BE Modern Man: Royle King
Public servant, non-profit founder; 32; Public Information Specialist – Citizen Engagement Liaison, Leon County, Tallahassee, Fla.; Founder, The Omega Lamplighters Inc.
Twitter: @TheRoyleKing; Instagram: @TheRoyleKing
By day I work in county government, but my passion is the mentoring program I founded 11 years ago, The Omega Lamplighters Inc. Our mission is to light a path to success, to empower secondary-school aged youth with the academic and social skills, community connections, and progressive opportunities necessary to ensure their roles as active, educated, and responsible citizens.
I’m with them every day all day. They have dress up days at school to teach them the importance of professionalism. We meet monthly to do a community service project, monthly for a life skills workshop, tutoring twice a week, a social activity, weekly mentoring sessions, weekly prayer call (lead by the young men), and quarterly church service. Our step team, the #LightTeam, practices several times a week, competes all over the United States and are currently ranked the 4th best high school male step team in the National Step League.
For six years we’ve embarked on a 500 Miles of Freedom College & Civil Rights tour, exposing our young men to HBCUs and sites related to African American history. I want them to see that the blood that runs through their veins is that of power, of kings, and the blood of the slave who overcame. Most of our kids have never been out of Tallahassee, let alone the state of Florida. The impact is huge on their view of the world and crucial in shaping their vision to achieve their dreams.
Today, all of the active young men in the program have graduated high school and gone on to be accepted to college, joined the military, or attended a trade school. The program truly lights a path to success for boys and young men, and prepares them for life. We started 11 years ago with 15 young men as a pilot, and in 2011 we rolled out what the program looks like today and have grown to over 115 young men in the program. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but we’re a community-based program, all volunteer, all men and women who believe in our vision and want to give our young men a chance and light a path to success.
Nationally, the program has spread like wildfire. I now have more than 22 chapters all over, from Florida, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina, and even Naples, Italy, for awhile. I always said I wanted to change the world one youth at a time, but it wasn’t actually until I began to believe it that it started to happen.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN LIFE?
I would have to say the Omega Lamplighters in everything and all things. I don’t have any children, but I relate it to the feeling a parent has watching their baby grow and be successful—witnessing them change before your eyes. But these aren’t just my kids, they’re our kids; we all have a responsibility to raise our black boys and light the path to success.
I have a thing where I thank all of my kids; I constantly tell them thank you. Eventually, they all ask, “Why do you keep saying thank you, Mr. King?” The first answer is for saving my life. You gave me hope; you gave me purpose; you saved my life. The second is for allowing me to be part of of theirs. This program and these kids saved me, raised me, shaped me.
HOW HAVE YOU TURNED STRUGGLE INTO SUCCESS?
In college, I struggled. I dug myself into a hole, not taking it seriously and playing around so much so that I lost all of my support and funding, and was left at a crossroads. It took me six years to graduate, trying to fix my earlier mistakes. I was left with a decision to quit or keep going. I didn’t quit. To many people had made sacrifices for me and poured into me for me to quit. I worked three jobs, had to get on food stamps. That struggle taught me more about myself then anything—that hunger for success, and the mentality that nothing could stop me. That struggle gave birth to a man and since that accomplishment, mentally, nothing and no one can stop me.
WHO WAS YOUR GREATEST MALE ROLE MODEL AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM HIM?
As a kid, it was the Allen Iversons, Shaqs, and celebrities of the world, but as a man, it’s always been my dad. During all of my big and small moments, he was there. He didn’t have to say anything; it was his presence. He taught me the most important rule of life: that you have to show up.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE MANHOOD?
I define it by the little things, holding doors for ladies, yes sir, no sir. Manhood is respect for those who paved the way for you. Treating all men the same, the janitor and the CEO. I’m old school! I just believe that a man is supposed to lead and when he can’t or where he’s weak he leans on others to help him be strong in that area.
WHAT PRACTICES, TOOLS, BOOKS, ETC. DO YOU RELY ON FOR YOUR SUCCESS?
Fairly new, but over the last year, every morning after I say my prayers, I look at a list of all my dreams written out. It’s the daily reminder of everything I said I wanted out of life. Another is calling my mother and father every day. Not always a long call, just a quick reminder of where I come from. When I hear their voices, even if for a few seconds, it reminds me that I need to honor them everyday for what they’ve done in creating me.
BE Modern Man is an online and social media campaign designed to celebrate black men making valuable contributions in every profession, industry, community, and area of endeavor. Each year, we solicit nominations in order to select men of color for inclusion in the 100 Black Enterprise Modern Men of Distinction. Our goal is to recognize men who epitomize the BEMM credo “Extraordinary is our normal” in their day-to-day lives, presenting authentic examples of the typical black man rarely seen in mainstream media. The BE Modern Men of Distinction are celebrated annually at Black Men XCEL (dev.blackenterprise.com/blackmenxcel/). Click this link to submit a nomination for BE Modern Man: https://dev.blackenterprise.com/nominate/. Follow BE Modern Man on Twitter: @bemodernman and Instagram: @be_modernman.