Members of The 100 Black Men, Memphis chapter streamed into the Hope House bearing gifts collected during the group’s annual soiree fundraiser. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

The 7th Annual 100 Black Men Holiday Soiree was held at Central Station recently. Each year the organization alights upon the “newnownext” venue of the moment. So, it was no surprise that “The 100” christened the event space at one of the most recent and most exciting hotel spaces to open in Memphis in 2019.

Unabashedly festive, the event doubles as a toy drive benefitting the children of Hope House – fittingly on the heels of World AIDS Day.

Darrell Cobbins

What made it different for me this year was that my good comrade Darrell Cobbins is the newly appointed president. Darrell is also the president of Universal Commercial Real Estate, carrying on the legacy of thoughtful development started by his grandfather Samuel Peace.

An all-around good dude who puts his money where his mouth is, Darrell serves on numerous boards and host committees, is an active dad to his son and has the uncanny ability to gather/engage/enlist people from all corners of the city irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity and political leanings. This brotha has my support always. He gets Memphis because he is Memphis – 100 percent.

I sought him out to chat about what he had planned because having known him for many years I know there is a plan.

The immediate next step, he says, is growing the membership base to establish a broader presence in the mentoring space and so that more work can get done in the community. The goal is hitting 100 members by January. Since becoming president in September, membership has spiked by roughly 25 percent and now stands firm at 60 members.

“Parties and galas are great but the flip side is the work that we have to do in the community,” he says. “Mentoring our boys is the centerpiece (of the program) but it also involves health and wellness, educational empowerment, leadership development and education. All of these components represent the programmatic model of 100 Black Men of America.

“At 100 members we will be able to have enough presence in all of these areas. We can make a big difference in the Memphis community on behalf of African-American families, boys and girls.”

Memphis has a special place in the history of The 100. The original “100” was founded in New York in 1963 by a coterie of prominent men that included baseball legend Jackie Robinson, (New York) Mayor David Dinkins and other business and community leaders. By 1983, there were enough chapters to create a national framework.

One of the first to sign on to become an official chapter, the Memphis chapter is revamping and recommitting to being held accounting for achieving results within those five programmatic pillars.

New energy has been injected with the election of a new rotation of board members (all leaders in their own right): Brent Hooks (CAO, All World Project Management); J.W. Gibson (chairman of The Gibson Companies); Kevin Woods (Memphis market president for Blue Cross Blue Shield); Andre Dean (Dean & Associates); Daryl Lewis (All World Project Management); Al Bright (attorney with Bass, Berry & Sims) and Derrick Joyce (interim executive director, Memphis Academy of Health Sciences).

Darrell says all eyes are on Memphis.

“The Memphis MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes north Mississippi and eastern Arkansas) has the largest percentage of African Americans in the nation. With that distinction Memphis is on everyone’s radar. If you can solve it in Memphis, you can probably solve it anywhere. So, our chapter is very important.”

Indeed, all eyes are on you my friend. Onward!