Last night on the north side of Houston in a chilly room filled with satellite jazz and hardwood floors, rapper Bernard “Bun B” Freeman spoke to a group of teens and pre-teens excited to go on an all-expenses paid, weekend trip to the nation’s capital.
The students are a part of the Eagle Scholars - a free youth mentorship program run by the Texas Women’s Empowerment Foundation. Bun B was invited to speak to the group by gangsta-rapper turned-inspirational-artist Andre “007” Barnes from Rap-A-Lot Records’ 5th Ward Boyz.
Barnes has been working with the group of 20 boys (ages 8-18) twice a week since February alongside motivational speaker Christopher L. Williams. This weekend Barnes, Williams, and other chaperones will accompany about half of that group to Washington, D.C. to tour the White House, Congress, and Howard University. They’ll also be meeting with noted comedian/civil rights activist Dick Gregory.
Both Bun B and 007 said they wished that, when they were growing up, they had the type of positive male role models and involvement the Eagle Scholars program provides to young men from low to moderate income neighborhoods.
The Eagle Scholars program is in its first year and seeks to build character and personal development by offering class sessions dedicated to etiquette, professionalism, computer training, and dream casting.
Previous guest lecturers have included corporate executives, civil servants, and local leaders. Bun B’s message followed along those lines and encouraged the kids to seize the opportunities granted to them, pursue higher education, and to give back to their communities once they achieved success.
“You don’t have to be on TV to be somebody,” he noted during the interview-style discussion hosted by TWEF youth leader Cecily Gomez.
Sixth grader Brealon Berguin said he was most looking forward to the Pentagon visit portion of the D.C. trip and took away from Bun B’s speech the importance representing where you’re from.
“But not in the bad way, in the good way,” Berguin said.
007 said he plans to continue his mentorship efforts and pursue ways to use the highs and lows of his experience (which includes performances alongside Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. as well as several years in prison) to benefit others in his city – a pattern he’s already developed as a Christian rapper through events like his Bless Fest and Hip Hop Hope Tuesdays.
TWEF's Christopher L. Williams (left) and 007 (right) present Bun B (center) with an Honorary Eagle Scholar award - Photo by Sketch the Journalist
After his speech, Bun B was presented with an award that made him an Honorary Eagle Scholar. He stuck around to take photos with the kids, sign autographs, and listen to their stories. Just a few hours later, Bun B appeared on stage at Warehouse Live freestyling with actor/rapper Donald Glover.
As one might gleam, Bun B is all about “community.”
For more information on the Eagle Scholars program and the Texas Women’s Empowerment Foundation visit www.twef.org.