Flipping the Script: Rewriting the Story of Urban Youth

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

How do we find opportunities where others see only problems? The BASE founder and president Robert Lewis Jr. and Mida chef and owner Douglass Williams join host Billy Shore for an enlightening conversation about using love and generosity to build community and create generational change. Lewis started The BASE as a way to re-imagine pathways to success for urban youth. “Language matters… we don’t use language around ‘at-risk, disadvantaged and underserved.’ Our young folks are ‘untapped, great and resilient,’” he says. Williams agrees that words can help change minds and hearts. “If everybody just picked up a book about something that they’ve never read before, that would solve 90% of the racism, 90% of the problems we have. It’s just about educating yourself,” he says.

Both guests discuss how their personal experiences have shaped the work they do today. Williams talk about having a serious illness as a child and how his world travels have shaped his perspective. “It’s humbling because you see how other people live… that’s what changes your mind, that’s the mind switch. You cannot unsee the truth,” he explains. Lewis tells personal stories of the racism and violence he endured growing up in the projects in Boston. “People said ‘mother had me at 17, welfare, growing up in the projects, no dad, somebody already wrote the story.’ And we turned around and I guess we kicked that story.” Now he is helping inner city youth because he believes all kids deserve opportunities.

Share in this uplifting conversation that illuminates the impact of sharing the spirit of generosity and love.

Resources and Mentions:

Douglass Williams

Chef and owner of Mida, an Italian influenced neighborhood restaurant in Boston’s South End. Williams graduated from Atlantic Culinary College and then honed his skills at under award-winning chef Michael Schlow’s critically acclaimed Boston restaurant, Radius. He was then part of the opening team at Coppa, working as a pasta chef for Jamie Bissonnette. Williams has traveled and cooked in some of the finest restaurants throughout the world including Thailand, Italy, Paris and New York City. In 2018, he competed on Iron Chef America.

Robert Lewis Jr.

Founder and President of The BASE, a model and methodology that changes the paradigm for urban youth by providing student athletes with the opportunity, knowledge, skills and confidence needed to develop a winning game plan for success both on and off the field. He is a nationally recognized thought leader, public speaker and passionate advocate for urban youth. Known as a bridge-builder and catalyst for collaboration between diverse business, civic and public sectors, Lewis has deep experience with grassroots, community-based organizations throughout Greater Boston and government entities, colleges, sports franchises and philanthropic foundations throughout the country. He is the former Executive Director of the Boston Centers for Youth and Families, President and Executive Director of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), Senior Vice President of City Year’s national operations and Executive Director of City Year Boston, and Vice President for Program at the Boston Foundation, where he directed the distribution of $16 million+ in discretionary grants. Among his many awards and distinctions are the 2015 Sports Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the Boston Baseball Writer’s Annual Dinner, and an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Cambridge (MA) College. In addition, Robert served on MA Governor-elect Charlie Baker’s transition team, helping develop Baker’s statewide urban agenda.

No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.

Mida

First restaurant from talented up-and-comer Douglass Williams. Inspired by the simplicity of classic Italian culinary traditions, it is a neighborhood restaurant with a focus on wine and warm service in a casual setting. Guests at the South End spot can expect a dining experience that brings the highest quality of ingredients to life through creativity, curiosity, and skill in the form of handmade pastas, bold, unique flavor combinations, and limitless passion and generosity. Rooted in Italian culinary tradition and seasoned by Chef Williams’ extensive travels, Mida’s menu is designed around the shared dining experience.

The BASE

Combines exceptional baseball and softball training and competition with academic and career resources to empower student-athletes to achieve their full potential both on and off the field. The BASE engages and supports a growing number of youth coaches and has built strong relationships with many other diverse leaders and institutions from the public, private & nonprofit sectors, higher education, the community and beyond committed to changing minds, lives and the status quo. The BASE model plays a key role in shifting the national mindset and re-imagining pathways to success for urban youth. It operates a premier national urban youth academy that combines sports and academic opportunities through a methodology that cultivates excellence, belief and love.

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