By Emma Castleberry
My Daddy Taught Me That (MDTMT), a youth development program designed to support young men through advocacy, education and mentoring, will “stand in the line of fire for our youth,” says founder Keynon Lake. “We believe very strongly in them and what they can achieve. If they can set their mind on achievement, rather than the toxic vices of street life, we will directly lower incarceration and youth mortality rates in WNC and beyond. I’m so excited for that and it gets me up out of bed.”
Lake’s father, Bennie Lake, was a major inspiration for the creation of MDTMT. “I really felt a strong calling to do this,” says Lake. “At times it’s hard because I really miss him, because he had a big impact on my life and career. But I know he is smiling down from heaven about where the program is now and the state of his legacy.”
MDTMT forms partnerships with local schools, low-income housing developments, the juvenile court system, faith groups and social service agencies and provides opportunities for male youth to engage with one another through community meals, support groups, field trips, tutoring and career training. Their gathering space in the Asheville Mall has become an important safe haven for many participants. “This program saved my life,” says DeAngelo Collins, a student ambassador with MDTMT.
“This program has taught me so many ways to maneuver through life. Because of this program, I’m really able to be successful in this small town where opportunities aren’t handed as quickly to my community.”
Just in time for holiday shopping, MDTMT has launched MDTMT Apparel, a new collection of signature streetwear created in collaboration with local designer Caleb Owolabi. “Working with MDTMT and helping young black men become their best self is something I can wake up and be proud about each morning,” says Owolabi. “MDTMT is directly and currently affecting the lives of young black men in our community. The organization bravely stares homelessness, drug abuse and gang violence in the eyes and works tirelessly to steer our youth away from all that.” Owolabi donated his services and all proceeds from apparel sales go to support MDTMT, which will increase its programming from three to five days a week in the new year.
“I have seen MDTMT change the lives of so many young men through the years,” says Lake. “They’ve gone on to become doctors, lawyers and advocates. We love all kids, but we strive to pick up those who need that irreplaceable support. MDTMT exists for our community as a whole and we are a strong force for change.”