New York City to become the owner of a New York City Taxi medallion.
If our community wants to improve the image of the black male, the changes have to start at home, in the classroom and in the community. Our parents have to love us enough to discipline us and not be afraid to say NO! I’m living proof that discipline still works; my mom is old school. And teachers have to believe black males are teachable. As black males, we have to inspire each other and believe that we matter. Our communities have to show us better examples and encourage us to dream.
As a filmmaker, I want to explore topics that have a huge impact on my generation, especially black males. When I was in middle school, I made my first film, Say It Loud, a documentary that explores the importance of education for black boys. It includes interviews with celebrities Kobe Bryant, Ludacris, Michael Strahan, Vince Carter, Swizz Beatz, and Master P.
I made the film because my friends were not serious about school; they were more interested in sports and rap music. Through research, I learned that less than 50 percent of black boys graduate from high school and that bothered me. I wanted to do something to help encourage black boys to do well in school. The film has taken on a life of its own and inspires all kids.
My second film, Payin' the Price, which will debut in the spring, is a cautionary tale about teen dating violence. I decided to make this film after the Chris Brown and Rhianna incident and after learning that many girls at my school had been in abusive relationships or knew someone who had been.
Through my films, I want to educate, entertain, empower, and inspire my generation, especially black males, to make a difference in the world. I’m just an average kid with big dreams. I believe I can do anything, because I have God on my side, a mom who has set the bar high, and a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who lead by example, and I have a little brother who looks up to me.