ALTON — The Alton chapter of 100 Black Men of America has been in the community for 30 years.
The group has worked in recent months to ensure it will be a bigger part of that community going forward.
Alton chapter President Anthony Booker Sr. said the group, one of the first 100 Black Men of America chapters anywhere, recently turned an eye toward being “more visible in the community” with the hope that increased membership will improve the group’s image and, ultimately, will allow them to give back to the community even more.
“We get a lot of complaints about ‘100 Black Men don’t do anything in the community.’ We’re trying to change that,” Booker said.
100 Black Men of America traces its roots back to 1963, when a group of concerned African-American citizens in New York got together to explore ways to improve their community. The Alton chapter was formed in 1986, the 10th chapter formed nationally.
The group describes its mission as striving to improve the quality of life within its community and enhance educational and economic opportunities for all African-Americans. Specifically, the organization focuses on the intellectual development of youths and the economic empowerment of the African-American community through respect for family, spirituality, justice and integrity.
The Alton chapter has done that with a number of events throughout the year. Booker listed the annual scholarship banquet, through which the organization has awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships over the years, the golf tournament in early May and the group’s involvement in Pride Inc.’s Bucket Brigade, which paints homes in the Alton area, as a few of the things the Alton chapter does each year.
But staying true to the group’s motto, “what they see is what they’ll be,” Booker said in recent months they have increased their reach to participate in the Memorial Day Parade, the first time in years the group has participated in the parade, and they recently began a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Alton. Group members also mentor students at Alton High School — Booker works as a security guard at the school — in hopes of becoming a more visible part of their lives.
“To us, the main thing is for our kids to understand that education is the key,” member Michael “Doc” Holliday said. “No matter where they come from, they can be what they want to be, but they have to work toward doing that. And you do that by being educated.”
“It’s not an easy thing to do. Some days, it gets hard,” Booker said. “Some things that we see are heartbreaking. But we keep going. That’s our main objective, to help our youth.”
Booker said the group has 32 members and is recruiting more. Prominent members include Holliday, who sits on the Madison County Board; Madison County Housing Authority Executive Director Andy Hightower; and longtime Alton NAACP President James Gray. Anyone with interest in joining the organization, or interest in the organization itself, can visit 100BMA.org or reach out to any member of the Alton chapter of 100 Black Men of America, Booker said.
The most recent event was this year’s scholarship banquet, at which the group gave away 15 scholarships and awards ranging from $50 to $1,000. Next up will be the annual Black Tie Ball at Lewis and Clark Community College.
Booker expressed hope that recent efforts, and those in the future, will lead to a new perception of the Alton group.
“We want the community to get behind the 100 and support us,” Booker said. “We want the community to know that we’re here for them. We’re not just an organization with a name and we’re not doing anything. We want them to know that we are working hard in the community.”
2016 Black Tie Ball
Saturday, Oct. 15
Lewis & Clark Community College’s Hatheway Hall
Cocktail hour starts at 5 p.m.; dinner at 6 p.m.
Ticket cost is $60 apiece
All seats are reserved