By Yusuph Masanja, Co-Facilitator, Global Alumni Network

We want to teach young people how to be productive, we don’t just give them jobs! We ensure they can keep the jobs and grow to creating their own jobs

Raymond Richard, Goldin Global Fellow

Raymond emerged from struggles of homelessness, criminal activities and substance abuse to become a mentor, activist, and public speaker. He works tirelessly to decrease neighborhood violence and contribute to a safe environment for children and families across the United States. Driven by the urge to help young men and women become productive members of society, Raymond founded Brothers Standing Together (BST) in 2009, a year later after being released from his sixth incarceration.

BST has empowered over 1,500 youth through different programs, including but not limited to, practical skills training such as carpentry, plumbing, welding, painting, bricklaying etc. Raymond provides lifelong traits that help youth find a purpose in life. BST programs also assist youth with obtaining Identity cards, birth certificates, license, housing, meals and employment.

“65% of young men in the city of Chicago don’t have IDs, every time they are stopped by police, they are labeled as John Does.” Raymond says.

BST is partnering with County jails to provide opportunity for community service work. At BST, Exemplary volunteers often get enlisted for available job opportunities. During the pandemic, it has become challenging for BST to reach youth, especially the homeless.

COVID has decimated our community outreach, I am often outside seeking job opportunities for our youth or speaking with youth because most of them are outside–you have to be grassroot to serve them better. It’s now difficult to reach out to those who are mostly likely to shoot or be shot, we try to keep communication open with caregivers and parents through emails.

With 15 staff, BST tries everything to reach more youth, but more help is needed. Ray shared, “With all the good help we provide, we don’t even have the help that we need, and that’s our struggle. That’s why I created the Brothers Standing Together LLC program in order to help the nonprofit.”

Raymond has been a strong advocate against the shootings of Tamir Rice, Mike Brown and Eric Garner. His advocacy work has been featured broadly on CNN and MSNBC media. Among other advocacy, he continues to lobby for a change of legislation affecting returning citizens, the term he advocates to be adapted for formerly incarcerated individuals, because the majority of them are now productive members of society like himself. To reiterate the puzzling question his mentor uses in advocacy, Raymond asks “Where do my wrong ends and my rights begin?

Raymond calls on all Goldin Global Fellows to stay connected and united, because the struggle against violence is not only in America but worldwide. He would be happy to hear from any fellow interested in collaboration or needing any assistance that he can provide. He says “every one of us is better than any one of us” Brothers Stand Together needs us to keep them uplifted as they keep us uplifted.