LOS ANGELES, Calif. — As students in Los Angeles get back into their routines, a group of Crenshaw High School alumni have joined forces to make sure students are returning to school prepared. The group of Black men are calling themselves "It's Bigger Than Us" and have a goal to transform the social and economic conditions of the high school.
Despite the DJ, free food, and dancing at Crenshaw High School's preview week, summer is officially coming to end. But a day that some students may have been dreading was a lot better thanks to the group.
“We wanted to have a great atmosphere so they can be excited about this upcoming school year, but also see that people care about them," said Tyrone Nance, founder of the group of men who all graduated from Crenshaw High back in 2006.
Nance helps manage a mental health facility in Lincoln Heights now, but it was watching his mom and dad give back to the Crenshaw community that motivated him to go back to his own roots.
“The heart, the passion to do this, on top of having a job and having a personal life, she’s the reason, my dad’s the reason," Nance explained.
A pastor's kid, Noel Grigsby was just as fortunate to have a strong support system, one he recognizes many others don't have.
“You look at Crenshaw High School, a lot of the students here are coming from group homes, they’re coming from displaced families where they don’t have a two parent household," Grigsby said. "They might not have the finances where they can go out and buy the school supplies that they need. So it’s our job to build that bridge.”
A bridge connecting the need to those willing to help. Leaders who couldn't stand to see another Black man or woman killed at the hands of police or social injustice without forming a group that promotes unity within the Black community.
“You also have to go against the narrative of 'Crenshaw High School is full of gang violence, we don’t go to school, we don’t graduate, we don’t become productive citizens in the community.' We want to show that you can come to Crenshaw and do whatever you want to do," Grigsby said. "These students seeing us here today, they’ll be able to realize that.”
Nance and Grigsby brought together a couple dozen friends and like-minded alumni to put out a call for donations. Three days later, they had raised nearly $12,000 to buy bags of school supplies to give to Crenshaw Cougars returning to a class that looks very different this year.
“We want to come back and be able to mentor the young men and let them know that, despite everything you have going on as a Black man in America, we’re here for you and you can make it," Grigbsy said.
They're working to help others while breaking a stigma. “A lot of the stereotypes say 'we fight, we don’t get along, Black-on-Black crime.' We’re here to say that’s not true," Nance added.
Through their brotherhood, Nance and Grigsby want to lead by example, showing the way for generations to come.