Be Who? BMe! | BMe Honors Five Local Change Makers at Award Ceremony  

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Words by Noor Hindi

When Elec Simon’s best friend ran into oncoming traffic and committed suicide, Simon was devastated. At 16 years old, he learned a tough lesson about the consequences of bullying.

“I was done,” Simon says. “[My friend] wrote a note saying ‘I’m done living, I’m tired of living, I’m tired of people picking on me.’”

Fueled by the pain of losing his best friend to bullying, Simon has dedicated the last 16 years of his life to telling his story through music. Through school assembly tours and his work as a drum instructor for the Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop (YEPAW), Simon’s anti-bullying message has reached thousands of kids.

“I use music to bring people together,” says Simon.

At the Akron BMe Community Genius Award Ceremony, Simon’s work was recognized along with four other black men who influence our community in positive ways. BMe is a network of community builders that awards and supports black men who inspire their communities. Aside from the recognition, each winner receives $10,000 to continue the work they’re doing within Akron.

After getting over the initial shock of winning, Simon decided to use the money to purchase new instruments for YEPAW.

“I remember Ace calling me and he started clapping on the phone,” says Simon. “It’s a blessing and I’m proud to be a part of this.”

Councilwoman Tara Mosley-Samples, Genius Award Winner Pastor Eugene Norris, and BMe Performance Manager Asim Pleas

Community Manager for the Akron BMe chapter, Ace Epps organized the award ceremony. Aside from Simon, Fred Barrett, Eric Fletcher, Pastor Eugene Norris and Kwame Scruggs also won the award.

Through the Fame Fathers Precious Cargo Series, Norris has helped hundreds of fathers understand their role in their children’s lives. When Norris realized that zip codes 44320 and 44307 have the two worst infant mortality rates in the state of Ohio, he started the initiative.

“You do this because you hear about children dying and we couldn’t just sit back and allow that to happen,” says Norris. “Some of the biggest ills in our society are because of father absence. It’s about educating [them].”

Through programs such as Understanding Mom, Understanding Baby, Safe Sleep for Baby and a boot camp for brand new dads, the award is going to help train an additional 200 fathers.

But Norris isn’t the only one who identified a problem and worked towards fixing it.

Councilwoman Tara-Mosley Samples, Genius Award Winner Fred Barrett, and BMe Performance Manager Asim Pleas

After LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010, Barrett founded Socially Good TV to show Akron residents that there is more to Akron than just LeBron.

“Getting this award reminds me that there is value in me because I value you,” says Barrett. “When you value the community, you start to value yourself.”

Application for the 2018 BMe Genius Award will kick off in January. Information will be available on the BMe website at bmecommunity.org.

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