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Everyday Heroes

John Taylor III’s Mission is to Help Black Men Unlock Their Full Potential

After the 2018 election cycle, the organizer and others decided to counter negative narratives around people of color with a new program.

John Taylor III and others had the idea for the Black Male Initiative Georgia Fund after growing tired of narratives around Black men during the 2018 election cycle. (Courtesy of Black Male Initiative)

EDITOR’S NOTE

In Atlanta, we love a great story, but it ain’t all doom and gloom. With that thought in mind, say hello to Everyday Heroes. This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special — and they bring out the best in all of us. 

This holiday season, Capital B Atlanta, the AJC, and our partners wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help. We’ve profiled three people who are working toward finding solutions to problems in their communities, the metro area, and the state.

In his own words, John Taylor III first learned the importance of community from endearing metaphors taught to him by his grandmother.

“As she would always say, ‘We are all we got, but we’re all we need,’” Taylor said at the office of the Black Male Initiative Georgia Fund. It’s an Atlanta-based nonprofit that he helped co-found to empower Black men financially and civically through direct action, grassroots organizing and advocacy as a means of creating a healthy and equitable society. Taylor III is the organization’s co-chair.

Officially launched in 2019, the concept for BMI Georgia Fund came to life the year before as a signature program with the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation to offer young Black men a chance to rewrite narratives around their community. From there, the group started to flesh the program out, creating initiatives like Black Youth the Vote! and a certified pretrial diversion program through Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton counties.

“In 2018, we were watching the election cycle here in Georgia, and some of the brothers on the ground here were uncomfortable with the stereotypical narratives around Black men, and we decided that we wanted to capture our own narrative,” Taylor said.

Now offering programs in five areas — civic engagement, criminal justice, education, Black mental health and wellness, and economic empowerment — Taylor says that the ultimate goal for BMI is to reach the Black communities where they are.

“When we cut turf, we seek out the turf everybody else wants to pass,” he said. “Our goal is to show that the individuals that live in our communities with the most need are individuals that have not only a brilliant analysis of society, but that they have passion, that they’re not castoffs and throwaways, that they do care about what’s happening in their communities, and that really the initiative is all you need.”

According to Taylor, a Tuskegee University alum, the majority of his work involves giving Black men opportunities to care for themselves in ways that promote equity.

“When you see our canvassers on the door, it might be a young person who’s on their first chance, it’s the first job they ever had, or it might be somebody that was on their third strike, and if it wasn’t for us, they wouldn’t get another chance,” he said. “But every person who was in the community rocking a BMI or a BMIF shirt is somebody that cares deeply about their community.”

But for Taylor, the ultimate goal is reminding and educating Black men and women on the fact that they matter.

“If you think about the history of Black folks in America and these 400-and-some-odd years, that it is a miracle and a feat of sheer excellence that our community is upright and not just screaming and ripping its hair out every day,” he said. “At the center of each of us is a beautiful human that is worthy of respect and dignity and love, and as many chances as we can muster, so that we can be our full selves and reach our full potential.”

HOW TO HELP:

For more information on BMI Georgia, visit https://www.bmigeorgia.org/. Follow them on Instagram @bmigeorgia.