The concept started as a Facebook group showcasing the stories of accomplished black men in the Greater Toronto Area. The Facebook group has close to 2,000 members and has now expanded to a high school program through Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute - the Afrocentric school in Scarborough- where black professionals come in and speak to students. The program began in December 2015 and its last session was held on May 10. The group has been approved to run the program again next year at the same school. Jeff Martin is working on turning Brothas From The 6 into a non profit organization.
“The more people I met through the school program, the more I realized there are a lot of Black men doing great things. Being a black male born and raised in Toronto (Rexdale to be precise), I decided that I wanted to profile some of the good work being done in the city, so I started Brothas from the 6. I focused on men as I found that is where most of the work needs to be done. I hope with the social media page I can inspire young boys out there and show them that there are successful black men from Toronto they can look to as role models. I also hope to light a fire under the grown men out there who could be doing a little bit more in our community,” says Jeff Martin.
Brothas from the 6 is currently working on remaking a photo from the U.S. in which black men of different ages and from different walks of life wear suits in order to combat stereotypes. The photo shoot is happening on Sunday May 29th at 3pm at Downsview Park and will be led by award winning photographer Lawrence Kerr. No registration is required. The group has put out a call for men to bring their sons, fathers, grandfathers, friends, relatives or mentees to be part of the photo. Something like this has never been done before in Toronto and Martin is excited at the possibility of making history. “Our goal is to have as many men and boys as possible in the photo, as a symbol of unity in the black community and just to combat all the negativity you see in the media.”
Just last month Martin posted a video on Facebook of two young black males involved in a condo shooting described by police as a gang war kidnapping. He made a heartfelt plea for community members to get more involved in the lives of youth.
“Too many of us have suffered first hand from the violence in our city, myself included with a cousin shot and killed in 2005 and another stabbed to death in 2008. We need to get to the point where as a community we become tired (and not content) enough of these situations that we are willing to do our part. If you sit and talk with any of these guys in this video or any other youth caught up, you will soon realize that at the core, 99.9% of them are good kids. They lack drive and they've lost their ability to dream. Each one of us needs to do our part, no matter how your personal story is going. Every child can learn from your struggles and your successes but we need to be willing to share our stories with them. Too many of us are watching from the sidelines. It doesn't have to take a Martin Luther King speech to make change, just a quick or quiet word to a child to plant that seed. If you see a teenager on a bus, tell him you believe in him. You see a pre-teen in a store, tell her she has a bright future in front of her. Let's start planting the seed, giving these kids a reason to dream again!”