This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a truly unsung hero of South Seattle, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his community and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.
My big brother was Big's brother
So here's a few words from your kid brother
If you admire somebody you should go ahead and tell um
People never get the flowers while they could still smell um
A idol in my eyes, God of the game
Heart of the city, Rockafella chain
Never be the same, never be another
Number 1 young Hov also my big brother-Kanye West, Big Brother
Webster's dictionary defines the word Synergy as the benefit that results when two or more agents work together to achieve something either one couldn't have achieved on its own. It's the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
One of the cultural earmarks of the black community has always been its ability to band together in times of strife, yet finding synergy to thrive beyond surviving, is often difficult. That is multiplied when it comes to African American males, many who spend much of their energy surviving the day in the workplace, education space and sometimes just in general.
Synergy, however, isn’t just acquired amongst humans, there is some natural chemistry that happens, yet much like any relationship, it takes trust, work and a belief in oneself, each other and a commitment to something greater than oneself. CJ Dancer and Willie Seals, epitomize that synergy which radiates into energy that has affected the educational and life outcomes for young people across the state of Washington.
CJ Dancer a native of South East Seattle attended Cleveland High School and then the University of Washington. CJ’s demeanor and personality hide the still waters that truly are an evolutionary force, whether blazing the trail in college, revitalizing social organizations, leading statewide organizations and people of color toward the STEM Fields, leading the City of Seattle in a free college for all campaign or tutoring young men and women at the local goodwill to pass the SAT, CJ has found himself not just committed to but leading a life of service.
Willie Seals III is the definition of authentic servant leadership, a roll your sleeves up throwback, his journey began in the Central District of Seattle, WA. Attending Garfield High School and eventually graduating from Chicago State University, Willie has led a life of light and discovery that has helped shine into others. Whether as a student-athlete in track & field, dawning the infamous red city year jacket and timberlands, affecting policy change with the Puget Sound ESD or setting an example for healthy living, Willie is always moving and evolving forward.
While fulfilled with their individual success, they knew there was more. The casual conversation turned into an intentional conversation which transformed into purposeful action. In 2012 their synergy would turn into the energy that would become their Co-Founding of the Academy for Creating Excellence, an organization whose mission would be to create environments for African American young men to thrive and for African American men to feel a sense of worthiness and dignity, specifically within the educational space.
Now in its seventh year of existence, the vision of these two men has become a reality, serving across six schools in Puget Sound to better societal and educational outcomes for African American young men. However, what is most remarkable about both men, is their commitment to living their teachings. CJ, a proud husband of his supportive and inspiring wife and his two children, making sure that he is everything he had and didn’t have as a child is everything and more he gives to his children. His service to the community never outweighing his first commitment, which is his family.
Not to be outdone, Willie is one of the most committed and proudest fathers you’ll meet. Raising three sons (alongside an awesome mother of their children), Willie serves as coach, friend, confidant, bowling partner and true role model for what he wants his sons to be. Whether at his sons' school, the soccer field, basketball court or spelling bee, Willie is often not only father to his sons but surrogate to those fathers who can’t be present.
These two men model the phrase they often have all of their young men repeat, not just as a mantra but as a statement of fact when they ask the question, “Who Am I?” and require the response, “I am Excellence”. Cj and Willie have utilized their own triumphs and more importantly their triumphs as educators, social servants, sons, brothers, fathers, husbands and as men to create space for young men and other men to stand beside them and seek their own excellence, no ego, no jealousy, just brotherhood and a commitment to excellence.
Cj Dancer and Willie Seals bring the energy of synergy into any environment they enter, they are truly making an impact in the lives of hundreds of young men and their families, they are excellent and they are Black History, today!
To learn more and support CJ and Willie please visit: www.ACEAcademyWA.org