Public Speaker Akeem Lloyd discusses finding his voice & helping others discover their own — By Jess Evora
Akeem Lloyd sits in the corner of the event room at Monte Cara restaurant in Pawtucket, RI. He watches intently as a young freshman from Brown University gets on stage and shares his powerful story to an engaged room of strangers. Another individual stands up and shares her story. Others follow, many of whom are sharing their stories for the first time.
“I’ve never recited this poem to anyone before, so bear with me,” one individual says. “I’ve never done this in front of people. I’m a little nervous,” states another. The warm crowd responds with snaps of support and an applause of encouragement. As the Open Mic Night comes to end, the crowd stays after to share with one another their appreciation for the event.
For Akeem Lloyd, this was more than just an event. This was life.
Lloyd has been empowering youth and young adults to find their voice since he was an undergrad at Rutgers University-Camden Campus in Camden, NJ, where he was a student-athlete, running track for the school.
Today, in his 4th year in Rhode Island, Lloyd continues similar efforts through his own projects and initiatives.
Empowering Rhode Island
Lloyd is the founder of A Leadership Journey. The organization, founded in 2016 , aims to develop students into leaders and expose them to international cultural exchange opportunities. Lloyd and his team work with students in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Florida. He will be taking his students to South Africa in mid-June as the main component of the program.
Lloyd also spreads his message of youth empowerment and advocacy through AkeemSpeaks LLC (created in 2015). In addition, he is significantly involved with the Boston youth program, Leaders of Tomorrow, and hosts the Speak It Into Existence Open Mic every second Friday of the month (7:30p at Monte Cara Restaurant in Pawtucket). Lloyd also recently participated in TEDxURI . You can check out his TED Talk online during which his spoke on the importance of social responsibility.
Lloyd credits his leadership style to the culmination of his childhood experience, his influential teachers, and his unique journey of personal growth. He believes that continued growth is a necessary component of leadership. Self-awareness, Akeem says, is leadership.
“My social responsibility as a mentor, as a Black man, and as a friend has played a role in how I identify with the work that I do. I do the work that I do because it is needed. History tells us that our people have gone through so much. When I identify as a Black man, I identify with my ancestors who made it their social responsibility to paint the world I wish to live in.” – Akeem Lloyd
“I’m a work in progress, beautifully flawed,” Lloyd said. “I’m moving into a space where I want to be intentional and expressive with my life. I continue to try to be the best version of myself, but as I stand in my own light, I do my best to help others to own theirs.”
Lloyd, who is Brooklyn-born and Atlantic City-raised, was once a quiet young boy. He grew up with a stutter. The bullying he experienced at school became the norm. It was something he did not discuss at home. “We didn’t talk about our feelings,” he said. “That’s just not something we did.”
Lloyd learned – from the strict, yet loving grandparents who raised him – that he was to not disrespect his elders. He did a lot of listening. This led to a habit of introspection. “Because of the silence I witnessed in my home, I internalized that silence, and was silent myself,” Lloyd said. “This is what led to me processing the world.”
His parents came in and out of his life. They didn’t talk about it. He had siblings, some who lived with him, and some who did not. They didn’t talk about it.
However, Lloyd would later encounter many influential teachers in his life who encouraged him to find his voice and speak his truth. At first, for Lloyd, this meant becoming a rapper. However, he would soon find an alternate passion: poetry.
Lloyd’s interest in poetry began after his high school teacher, Mrs. Williams, kindly likened him to a highly-conscious rapper. “You remind me of Mos Def,” she told him. Lloyd had never heard of Mos Def, but he would soon do his research, and he found an instant connection.
He entered his freshman year at Rutgers with dreams to study business and open a coffee shop. His actual goal was to create a space for open mic nights. “I always associated open mics with coffee shops,” Lloyd said with a warm laugh. “So if I wanted to host open mics, I decided I needed to own a coffee shop.”
Lloyd would soon realize he didn’t need to open up that coffee shop to pursue his passion. He would go on to earn his bachelor’s degree in African American studies from Rutgers, and a master’s degree in Urban Education with a focus on youth development from Temple University in Philadelphia. He then served 2 years with AmeriCorps as a member of City Year Philadelphia. His involvement with City Year would ultimately lead him to Rhode Island, where he worked full-time contributing to the success of local youth with City Year Providence.
Uniting Our Community
I discussed with Lloyd his thoughts on how we can continue to bring together our state’s young professionals to create a network of support and make a larger impact on the Rhode Island community.
“Right now we are not building bridges together,” Lloyd said. “And in my opinion it’s because (1) people don’t know about each other, and (2) because if your competition, we’re not going out of our way to help.”
“I think we can continue to create spaces where we can talk to each other and collaborate,” said Lloyd. “We can continue to break down the negative connotations or stigmas that people may have to work with each other.”
After a thought-provoking discussion, our conversation was nearing an end. As we grabbed our coats to leave, I mentioned to Lloyd my own dream to create unity among Black & Latino professionals in RI, a population that is invisible to most. He listened intently. And before we parted ways, he left me with one last thought:
“If it moves you,” he said, “Then it’s worth fighting for.”
- Website: http://www.akeemspeaks.com
- Email: AkeemSpeaks2@gmail.com
- IG: @AkeemSpeaks2
- Speak It Into Existence: 90s Baby Open Mic
- Fri April 13th, 7:30-10:30 | Monte Cara Restaurant, 532 Lonsdale Ave, Pawtucket || Come dressed in your favorite 90s gear. $7 Donation at the door. All processed will go towards sending local youth to Africa || Hosted by Akeem Lloyd
- TEDxURI: Akeem Lloyd: Social Responsibility
- Check out Akeem on stage at TEDxURI.
- A Leadership Journey
- Make a financial donation towards the next trip. No donation is too small.
Akeem’s Top Reads:
- The New Jim Crow
- The Alchemist
- The Four Agreements
- I Am Not Your Negro
- By Any Means Necessary
Communities of Support in RI (2 suggestions by RANJA)
US & OUR CULTURE
A blog that celebrates the diversity and the impact of today’s young professionals
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
– African Proverb