Twenty-five young men dead…this was the gruesome final count of murders in the city of Aurora, IL in 2002. After a sweltering summer of violence that caused the spilling of the blood of primarily Black and Latino young men, the city was up in arms and looking for answers. During a community meeting held in the fall of 2002, the Chief of the Aurora Police Department pointed out that a city of over 150,000+ people were being held hostage by no more than 12 gang leaders who encouraged others to cause havoc in the streets.
After that meeting, Clayton Muhammad, who was then the Vice-President of the Quad County Urban League, stepped up to the challenge. He thought that if there were 12 young Black and Latino men who focused on their differences to cause death, what would happen if 12 young Black and Latino men would come together to focus on what they had in common, build a bond of brotherhood, redefine manhood, and shatter stereotypes in the process?
On November 27, 2002, twelve young men met in the board room of the Quad County Urban League on a cold Wednesday afternoon for the first chapter meeting of what was then called the Boys II Men Training Academy. Those daily afternoon meetings brought together young men in spite of their race or street boundaries and a bond was formed that would ignite into a brotherhood like no other.
The 12 charter members, now known as the Prototypes, were: Derius Aguirre (West Aurora High School), Devon Aguirre (West Aurora High School), Cordell Brown (West Aurora High School), Errin Smith(Waubonsie Valley High School), Octavio Donatlan (West Aurora High School), Joel Donatlan (West Aurora High School), Tavis Gibson (Yorkville High School), Reginald Hearon (East Aurora High School), Joshua Jones (West Aurora High School), Jared Marchiando (East Aurora High School), Jamario Taylor (East Aurora High School), and Jermaine Taylor (East Aurora High School).
After a successful second semester, the brothers hosted their first Manhood Training Conference in the summer of 2003. It was during this event that the brothers decided that they were not just a training academy but more so a brotherhood that was unique and unified…in essence, a fraternity of phenomenal young men.
The Prototypes established the five core principles during this unprecedented ‘meeting of the minds.’ Education, Discipline, Service, Culture, and Brotherhood were chosen to be the guiding lights of the organization. With the motto, ‘Change Your Mind, Change Your Life’, the twelve leaders adopted the nickname ‘The Phenoms’ and began to multiply themselves by recruiting like-minded brothers to enter into their unique fold.
In 2004, Boys II Men received the Quad County Urban League’s Charles Ponquinette Leadership Award for Community Service and dedicated the next two years to working in the spirit of Dr. Ponquinette, former Superintendent of Schools for East Aurora School District 131, to grow in quality and quantity.
By 2005, the young leaders had indeed multiplied their brotherhood and had garnered city-wide attention. A front-page article in a Sunday edition of the Aurora Beacon News titled, ‘The Anti-Gang’ helped to seal the place of B2M in the youth movement arena of the greater Aurora area and word buzzed through different avenues of the success of its members.
Internally, the organization was faced with increasing demands and challenges from the changing times. The requests for a movement for young ladies were non-stop. The need for elementary students to have more exposure to the positive men in B2M was clearly evident. The call for graduates of B2M and their new friends at the college level to stay involved with the organization was heard loudly as well. In 2006, Boys II Men continued to expand its scope by establishing its sister-organization, The Diamonds Sorority; its official training & service initiative, The B2M Juniors, and its alumni & college sector, the B2M Scholars. In 2010, Boys II Men began its initiative for young fathers, F.Y.I. (Fathers who are Young and Involved).
At the end of 2006, the Chicago Crime Commission honored B2M with its prestigious 2006 Star Program of the Year Award during a five-star event that attracted civic leaders from the Chicagoland, and the National Director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Ms. Jessica Tandy who lauded the achievements of the Phenoms and said that B2M was needed in Washington D.C. and throughout the nation.
In 2007 to celebrate its fifth year anniversary, B2M hosted a weeklong series of community activities called Phenomenality Week that drew more than 2,000 people together for such events as the Phenomenal Man Awards, and Self-Improvement Workshops, Elementary School Mentoring Day. The City of Aurora and Mayor Tom Weisner culminated the events by issuing a Mayoral Proclamation that designated November 27 at Boys II Men Day in the City of Aurora, the first and only youth movement to hold such a distinction.
The year 2008 was the most pivotal year yet in the brief but powerful history of The Phenoms. In February, the Phenoms joined forces with Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns in Aurora to co-sponsor the historic visit of the First Gentlemen of Hip-Hop and the Fashion Icon of Today’s Generation, Mr. Fonzworth J. Bentley. While promoting his best-selling book, Advance Your Swagger, Bentley spoke before a crowd of 1,200 students and parents at East Aurora High School. Wearing a B2M T-shirt, Bentley hosted a private dinner with B2M and the Diamonds and encouraged them to continue on their path to greatness and stay strong in the face of adversity. His words would prove to be prophetic.
In April, the brothers of B2M were forced to defend the legitimacy of their brotherhood to the Board of Education. After a five-month long investigation that was prompted by a claim of illegally operating a fraternity, sorority and secret society as defined the Illinois School Code, the Illinois State Board of Education and the Kane County Regional Office of Education found not merit to the claim and mandated the East Aurora School Board to address the issue publicly.
Before a overflow crowed on Monday, April 7, the leaders of B2M presented their case to the Board of Education with the support of their sisters in the Diamonds, the brothers of the B2M Scholars, and their parents. In a presentation that drew support from such leaders as the State Representative, the Mayor of Aurora, the Kane County Sheriff, the Aurora Police Chief, the Kane County State’s Attorney, the Educational Foundation Chairman, the Rotary Club President, local neighborhood group leaders and surrounding educators, the brothers laid out their case. Just like their colleagues at the state level, the East Aurora School Board ruled that Boys II Men did not break the Illinois School Code and was an asset to the community.
In July, Boys II Men made a mutual public break from its host organization, the Quad County Urban League, and struck out on its own to build begin a new journey as a non-profit organization dedicated and committed to changing minds and changing lives. Both organization remain closely linked and collaborate on community initiatives.
By the end of 2008, Boys II Men made history yet again by launching its worldwide efforts by establishing its first International Chapter with nine Phenoms from Canberra, Australia.
The 9 International Prototypes, all from Canberra, Australia are: Jayden Beach, Anthony Dellavedova, Chaz Gibbs, Michael Hiscox, Michael Kaye, Daniel Mills, Travis Naden, Kai Palmer, and Alex Pearce.
Annually, Boys II Men hosts it’s signature events: The B2M Mom Prom for Mother’s Day, the Talented Tenth College Seminar during Winter Break, the Payback & Playback Day at the Southwind Housing Project during Columbus Day, and the Phenomenal Man Awards where over 100 young minority males are inducted into the Phenomenal Man Hall of Fame for Academic Achievements.
Each year, 100% of the graduating members enroll in post-secondary education institutions. From the local community colleges to schools in Egypt and Brazil, the Phenoms are studying throughout the world for careers that will make a difference throughout the world. Their college and adult lives are the testimonies of the leadership they developed in B2M while still in high school.
Valedictorians. National Honor Society Presidents. Senior Class Presidents. Models. Graduation Speakers. Aurora Idols. Student Board Representatives. Homecoming Kings. Athletic Team Captains. Scholarship Winners. These are just some of the titles of the Phenoms in B2M. There are many more to come!
Boys II Men is home to some of the best & brightest future world-class leaders.
All men are created equal…Some just achieve more and look better. Trust us, we know!