Brothers: How four young black men found their mission to change our city, starting now

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Four top: Wes Bellamy, Sarad Davenport, Quinton Harrell, and Corbin Hargraves (from left) pull up a seat at Mel’s Diner, where Bellamy ate almost exclusively when he first moved to Charlottesville. Photo: John Robinson Four top: Wes Bellamy, Sarad Davenport, Quinton Harrell, and Corbin Hargraves (from left) pull up a seat at Mel’s Diner, where Bellamy ate almost exclusively when he first moved to Charlottesville. Photo: John Robinson

The Tonsler Park Recreation Center is busy at 4:30pm on a Wednesday. The long, L-shaped main room bustles with games of pool and chess, people coming and going past the old school Ms. Pac-Man game and the foosball table. Adults watch the T.V. on the wall, or sit and talk in small groups. You get the sense many are just killing time on a cold evening in the neighborhood.

Wes Bellamy isn’t killing time, he’s chasing it. Because even though he just arrived, he has to leave again to track down a girl in his after-school program, which officially starts at 4pm but which really starts when he gets all of the kids together. After passing some instructions to one of the older kids, he heads through the crowd out to the parking lot, past his trademark Dodge Charger, getting instead into an old minivan. Bellamy moves like an athlete, which he is. But he uses his spacial awareness and vision like a politician, timing his smiles, waves, and winks to make sure everyone gets a piece of him.

Then he’s gone, driving the couple blocks from the rec center over to the Sixth Street housing project, hopping out with the van still running, and knocking on an apartment door. There’s no answer and no one outside has seen the girl, so Bellamy gets back to the van and heads back to the rec center, no sign of irritation on his face. Inside, in a small room separated from the rest of the building by a sliding plastic wall, seven young men, ranging in age from 4 to 23, are getting ready to box.

Coach Tyrone and Coach Norman, Bellamy’s volunteer helpers, wrap hands with athletic tape, pull on gloves, and point out untied shoelaces. After stretching and doing jumping jacks, the kids divide into groups to work on shadowboxing. The room is small, 10′ x 20′ at most, and the kids’ efforts soon render the windows too foggy to see through. Most nights 12 or more kids show up, but even with only half that number—plus the coaches, a UVA student who’s helping out, not to mention the body bag and two speed bags—the room is crowded to the point of absurdity.

Bellamy has organized a step dance class for girls that takes place at the same time, but they’ve been forced out of the conference room they usually use to make way for a city planning meeting. The search is on for a space to practice, but until then, the girls fight for room in the crowded main hall, while the boys jab and faint in tightly circumscribed circles in the back room.

Take our brief survey on race in Charlottesville here.

The program is called HYPE, Helping Young People Evolve, and when it began on December 7, 2011 it was just Bellamy, some boxing gloves, and a punching bag. There are now 16 boys and seven girls who meet four days a week. At 26, Bellamy is only a few years older than the oldest of the boxers, but even so, he’s more than just a coach to these kids; he’s also a driver and a disciplinarian, a teacher and a mentor, sometimes a big brother, sometimes a parent.

“I was just like these kids,” he says. “I know what it’s like to not have things. I know what it’s like to have those surrogate fathers.”

The goal of HYPE is to use boxing and step dancing to instill discipline in young people, to help them grow and learn respect for themselves and for others. It’s open to all of the city’s children, but things in this world being what they are, the kids in HYPE all come from families below the poverty line and all of them are black.

When the training session is over, equipment put away, snacks distributed, one of the younger boys in the HYPE program runs over to Bellamy, interrupting our conversation to ask a question.
“Say excuse me,” Bellamy says, before telling the boy to turn around and try again. He walks a few steps, then comes back, says excuse me, and asks his question.

“Do you know him?” Bellamy asks, pointing to me.

“No,” the boy says.

And then, following Bellamy’s instructions, he holds out his hand and introduces himself. Bellamy places a large hand on the boy’s tiny head.

“You’ve worked hard,” he says. “And I’m proud of you.”

  • Stephanie Bellamy

    Very deep,very well written!..Love this story and I can’t never express in writing how proud I’m of you Wesley Bellamy!

  • Tiffany Bellamy Gerald

    With The Lord directing you a path of greatness can only follow. Pay it Forward Wes so so proud of you!!!

  • Copeland A

    Quinton, Sarad, Wes & Corbin, The BROTHERS: Congratulations and God bless you! Continue the good work you’re doing for our youth, the African American community and the Charlottesville Community as whole. Thank you, C-VILLE, for showcasing 4 of hundreds of black males in our community who are making a difference,whether behind the scenes or in the forefront.

  • Harris G

    Great Article! It was nice reading a piece on 4 positive brothers in Charlottesville. Keep up the good work Quinton, Sarad, Wes & Corbin. Good job c-ville. See you at Mt Zion FABC (Q & Sarad).

  • lane

    Soo proud of you wesbe lol god is in your coner keep the work up you will be bless aunti denise nj

  • http://www.facebook.com/tracey.howardgough Tracey Estelle Howard-Gough

    Awesome stories! May God continue to bless you and strengthen you as you serve your community.

  • M.Rick Turner

    Well written and wonderful content. I am also very proud of these black men. However, I wish at sometime these young men with the help of all of in the community community can give some serious attention to what are young children are learning, One thing that I know they are not learning is how their precious legacy, their heritage is being deliberately suppressed and destroyed. It so nice to learn how to box and etc, but most of these youngsters are still confused and at a distance from their own history. “If you don’t know where you’ve been, how can you possibly know where you’re going” We need to give them more in the schools and at home

    • M. Rick Turner

      What our young children are learning. (correction)

      • Wes

        Hey Dr. Turner,

        One of the items that we spoke about at our “Real Men 101″ session this past Saturday was our history, awareness, and learning from those before us. We were looking for you, but hopefully you can make the next session. We will be at the Carver Rec. March 23,2013 at 10AM. Hope to see you there.

        Thanks,

        Wes

        • M. Rick Turner

          Wes,

          It sure would be wonderful if we could attend every function we were invited to. I hope to be with you on March 23.

          Please send reminders to the community.

          Keep up the good work.

          Dr. T.

  • Charlotte Drummond

    All, this article was one of the best things I’ve read locally in a very, very long time. Well done on this sensitive, collaborative effort to take Charlottesville and all its citizens a step in a new direction. My question is, gentlemen, what do you need? How can community members assist you and support your work? At any given time, I expect there’s a long list. Is there a way to keep this posted somewhere online so that we can keep people pointed to it? Let’s get interested individuals and groups plugged in to raise the safety net under you as you lift the community up. CharlotteDrummond@gmail.com

  • Robert Berry

    Nicely done. It is great to read the work of young men working hard to serve others.

  • Bernard Whitsett, II

    Superb Job Gents!!! Continue the stellar work for a priceless cause: people.

  • CP

    Great job fellas. Good to see that someone is looking after OUR community.

  • Riana Anderson

    I’ll echo the sentiments of some of the greats on here already, but excellent coverage and content. There are plenty of things that are going WELL in the communities that news outlets often don’t report on. This is a shining exemplar of 4 such cases. It’s been a privilege to work with many of them throughout my time here in Charlottesville and agree that, in several years time, the efforts of all of them will be permanently etched in our city’s history and purpose. Keep shining young brothers and keep writing Cville.

  • Julie Caruccio

    I applaud the courage and vision displayed by both the incredible leaders profiled in this story and the Cville staff who wrote and supported it. Please, give us MORE of this type of coverage. Keep watching the amazing work these men do in the community. Find ways to support it. Ask others to support it. I work with UVA students wanting to make a difference in this community, and this article is now required reading for them. I am grateful for the fact that both Wes and Sarad have already given much of their time and expertise in working with my students, and I learn from the two of them directly all the time. I’ve been learning from Quinton for even longer, albeit from afar. Gentlemen, I’m listening and learning and hoping I can help UVA be useful to you in this most important quest. Thank you for putting skin in the game, for leading by example, and for persevering. The young women and men we work with deserve every drop of our effort, and more.

  • HR

    Great story! This type of press not only serves to recognize those who make an impact in our community, but also inspires others to use their time and talents to serve purposefully. Kudos to the Brothers and to Mr. Beard!

  • Ronnie Williams

    Inspiring to change our future, our community, and the world… Great job on changing the mindset of our youth. Keep pushing and we applaud the efforts you guys are doing.

  • Dr. L. Noel-Batiste

    Awesome young men! No matter how challenging your tasks may become doing this important work, stay on course because those boys and girls are worth your time and effort. As a survivor of desegregation in Virginia’s Public Schools, my strong African-American teachers were my lifelines and provided me hope. You are doing the same thing for these young people–giving them hope. I am so proud of those four brothers.

  • Kialeah Sumpter, MSW

    How refreshing it is to see stories being done on African American men who are making a difference in our communities. So often we are inundated by negative media coverage in regard to the African American community. At times the pessimism is so overwhelming that it is difficult to support national and local media outlets. I applaud C’Ville Weekly for shining a light on men who are taking time to mentor and guide our youth. Please continue to provide these inspiring stories! Kudos!

  • A local

    “I thought the city needed to let go of its myths before it could contend with its realities.” I’d like to know which of those C-VILLE thinks this story accomplishes. Each of the four men in this story deserve praise and recognition for their efforts. As do many women in the community. One might ask whether C-VILLE would’ve served its city better by building those connections *before* writing this story—or, for that matter, why the paper described its desire to “better cover news and culture in Charlottesville’s African-American community” rather than taking the feedback from these four men (and many others), and putting it into action. I’d like to hear how C-VILLE plans to make better coverage of the city’s African-American community (and, again, many others) a year-round endeavor.

  • Kathy Galvin

    Thank you Wes, Sarad, Quinton and Corbin! It is an honor and a privilege to know you. Charlottesville is a far better place because of what you four do for our community. Thanks to C’ville Weekly for getting outside your comfort zone and writing a great story that rings so true.

  • Erven Kimble

    It is refreshing and exciting to see Wesley (my son-in-ministry) and other gifted young Black men committed and focused on meaningful help to the children and families of our African American communities. I applaud their efforts and the coverage of such positive news. Keep up the good work!

  • Alexis A

    This story should serve as inspiration as well as remind us of what we can accomplish, with a little help from friends and like minded individuals. With so much bad new it’s awesome to read about such heartfelt gentlemen who are invested in making the community better! Awesome job by all involved!

  • JP

    Prevention rarely gets the attention it deserves–so many stories shine a light on negative outcomes. As a reader, I appreciate seeing part of my reality confirmed–there is good work being done by so many in our community, and it deserves attention.

    We’re fortunate to have the four gentlemen in this story, as well as so many other ladies and gentlemen who live here, working on behalf of kids in real ways. This types of coverage is nice, and I hope it continues. What I appreciate most is the time taken to begin uncovering a thriving effort to do the right thing.

    Lastly, and more personally, I have the good fortune to have worked with each of these four, and am humbled that each of them has made the choices they have, each in his own way. They all most obviously could be doing other things with their time that boost their personal success, and have instead chosen to make giving back and leading by example a part of their lives, whether full-time, or by giving precious personal time. Great leadership.

  • Jtmom

    Thanks for making a differences in the lives of our youth. It is amazing to see African American adult males giving back to our community in this capacity. Keep doing amazing things!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/devan.ellison.5 Devan Ellison

    Thank you gentlemen for reaching out to our people and dedicating yourselves to uplifting our community. Continue to be encouraged that the work that you are doing is worthwhile and so necessary. May the Lord bless you and provide you with every ounce of courage, energy, and devotion needed to continue laboring for our communities!

  • Earle

    Excellent story of dedicated, committed brothers determined to make a difference! Bravo!

  • Frank Dukes

    Thank you for paying attention to the Charlottesville that is just as real and just as historic and just as interesting as the clubs/music/horse/food/UVa/ scene. I look forward to more.

  • Frank Dukes

    thank you for paying attention to the Charlottesville that is just as real, just as historic, just as interesting as the club/music/food/UVa/etc. scene. I look forward to more.

  • Phoebe Haupt

    As someone who has been involved with cross-cultural, interracial issues in this area for
    the last 21 years I just want to say congrats on the feature piece in the last
    edition. It was really well done and it actually made me feel proud to be in Charlottesville
    for this moment in time. The sincerity of the writing really touched my heart and actually brought tears to my eyes. The hope, the determination, the faith and beauty of the visions of these four individuals does have the power to transform anything. I hope that as a community we can come together to collaborate with these men and each other (as individuals and organizations) and expand this energy even more. Many have tried before, and progress has been made on many levels. Perhaps we feel discouraged, or at times cynical of the hope these men express. However, I believe that this particular moment in time has a dynamic potential that has never existed before in human history. God bless – Phoebe Haupt, Common Ground Healing Arts.

  • Cville Resident

    Guess I’m in the minority here because this article is a bit over-the top. While I claim to take
    nothing away from any of these four people’s community involvement and applaud their efforts, the overall focus seems a bit misplaced. Frankly, the writer’s detailed biographies about the men draws more attention to, them than anything else. And might I suggest going into the schools for tutoring to help close the achievement gap instead of having kids “box” and “step…” just saying.

  • Jessie Ray

    This was a great read. I am thankful for the time and energy these men put into their work and the community. I know it’s hard; and this is such an encouraging word for discouraging days. It’s been a pleasure getting to know some of you and I look forward to future.

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