Dear Black Boy,
Letters from a young African American Male.
The young boy, bursting with energy, runs over to sit below an emerald tower of branches adorned with shiny objects and hundreds of small warm bulbs. The light emanates across the room as the sweet smell of sap lingers and the friendly sound of joyful conversation, reminiscent of restaurant chatter, seeps in.
Moments later, the boy is joined by about fifteen other people, all just as eager as the boy, at the excitement to come. The resemblance of the group is uncanny; their playful kinship and sense of humour complementary.
Each person is holding a package aptly wrapped in paper adorned in winter flourishes and designs. Prior to the event, each relative has pulled the name of another at random. Their task is to pick the perfect gift for that person. As each individual unveils the gift and giver of their package, the room is immediately brimming with laughter and mirth.
When the young boy finally gets his chance to partake, he cautiously removes the paper from the small mysterious package. His eyes are beaming and a grin stretches from cheek to cheek as he pulls out a bracelet engraved with his name, Tadean Page. “It’s from mom!” he exclaims, and the room erupts in delight.
Over a decade later, the same boy, now a young man, was spearheading a campaign to collect toys for children whose families could not afford to participate in a Christmas experience like that of his family. This initiative, the LOVE Campaign, would become part of an organisation Page began several years prior named Motivating Males. The LOVE Campaign would go on to secure nearly 200 new toys for children; 200 Christmases made a little sweeter by the love of a stranger.
Tadean Page is a philanthropist, an entrepreneur, an activist, a speaker, and an author. He is also only 22.
His soft melodic voice immediately captures your attention. He is reverent and thoughtful, yet he speaks with great authority and zeal. As you listen to his words, you realise how driven he is, how he intricately frames his thoughts, and how he dreams like no other.
Page grew up in Dillon, South Carolina, a small southern town with a population of less than 7,000 people.
His family was very close. Page grew up in his local church, Powerhouse Christian Church, where both his father and grandfather served as pastors. Simultaneously, his family ran an after school program entitled Kingdom Kids. Page became involved heavily in both as a mentor and a leader.
When speaking about his grandfather, Page warmly shares, “my grandfather’s heart was golden.” Much of his local community suffered from low income, many below the poverty line. Childcare was necessary for these families to work. However, it came at a steep cost. Page affectionately recalls the story of how his grandfather would allow many of these families to receive discounted or free childcare.
Seeing such selflessness and humility at such a young age, undoubtedly fuelled Page’s desire to serve his own community. During his adolescence, he became aware that he wanted to pursue education as a career. He was unsure how his eduction ambitions would be realised, but nonetheless, he was set.
Page would go on to attend Winthrop University, a four year liberal arts college located in Rock Hill, South Carolina. While there, Page wanted to give the same opportunities he had growing up to young men from his hometown. Only a freshman in college, Page would go on to start a scholarship program entitled, I am H.I.M..
The foundation awards $1,000 annually in scholarships and arranges for young Dillon men to tour colleges around South Carolina, receive application and resume assistance, and mentorship. Page is able to accomplish this through back to school drives and an annual gala that promotes the work of males in the local community.
I am H.I.M. aims to provide resources to promote the academic success and personal development of males of colour. Page believes that negative stereotypes of the African American man are penetrating society, often pushing these men toward that stereotype instead of higher education.
“The need for initiatives [which] increase the number of males pursuing higher education is evident.”
University dropout rates from his hometown are alarming, and while they are on a steady decline, the morale of many going to college remains low. Page hopes that through his scholarship fund, he will provide both financial assistance and cultivate a strong support system that imbues the values of “success, ambition, knowledge and wisdom.”
Page has now graduated university, the first in his family. All before stepping onto the graduation field, Page continued work through engaging with his community as a motivational speaker, starting a clothing line (Vision) which celebrates black culture and achievement, and would later publish his first book.
In the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Page felt a gap in the conversation. He sat in an empty meeting room only armed with a marker. He stared at an empty whiteboard until he could identify what that gap was and how to bridge it. “Dear Black Boy,” he wrote.
His imagination was flooded with images of young black men reading a book about them, his book about them. Page grew up never seeing himself in the books he read. Now he could gift that to these young African American boys. He did not want to fall prey to the “crystal clear” plot lines or negative endings that only furthered to estrange black boys from their peers of different races and sexes. This would be their stories. They would see themselves living out these stories, they could look up to these men because they were real. They could feel connected, not alone anymore, understood.
Dear Black Boy is Page’s first published book; a collection of coming-of-age vignettes from African American males across a wide socioeconomic spectrum. Page uses each chapter to tell the story of a different boy as he faces unique hardships to understand the meaning of both masculinity and blackness, together, in the modern world.
For Page, completing Dear Black Boy came with both great adversity and great triumph. It is obvious when you meet him that he welcomes hard work like an old friend — exhaustion just a byproduct of this friendship. Page set an ambitious launch date before his undergraduate graduation. Amidst university studies, internships, serving as the student body president, extracurriculars, and paid work, he had few hours to spend on his book. However, he persevered, contacting mentors and friends and asking them to share their story. Before he knew it his dream was taking shape.
Not only did Page want the book to appeal to young black readers, he wanted it to foster good discussions about inclusivity, and encourage people to share their own personal stories. He also wanted it to be a thorough and entertaining book for people in all walks of life.
“ I wanted black boys to know they are not alone…each of us has a story. I wanted educators to be able to have a greater sense of empathy when teaching males of colour in the 21st century.”
Each story acts as a brushstroke, painting a haunting picture of youth who are unable to connect to literature or television, and often forbidden to express their true emotions. It leaves the reader wondering if media is barring these boys from exploring their feelings, desires, and dreams by forcing them into a box. It is a clarion call for society to become more accepting and a comfort to black boys to know they are not alone — they are worthy of being true to themselves.
Page has an array of ideas and dreams — a passion to bring a voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless. He wants to affect the lives of those around him. Page himself has said that the future is so bright and exciting that he struggles to imagine how great it will be. His life is so aptly met by his mantra:
“So what if they don’t understand your vision.”
Page wants the young boy who reads Dear Black Boy to know that they are enough. They do not need to succumb to the pressures of what others do or want them to do and that through honesty and hard work they will accomplish great things.
Dear Black Boy,
“Be you. That is the only thing that will ever feel right. Work hard. Hard work always pays off. Excuses do not produce results — hard work does. You can be great because you already are great. Chase your dreams, be yourself, work hard, and smile — [a smile] makes the journey more enjoyable.”