Now a federally sanctioned holiday, Martin Luther King Day is a day of celebration nationwide to honor this champion of social change. Locally, it was especially noteworthy as it marked the West Coast inauguration of “Men of Courage,” the non-profit sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. In existence since August 2015, the organization has hosted similar events in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, and Detroit to bring together a cross section of athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and others to challenge stereotypes and develop a positive image of Black men and their communities.

“Since its inception, the Ford Men of Courage initiative has offered African American men a platform to advance their narrative and unite behind a common mission of uplifting their families and communities through economic mobility,” said Shawn Wilson, the manager of multicultural community development for the Ford Motor Company Fund.

The evening’s invitation-only gathering brought out a host of community leaders to Downtown Los Angeles’ HNYPT Studios (Honeypot LA, in the South Park District. Also present were such notables as NFL Hall of Fame running back Jerome “The Bus” Bettis, former Detroit mayor business mogul and NBA Hall of Famer Dave Bing, Grammy-nominated and multi-platinum rapper Big Sean, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, venture capitalist and initial investor in Zappos Shoes Erik Moore, convicted killer turned best selling author and lecturer Shaka Senghor, and local restaurateur (Buffalo Wild Wings) Karim Webb.

 All the attendees shared stories about their individual paths toward success, and advice on how to improve the perception of African American men and stimulate economic growth within the Black community.

Future plans for this undertaking include a traveling exhibit, developed in tandem with the Smithsonian Institute to spread their mission to other cities across the country.

“Today, we’re excited to launch the next phase of our program, as we announce plans to develop a traveling museum exhibit which raises the narrative of Black Men to one of prominence,” Wilson announced.

In this way, the organization aims to encourage Black men to hold events in their homes, houses of worship and workplaces nationwide. The Men of Courage digital tool kit may be down loaded at