Man Up Breakfast aims to foster mentorship and highlight positive male role models in Birmingham

Rashad Grimes, the 2019 Man Up keynote speaker

Rashad Grimes refuses to be defined by the circumstances of his youth. Having grown up in Birmingham, Grimes is well versed in the issues that impact young people here and he believes that finding success is about having a strong foundation to lean on.

“I’m a firm believer that — just like a house — if a person has a good foundation, there is nothing they can’t withstand, even after the tougher storms,” Grimes said, seated at a high top table outside his uncle’s shoe shop. “When I came up, I had a mother and father instill certain things in me so when life hit me and when I found myself in certain situations I was able to go back to what they taught me and get through it.”

A big issue for today’s youth, he explained, is a lack of understanding between them and some of the city’s elders. That, compounded with the rise of social media, has led to what Grimes describes as a disconnect between generations.

“People like to say ‘it takes a village to raise a kid’ and I think that holds a lot of truth. Support is not just a home thing,” Grimes said. “Everything around us in some shape or form affects us, even if you don’t realize it. There may be a kid who asks you for a dollar or some work. You may say, ‘I can’t help you.’ You can’t be surprised if a month or year later that same kid ends up robbing you or someone you know.”

On Saturday, Grimes will be the keynote speaker at the annual District 8 Man Up Breakfast where he hope to share his message of having the right mindset to overcome life’s obstacles. Currently enrolled at Samford’s Cumberland School of Law, Grimes said his motivation comes from an urge to be more knowledgeable of the law, especially in America.

“I was trying to figure out what I’m good at,” Grimes said of this decision to enroll in law school following his graduation from Alabama State University. Grimes made the decision to join the U.S. Air Force Reserve after his second year at ASU as a way to both save money for his education and serve his country. His time in the military helped instill a sense of discipline and drive, which has served him well as he continues to work his way through law school.

“Naturally I’m a talker. I’m and advocate and I like to debate…I wanted to find out how I can change the financial trajectory of my family…To obtain a Juris Doctor degree is something I see as invaluable; you learn about the law, you learn about contracts. It’s a personal investment and I’ll be able to affect other people’s lives through what I’ve learned in law school.”

Grimes is expecting his first child later this year and hopes to one day open a community-based organization that help reach out to the city’s youth.

2019 Man of the Year: Tracey Muhammad

Tracey Muhammad, the 2019 Man of the Year Award Recipient

The 2019 Man of the Year award recipient is Tracey Muhammad, a Birmingham native who has twenty-nine years of community service that includes serving youth, as well as a community activist and organizer. His community service consists of volunteering as a Prison Reform Ministry Coordinator throughout Alabama’s state and federal prisons. Mr. Muhammad has volunteered at his former high school as a graduate assistant football coach and mentor through an organization called Men in Action. He has mentored middle school students and a volunteer consultant with Junior Achievement. Recently, he became a mentor of boys at the local YWCA.

But most importantly, Muhammad said, he’s a father of five amazing children.

“I would think I was chosen for this award because the people in my life did the right thing — my parents, my coaches, my teachers, a lot of people that God blessed me to be in their care,” Muhammad said. “I receive this award on behalf of those who have invested in my life and gave me and my nine siblings the environment to succeed. Growing up in West End and Ensley, we were protected from a lot of things. Being a parent now, I try to do the same thing for my children.”

For Muhammad, the responsibility of being a positive role model extends beyond just his family — he wants to do right by the community as well.

“I had the best wife that a man could ever ask for. I could never leave her out of being a blessing to me,” Muhammad said, referring to the loss of his wife of seventeen years in 2015. “I’ve been more grateful than sorry for the time we had.”

Muhammad said it’s because of his upbringing and the love he was exposed to at a young age, he’s been able to persevere through the hardest times in his life, whether that is the loss of a loved one or a fire that took their home years ago.

“It all goes back to parenting. If my parents had given me $2 million and did not give me the word of God and taken me to church, they would have failed me. Developing that personal relationship with a higher power, no matter what you go through in life that can be your source of strength,” Muhammad said.

“I am so grateful for the honor to be receiving this award. There’s lots of titles we can get in this life, from CEOs to Mayor to Councilor to plumber. But I know in my life I strive to be a good man first and whatever I’ve done after that is secondary. You can be a good pastor or President or CEO but you may not be a good man. We need to strive to be good people and that will carry through into whatever you do.”

The Man Up Breakfast will be held at 8 a.m. June 15 at the Birmingham CrossPlex and will feature speakers and special guests.

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