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Leader of men

David Harris continues a legacy of mentoring young black Tulsans

David Harris is the newest Tulsa chapter president of the national mentoring program, 100 Black Men of America.

Greg Bollinger

David Harris heard a familiar message from his dad time and time again: Someday it will be your turn. Now, taking his turn as the newest Tulsa chapter president of the national mentoring program 100 Black Men of America, it’s a message he’s passing on. 

Harris said the title isn’t about him— it’s about legacy and community. He’s a Tulsa native, Navy veteran, Booker T. grad, husband and father of four. But he said he wouldn’t be any of that without the guidance of the men who helped raise him. 

“It is my responsibility to take this time to do what was done for me. To share what was taught to me by really strong men in the community about how to be a leader, how to be a pillar, how to be a strong, confident, responsible man in the community,” Harris said. 

The Tulsa chapter of 100 Black Men was founded 25 years ago by Joe Williams, Eddie Evans, Jack Henderson, Ruford Henderson, Imam Farakhan and the late Revs. Henry L. Collier and Melvin Bailey. These men saw a need for a community advocacy group championing work based on four pillars: mentoring, education, health and wellness, and economic empowerment. 

Harris said the position, organization and cause are all close to his heart. “It’s about preparing these young men for their time, their season. But for me, it’s also making sure I’m doing a good job because I want to show the men in the room … that what they imparted in me worked, that it was valuable,” he said. “It’s so important to me to make sure that the work I do leaves a continued legacy of the work they’ve already done with me.” 

Currently, 100 Black Men does mentoring work in eight Tulsa schools, but Harris hopes to see that number grow this year. He also hopes to expand the work done in all four pillars.

“Health and wellness is a huge part of our organization. We’re not only going to address physical wellness but we’re also committed over the next few years to address emotional and mental health because it’s an area that’s been taboo in our community,” he said. “An example of economic empowerment is our summer entrepreneurial program that has taught young people wonderful business and entrepreneurial skills.”

This aspect of the program has led to the creation of a marketplace as a partnership with the Greenwood District, where student entrepreneurs can sell their products and apply their newly-
learned skills. 

While all facets of 100 Black Men of Tulsa are growing, Harris said efforts will likely still focus largely on the north Tulsa community. 

“Right now it’s the area that needs the most attention. Tulsa will never be the type of city we desire it to be if one of the communities is not thriving. It is our goal to be that vehicle, to help assist in that type of energy and growth in the community,” 
he said. 

The men who guided him, his education at the University of Oklahoma, and his work with students have all inspired in Harris a passion for culture, legacy and heritage. It’s a work he’s proud to be doing. 

“I just want to make sure that at the end of the day the work that I do leaves a legacy. That the young people that come behind us understand that they have the opportunity to be greater than their circumstances.”