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KAHLIL DARDEN, 18

In 2016, Kahlil Darden created an organization in the city of Pittsburgh to reach out to young African American men who believed in being active in their communities. In March 2019, Darden and his peer, Tamia Coleman, created a branch for female activists to stand strong and united under the name of Young Black Motivated Kings and Queens (YBMKQ). YBMKQ is a community-based organization made up of the most dedicated young men and women of Pittsburgh. In the face of constant discouragement and scrutiny, a group of young men and women have chosen to stand apart and show the community that young black kings and queens are motivated and driven. They are aware and empowered to change how they are often depicted in mainstream media, and even perceived by some of their peers. YBMKQ is their attempt to counteract this narrative by embracing their agency and inviting others to do the same, no matter their circumstance or background. YBMKQ’s primary mission is engaging high school aged youth in becoming the leaders of tomorrow while providing a community resource.

In addition to providing enriching opportunities for youth, YBMKQ also plan events for community members to come out to network and build strong connections with the youth. In 2013, before Darden founded the organization, his uncle was murdered at gunpoint. This tragic event gave Darden the courage and wisdom to do something great to not only make his uncle proud, but to change the world around him. Recently, YBMKQ was taken under the wing of 1Hood Media, a collective of socially conscious artists and activists. The organizations work together to express love and motivation throughout the city of Pittsburgh with their community service, talents, and much more. In 2017, Darden founded the first Black Student Union at Penn Hills Senior High School and plans to engage more students in the upcoming school year.

Darden will continue his work within the community and plans to become an author in the next few years. He says all things are possible with the scripture Philippians 4:13 at hand: " I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

 

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by Kahlil Darden

In life, it is always important to set goals. It does not matter if the goals you set are easily attainable or barely visible over the horizon. What matters is that you have a vision of personal success and you are creating the means to watch your goals become reality. I enjoy challenging myself and working to my best ability to allow myself to achieve the goals that I set for today, while still keeping in mind the goals to better myself tomorrow.

On November 13th, shortly after my uncle and aunt left the grocery store they were followed and gunned down at an intersection. I remember coming home, the house packed with people, everyone was sitting around wiping tears and I was confused. Not knowing the news I was about to receive was going to be the worse news I have ever had to hear in my entire life. I was informed that my uncle was shot, and did not make it even to the hospital. I thought it was a joke, waiting for someone to say sike or for him to jump out from behind something like the funny guy he was, that never happened. His life was taken from him the night that we scheduled game night and I was waiting to see him after a few weeks apart. I cried for days, couldn’t focus in school, didn’t even want to be around family. Stayed in my room, stayed away from everyone. It took a conversation with a teacher to give me a pick me up! She pushed me to find the purpose in my pain. This pushed me to find something to do that would not only heal me but heal other families around me, and to also give me a push to make sure that nobody else has to suffer the pain I did. I never want this pain to be on any families mind or heart. My uncle Jamar Hawkins is the passion behind my organization Young Black Motivated Kings and Queens.

Young Black Motivated Kings & Queens (YBMKQ) is a community-based organization made up of some of the most dedicated young men and women of the city. We have been in existence since the summer of 2016. In the face of constant discouragement and scrutiny, a group of young men and women have chosen to stand apart and show the community that young black kings and queens are active, motivated, and empowered to be the change. Our awareness of how we are often depicted in mainstream media, and even perceived by some of our peers. YBMKQ is our attempt to counteract this narrative by embracing our agency and inviting others to do the same, no matter their circumstance or background. Our primary mission is engaging high school aged youth in becoming the leaders of tomorrow while serving the community. In addition to providing enriching opportunities for youth, we also plan events for community members to come out to build strong connections with the youth, and network.

I started on one of my aspirations, but I have many more that I have set for myself. One personal goal is to help the underprivileged, impoverished communities in Pittsburgh. I come from the Homewood area of Pittsburgh here in my state. This is a high crime area where sometimes it may be unsafe to even walk down the street at night. Growing up in this changes you! It makes you want better not only for yourself but for others around you. I’d like to think of myself as an intelligent, dedicated, strong-minded human being. Normally, people like me are often looked down upon due to the color of our skin. However, I am living proof, to say the least, and I will continue to make my people proud of me with everything I do.