Divine Bradley: A Social Mogul Creating The Future
One voice can change the world. As children, we are often told that motivating mantra time and time again but not everyone internalizes the message. Yet every now and then we come upon an example of a not so likely source creating rippling change within their community.
Coming from a background where Divine Bradley says he was “part of the problem” he was not a likely source for positive change but low and behold his path has lead him to become a social mogul bringing together voices creating rippling effects to make a positive impact on not only the community but the world.
Divine believes “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” At 17 years of age he saw a need in his community and was sparked to develop a community center with the youth in his community called Team Revolution. From that he has continued to grow, and gain more notoriety to make a bigger impact on the world. He became a ‘role model’ through the POLO foundation’s G.I.V.E. campaign and continues to “make a living giving.” We sat down with this social entrepreneur, who is now 25 years old, and asked him about his life philosophies and his plans for the future.
DIVINE: I don’t think its what came into me, its what came out of me. I wanted to take my life and put it in my own hands and create my own future. I felt there weren’t any positive role models in the community which is why I had to go out there and make something happen within my community. From that it gave birth to ideas like Team Revolution and ideas of me being a public speaker and a teacher and an educator. I wanted to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem.
NESHA: How did you gain credibility to get people to believe in what you were doing and what you were saying?
DIVINE: Ever since I was young I always lived by example. If I did something crazy someone would be like ‘yo that was hot let’s do it again!’ And it’s the same thing with what I am doing now. I am always jumping out the window for what I believe in and take risks and people admire those risks. I make sure now that everything I do is going to have a positive ripple effect in my society and my community. I do things and I want people to say ‘hey, I want to do that too.’ So if I go out there and I make giving back and community service a cool thing I want people to mock that.
NESHA: Education is said to be the key to the future. So that makes me curious as to how you feel about today’s education system?
DIVINE: A lot of the teachers are disconnected and in addition to that, the environment—over populated classrooms and so that plays a part in a young person’s ability to learn. And everybody in the classroom is not on the same learning regimen. Some people like to do things creatively some people are good at reading stuff and just getting it. Me, I like story telling teachers I like all that kind of stuff and when you have a classroom full of 50 people its really hard to get that. So I think there needs to be some kind of multimedia, multi-dimensional way of getting an education.
NESHA: So having a multi media element you think would help improve education?
DIVINE: More connected teachers, and a system that’s designed to teach students to think more independently, to think for themselves. And teach you how to work for yourself, school doesn’t teach you about financial literacy it doesn’t teach about how to start your own business. I think it teaches people to be good civilians and citizens.
I didn’t go the school route by choice because I felt like I could be the professor and principal of my own life so I design my own class. I found out what my weaknesses were and found out ways I could strengthen them.
I test myself all the time.
DIVINE: If I think I have a specific weakness or even if I know I have a specific strength I’ll put myself through certain tests. For example, on a physical note, if I think I might have strong legs what I would say to myself is instead of taking the elevator or escalator places I would take the stairs and I would see whether or not I am strong.
So if I think I am sharp and I can talk my way out of anything or into anything I line myself up and set a high goal where it requires me to ask for support. So ill go out there and ill just do it and if I score I’m like- told you…I told you.
I do it all the time, every day. I never want to make the same day repeat itself. Anti-ground hogs day.
NESHA: Eight years ago did you see yourself where you are today?
DIVINE: Eight years ago I did see myself where I am today.
DIVINE: yes, nine years ago, no.
NESHA: And so your vision did kind of come quickly for you?
DIVINE: Yea, it came overnight. For me. And then it was a whole new snowball at the top and it just started to roll down.
NESHA: Okay well where do you see yourself eight years from now?
DIVINE: I see myself doing everything I am doing now just to the eighth power. My thing is doing things smarter not harder. And so my goal and my mission is always going to be the same. I mainly focus on the new generation, the babies.
My whole life is going to be dedicated to just setting things up. I’m not doing things for me to see the end results. I want to create as much as I can so when I leave this earth my legacy exists. That’s it. I’m not concerned with all the results right now. Like I want to see fresh fruit in the hood and all throughout America but it might now happen now, I might live to see it in the whole east coast or 20 states but as long as I set up the program to make it happen.
DIVINE: It came from one of the guys that I have in my life his name is Kazi, the director of the hip hop project, and one of the things he does is play off a lot of words. He was really into being deep into words and breaking words down and the origins of it. So he took the word pressure and connected with me and said you know what, inl ife you are going to feel pressure. Pressure has two words in it- its PRESS and SURE. The only time that you feel it is when life presses you to see if you’re sure about something. And so in order for you to avoid that pressure is just to be sure, be confident.
NESHA: Are you always sure with everything that you do?
DIVINE: Nope, not at all. Life comes at you at different angles so I have to be prepared. I prepare myself as much as I can. I want to control my path and my vehicle. And make sure I am prepared when I am going on the road and avoid certain pressures and be confident anytime certain things pop up. So its all in the preparation.
NESHA: So have you ever felt pressure?
DIVINE: Absolutely. I feel a lot of pressure in areas like continuing on a specific mission. Because in this type of work there is so much happening and you’re always pressed whether or not you want to continue going or you want to give up. Well not my mention but specific tasks. And so I feel as though pressure comes up because I’m not certain sometimes I’m not sure and so I really have to snap out of it and be sure about what it is because it changes my life, my mission. But that’s the only time I feel the most consistent when I have to make decisions about—should I continue this project with this individual over here? Should I still pump confidence to this individual to get out there and do what it is they want to do and yet they still don’t want to get up and help themselves?
I feel it like that, other than that no. I have been thrown out in front of people and just have been able to think on my feet.
DIVINE: I don’t remember exactly but you always have to be prepared and be able to think on your feet. I was always taught to think on my feet, you never know what’s going to happen.
NESHA: What do you think is the one thing that holds young people back the most?
DIVINE: Confidence is what really would set them out to do whatever they want to do. Furthermore the thing that prevents them is, a lot of people they’re on that microwave mentality type of thing today. They want it now, right right now. And so if they can’t have it now they seem kind of hesitant to jump out the window for what they believe in. And we need to demystify this right right now mentality.
NESHA: But you said it kind of happened overnight for you.
DIVINE: Yea but Team Revolution was like the seed. The seed was planted, the actual seed in the ground that happened over night but the growth of it took time. Team Revolution today is not team revolution eight years ago. It’s a totally different animal. Its growing, it’s a child its an organic thing.
NESHA: What type of things does the organization do now?
DIVINE: Our main goal is to build community centers all around the country. Period. To build community centers called the power houses in every city everywhere and create this hub of resources for young people everywhere to take advantage of and to be an asset to their community. Being in asset by going out into their community and doing community service projects, learning about financial literacy, community development and social entrepreneurship. So they’re going to this hub to learn all this stuff and go out and infect their community with all this love and information and I think every community needs that.
NESHA: You were in a program (ArtsSart & the Hip Hop project) and it seemed to work pretty well for you, so why didn’t you just want to recommend that to your peers? What made you want to start something on your own?
DIVINE: I was already on a path prior to me being involved in of the Hip Hop Project and in Art Start. I was blessed to have certain people around me. I was on a path because no matter what it is I get myself into I know how to extract from anything and apply it to my path and where I am going. And along the lines I just practice my principles in terms of the loyalty I have and the commitment I have to new projects and I just rolled out with the Hip Hop Project from ‘99 to where it is now. I just kept it real. Just extracting.
NESHA: Were you part of the Lo Lifes?
DIVINE: Growing up in the ‘Stuy I knew cats who were invoved in that but I wasn’t directly. I took a liking of it by hand me down culture. If they liked it I grew up to like it too. There’ s pictures of me as a baby with pampers on and a Benetton hand band. Or mad nike bags around me and boots and timberlands and Polo stuff. So I just grew up in it, and people saw me with all the polo stuff and started calling me Shorty Lo. And ironically Shorty Lo turned into this guy.
NESHA: How did you get connected to the POLO Foudation?
DIVINE: They were doing a campaign called the G.I.V.E. campaign (Get Involved Volunteer and Exceed) and they were looking for role models to be models. And I went down. I did the interview that ended up turning out to be an MTV commercial. I had this huge afro plus this passion and they put two and two together and boom. We just maintained. And plus my love for POLO helped me to develop the relationships I have with the people there.
NESHA: Could you tell us a little about the future projects you’ll be working on?
DIVINE: Well I am a social entrepreneur, bottom line. So whether you know me as the Donald Trump of community centers or you know me as the person that’s making a living giving, or the person that’s running around saying the best way to predict the future is to create it. I am going to be doing a lot of campaigns online and in the street. And nationwide, going around the country letting people know whether they should live more or run for their life. Do things for their life, I am going to be doing a lot of that type of stuff. I don’t want to get into too much specifics.
NESHA: Well what are some issues that you plan to address?
DIVINE: Mainly right now it is to get people to live more, and then to follow up its how you live more with the things that I do. Whether its Team Revolution or any of the other projects I am working on.
Like with Team Revolution its building community centers all over the country. And the development of a fellowship academy for young people to become social entrepreneurs. And to develop leaders all over New York City. So I am just thinking, I am thinking big so if its not nationwide its global.
NESHA: When do you think that’s coming?
DIVINE: It’s here. If I am starting in New York its here. I am building a coalition of people who are thinking just like me and want to do this type of work and we’re going to make it happen.
For more information on Divine Bradley visit www.divinebradley.com
For more information on Team Revolution visit www.teamrevolution.org