Xavier Blackwell

Part of a year-long series, presented by The American and the Brown School at Washington University, about changing the narratives and outcomes of young black males in St. Louis. 

As a St. Louis native, I wasn’t surrounded by individuals as an adolescent who shared my current mindset that anything is possible. Growing up in North St. Louis on Natural Bridge and Newstead, I wasn’t surrounded by individuals who looked like me and were accomplishing positive goals. Instead, I was surrounded by unfortunate distractions that at any time could have changed the course of my life if I had chosen to participate.

As a young man, I can remember this burning desire to accomplish something great. I wanted to be the person who took my family to a higher level of thinking, believing and achieving. I wanted to experience a level of success that would make my family name be remembered for generations to come.

So I worked hard as a young black man to stay focused and make good decisions. I tried hard to stay away from things that were going to keep me away from my vision for my life. I wanted more, and I knew that there was more out there.

I chose education as my path. It has served as an outlet for me throughout my life. However, most importantly, education has served as a personal guide and source to access the world. Although education is not the path for everyone, it can still be an option for your future. Education has allowed me to be taught by some of the best and brightest minds in the world. It has also placed me in environments that have shaped me as a person and forced me to grow, even when the growth was uncomfortable.

As the Leadership Education coordinator for the University of Missouri-St. Louis, I challenge my students and those around me by simply asking: what or who is your why? And who will it impact? Success isn’t built overnight or without humility. There is something deep inside of us that wants to answer those questions, but fear and discomfort prevent us. I challenge you to push pass the doubts, negative thoughts and grab ahold the endless possibilities with passion and pride.

The moment change happens is when we decide to lean into discomfort. But it’s all a choice.

Are you uncomfortable yet? Are you ready for the discomfort? With discomfort comes new experiences, new challenges and new opportunities. We must not remain in the mindset of others’ insecurities and fears. Simply take the first step in realizing you are more than just a black man in today’s society, but a king with vision, purpose and possibilities.

Xavier Blackwell serves as the Leadership Education coordinator for the Office of Student Involvement at the University of Missouri- St. Louis and is the founder of Newstead Global, which creates trainings and workshops for international students who are transitioning into the American educational system.

“Homegrown Black Males” is a partnership between HomeGrown STL at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and The St. Louis American, edited by Sean Joe, Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor and associate dean at the Brown School, and Chris King, managing editor of The American, in memory of Michael Brown.

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