BLACK MEN BUILD TEAMS WITH THE SALVATION ARMY AND CITY MISSION COLLECTIVE TO FEED THE BLOCK
Black Men Build – a nationwide organization with a strong St. Louis contingent – hosted an early October Feed the Block grocery distribution in partnership with The Salvation Army Midland Division and the City Mission Collective. One hundred boxes of groceries were distributed in less than two hours, as rain drizzled in the mid-afternoon event.
“A lot of people can give away food, do this, do that, but for us, if it’s not organized and pushing our populace of people to an organized mass, then it’s almost a waste of time,” said St. Louis-based activist and musician Tef Poe, who has a central role in St. Louis’ Black Men Build.
“It’s a twofold mission for us, feed the people, but also move ourselves closer to being an actualized, organized collective,” Tef said. “I believe it’s going to be the start of something that we’re going to try to really spread across the city, hopefully, and region, once we can really get things rolling right.”
The Salvation Army chipped in with 100 grocery boxes for Feed the Block.
The purpose of Black Men Build, group organizers said, is to mobilize African American men to affect social change and the undoing of injustices from a harsh economic and social system, particularly in urban areas. The organization doesn’t limit itself to African American men in participation.
Since 2014’s Ferguson protests following the death of teenager Michael Brown, women have done an outstanding job moving public opinion, Tef said, and Black Men Build aims to build on that passion.
“What we’re saying is we want to find ways to bring brothers back to the movement, to stand side by side with the women,” Tef said. “Get the work done and show up and be impactful at places, knowing that, a lot of times, men have done harmful things in the community through the vices of this world being a patriarchal world.”
Saturday’s event drew about 20 volunteers, including people from around the city and other cities. That group included one of Black Men Build’s leaders, Corey Black, a St. Louis-raised activist and musician who served in the Marines during the 2000s.
“If all of us know how to lead, at least we have the mindset to know how to teach the generation to know to lead,” Black said. “It’s almost like generational wealth. A lot of this stuff is based off of power. A lot of people think money is power, but people are really the commodity. People are power. There is safety in numbers.”
Black, a logistical and tactical pro from his days as a Marines motor transport operator, brings his military experience to executing action. Black Men Build does regular street sweeps in north St. Louis. The organization has a food pantry, Black Teens Build, chess club, diaper distribution, back-to-school activities and winter coat clothes drives, in addition to Feed the Block.
“We’re here for the nourishment,” Black said. “Anything that isn’t growing is dead. We’re just trying to make sure that the community stays fed.”