It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.
– Invictus, by William Ernest Henley
Founder, President & CEO
For as long as I can remember, the last stanza of William Ernest Henley’s poem, Invictus, has guided me in ways both conscious and unconscious. My father often recited the poem as he drove my siblings and me along the streets of New York City on one outing or another.
Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.
Like the Jackson 5, the Staple Singers, and Aretha Franklin, this poem is part of the soundtrack of my youth…and I thank my father–and whatever gods may be, for that. You see, we really do not know what challenges might befall us as we make our way through life. The risks we take and the potential dangers embodied within each one are as numerous as there are human souls coursing through this reality. Equally strong, however, is the potential for great success. We only need give free reign to our unconquerable soul.
The Baton Foundation, for me, is that risk…a personal challenge, or sorts, to use all my resources—innate and otherwise–to help us Black people better understand, value and preserve the phenomenal culture into which we were born. Unfortunately, others frequently want to start our historical clock at slavery, have it strike 12 noon somewhere during the height of the modern Civil Rights Movement, and end the historical day with a mixed bag of successes and failures (most recently, Barack Obama’s presidency and the so-called deterioration of the Black family, respectively). Our story, though, like the stories of all other human beings stretches back much further than recorded history and will extend into a future that no one alive today can even imagine. And, as is everything in nature, we are divine, magnificent, and enduring.
I invite you to join us on this journey. Enroll your son in the Cultural Heritage Program, attend one of our Arts and Humanities programs, sign your daughter up for our Explorers Camp, participate in one of our Community Engagement activities, or travel with us on a field trip to South Carolina, Africa or the Caribbean. The opportunities for fun and learning are endless—and they all center on the history, the stories, and the cultures of Black people. I look forward to seeing you soon. And always remember to pass the baton.
The Baton Foundation exists to strengthen Black boys and adolescents emotionally, culturally, and intellectually.
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