Not Ready

A monologue about a young black man encouraging his friend to pursue higher education starts a conversation about black male engagement. Featuring a conversation with "The Tribe," four young black men whose bond helped them thrive at Philadelphia's academically rigorous J.R. Masterman School. 

Click here to read a transcript of this episode.


“I’m the young boul of the group, and I’m setting the example for yall. I’m supposed to be looking up to y’all, but instead I feel like y’all are relying on me to make it. I’d rather make it with y’all, together, as the gang that we are.”
— from "Not Ready" by Rashaan Brooks Jr.
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It’s the end of May, which means two things in Philadelphia: festivals and graduations. All over the city, thousands of people, young and old, are clogging traffic with their flowing graduation gowns and smiling families, navigating their way through crowded, closed streets hosting festivals of all kinds.

It’s an exciting time that will continue on well into June, when high school graduation season kicks off, sending even more smiling faces out of auditoriums and into the sun-drenched streets.

Graduations are a time of celebration. They are a time to acknowledge hard work and determination. They are rites of passage.

For Rashaan Brooks, Jr., Gary Williams, Maurice Scott, and Rayshawn Johnson, the next couple of weeks will mark a clear transition from one chapter of their lives into the next. All four young men, who call themselves “The Tribe,” will graduate from the academically rigorous Masterman on June 19th. In the fall, they will begin their studies at college: three of them are going to the University of Pittsburgh, while the fourth, Rayshawn, is headed to Yale.

“I think college is very important, especially for black men,” Rashaan said in an interview the week before prom. “Because quite honestly a lot of people in this country don’t want us to go to college. They don’t want us to graduate high school at that.”

On this week’s episode of Mouthful, a weekly podcast that places young people at the center of important issues, we talk to The Tribe about their friendship: how it helped them excel in school, surpass expectations, and set a visible example for other young black men.

In the City of Philadelphia, less than one third of young black men graduate from high school. For The Tribe, the realities behind that statistic became a personal mission.

 

the conversation

"The Tribe"--Gary Williams, Maurice Scott, Rayshawn Johnson, and Rashaan Brooks, Jr (left to right)--leaned on each other to navigate the challenges and opportunities of growing up and going to school at the academically rigorous J.R. Masterman School in Philadelphia. Consistently ranked as one of the top high schools in the state and even in the country, Masterman prepares its students for success after graduation. The Tribe is no exception: Gary, Maurice, and Rashaan are all headed to the University of Pittsburgh, and Rayshawn is going to Yale.  The Tribe's time at Masterman wasn't strictly spent studying. The young men all play prominent roles in the schools African American Culture Committee, a club dedicated to fostering and growing the school's black student population. Rashaan, Gary, Maurice, and Rayshawn were four of just seven black young men in their grade of 108 students. 

"The Tribe"--Gary Williams, Maurice Scott, Rayshawn Johnson, and Rashaan Brooks, Jr (left to right)--leaned on each other to navigate the challenges and opportunities of growing up and going to school at the academically rigorous J.R. Masterman School in Philadelphia. Consistently ranked as one of the top high schools in the state and even in the country, Masterman prepares its students for success after graduation. The Tribe is no exception: Gary, Maurice, and Rashaan are all headed to the University of Pittsburgh, and Rayshawn is going to Yale. 

The Tribe's time at Masterman wasn't strictly spent studying. The young men all play prominent roles in the schools African American Culture Committee, a club dedicated to fostering and growing the school's black student population. Rashaan, Gary, Maurice, and Rayshawn were four of just seven black young men in their grade of 108 students. 

Further reading & resources

Dig into the Schott Foundation for Public Education's report about black male engagement and graduation rates around the country and check out actions steps and further insights into the systemic challenges facing young black males

Check out the many ways that Rutgers University-Newark has opened their doors and supported their students to achieve a graduation rate for black students that is far above the national average.

Explore Scholly, a "scholarship-matching platform" that connects students, black males and otherwise, to lists of targeted scholarships uniquely suited to each individual. 

Click here to learn more about Philadelphia Young Playwrights.


"Not Ready" is performed by Carlo Campbell