By Camri Nelson
The Cincinnati Herald
As a child growing up in Avondale, Lewis knew that he was destined for greatness. In 7th grade he made a pact with his friend, and now business partner Emanual Kimble to graduate from college and become successful.
“A lot of us from the inner city were not going to college at an early age and we wanted to be different than our peers who were dying from street violence, drugs and such,” said Lewis.
“We set our mission on education and we did that together.”
While pursuing his undergraduate degree in nutrition and minor in Arabic at the University of Cincinnati, Lewis became heavily involved in youth outreach organizations. He worked with Sankofa Brotherhood, Winton Hills Academy, Upward Bound, the Avondale Youth Council, and Boy Scouts of America with a mission to help the youth.
After graduating in May of 2015, Lewis applied to medical school, became a medical scribe and began conducting research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Shortly after, he began teaching health at Rockdale Academy for The Center for Closing the Health Gap.
Although Lewis was not accepted into med school, he did not become discouraged. He pursued his passion for helping the youth and applied for a position with Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that is designed to develop future educators.
Once he was accepted into the program, he returned home to Withrow High School where he became a ninth-grade science teacher. Lewis said looked forward to inspiring the students.
“When I think about education, I’ve always attacked it from the outside looking in,” said Lewis. “I was throwing rocks at the issue from the outside, but I think it is important to be apart of the system and see how the system works.”
In August of 2016, Lewis and Kimble became the Dale Brothers and began creating platforms to ensure that Black and Latino Youth growing up in inner city Cincinnati can develop and obtain an education without barriers and limitations.
CPS Speak, is one of their many platforms whose mission is to give students at Withrow an opportunity to empower, educate, and disrupt systems of oppression through public speaking.
“We wanted to provide opportunities where youth can grow and overcome issues by talking about it in a space where they can be comfortable, appreciated, and supported,” said Lewis.
As the year progressed, the mission changed due to a series of racial incidents that affected the students. The first incident was when student football players were called the N-word and other derogatory names for protesting the National Anthem at away games. The second incident was the school building being vandalized with swastikas.
Lewis said he knew something had to be done. So, he opened his classroom to the students, and he and Kimble began working on ways to tailor the platform to fit the needs of the students.
“This was a pivotal moment for CPS Speak,” said Lewis. “We were able to provide a space where students could speak about the issue and figure out how they would organize around an issue.”
As CPS Speak began to change course, the focus changed to issues such as suicide, self-esteem and depression. Each week they would meet to discuss different issues and their responsibility in counteracting these issues.
“We went back to the drawing board and retargeted the group to talk about educating students about the issues and then helping them to organize and move around those issues,” said Lewis.
Through interactive activities and modules provided by UC’s RAPP organization and Youth at the Center, students learned how to cope with many different issues. They then created their own platforms through music and poetry and showcased their talents during a performance at UC.
“That’s when people were like ‘Wow!” this is Cincinnati Public School Speak,” he said. “We understand what you all do, and we support it.”
That was proud moment for Lewis and he is glad to have the backing from the community, because he knows there is more to be done. He hopes to expand CPS Speak to other Cincinnati Schools by next school year.
“CPS Speak provides an opportunity for all CPS students to be heard,” Lewis said. “We have a formula for getting students mobilized and getting them to speak up about things that are important to them, and then act on those issues.”
Since the launch of CPS Speak, Lewis says he has seen a huge improvement in his students and is grateful to have such an impact in their lives.
“I didn’t know what strength and resilience were until I witnessed the struggle of my students and watching them overcome those struggles,” he said. “One day they will be in a position where they can make choices and be in more control of what is going on.”