It is easy to find problems in a community, especially when that community is Macon. Many people talk about the challenges we face. Yet with as many challenges as Macon faces, there are also many people in our community who are investing their money, time, and emotions into improving our community.
Among the dedicated volunteers who work to make Macon a better place, you will find many who believe they have a calling in their lives. They truly feel as though they were put here on Earth for a purpose that they must fulfill before they are to leave. For personal stylist, music lover, community mentor, and avid church-goer Jacquez Harris, this is very much the case.
About three years ago, Jacquez says, Jesus gave him the vision of the “I Am King Boys Camp.” Looking around the community, he felt there was more that could be done, more that HE could do to bring about change. At first, Jacquez didn’t know exactly what to do, though. But he experienced an awakening in his spirit to make change in Macon.
On New Year’s Day 2015 is when Jacquez says he finally asked, “Jesus, what is it you want me to do?”
To this, Jacquez says that Jesus replied, “I need you to stand up,” a command that Jacquez then followed.
“Okay,” Jacquez said in response.
“Go look at the calendar,” is what Jacquez says he was led to do next. Jacquez felt led to point at the calendar, and when he did, his hand landed on the King Holiday. The King Holiday is the commemoration and celebration of the birth of civil rights leader and religious leader Martin Luther King, Jr., who was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia.
“You’re following directions,” Jacquez recounts. Jesus then told him, “I want you to do something with boys on this day.”
Jacquez responded, knowing that he would follow as he had been called to do, but not knowing what exactly it was he would be doing. After making a few telephone calls, though, he decided that he would be planning and hosting a camp for boys.
Jaquez developed the idea for the camp based on practical things he felt young men in Macon needed to know to be successful in the world around them, both in Macon and beyond. The camp would focus on things like teaching boys how to tie bowties and ties, how to look professional and put together, how to interact with adults, how to pray, and how to introduce yourself publicly, among other things. The event was called “I Am King Boys Camp” because it was to be held on the King Holiday. Jacquez felt a connection not only to the day, but to the leader whose life inspired it.
The camp was a one-day event that was attended by 84 boys from ages as young as 6 or 7 up to age 18. They discussed topics ranging from love to hate, and many things in between. Speakers came from different walks of life to motivate and inspire the young men.
“The camp was a blast,” Jacquez says, but he felt unfulfilled. “I thought that was all God wanted me to do,” Jacquez explains. “But I also felt like there was more to do,” he continued.
Once more, Jacquez felt lead. God answered his lack of fulfillment: “Yes, this is more than a one-time thing.” Jacquez knew that to reach more lives, and to touch more hearts, he had to keep the program going.
I Am King Boys Camp became a recurrent event in Macon, with camps several times throughout the year. Jacquez brought in different speakers, successful men from many walks of life, and all of them members of the Macon-Bibb County community, including business owners, artists, and law enforcement officers. Jaquez also participated in the Bibb County Mentor’s Project, and as he worked with his protégés, he learned from them of other unmet needs faced by young men in Macon.
The program grew. Eventually, the I Am King Boys Camp transformed into the I Am King Foundation, INC.
I Am King Foundation, INC.(“the Foundation”) targets all boys, ages 5-18, in the Middle Georgia area, regardless of race, culture, or household income. The purpose of the Foundation is to teach the young men basic life skills while giving them an outlet to express themselves and providing support and encouragement. The Foundation currently hosts two camps per year, one in January and the other in July.
Some of the things the camp covers are education, public speaking, formal table manners, and financial literacy, in addition to the topics previously covered.
During the other months of the year, the Foundation interacts with the boys monthly by taking them on outings, having monthly check-in, and exposing them to other customs and cultures through events and education.
Adult participants in the Foundation provide their youth participants weekly phone calls and reviews of their report cards. The Foundation puts heavy emphasis on education with a focus on reading and math especially. “We want them to know that they can do anything they put their mind to,” Jacquez explains. He feels that it is important to introduce the boys to nontraditional professions, as well, so that young men know that they can choose a future that suits their interests and talents, whether that is doctor or barber or welder.
“If a parent needs us to come over and stop by to visit with a young man, we can do that — we have that availability now, and every parent has my cell phone number,” he says.
The Foundation will be starting a Spanish class beginning the holiday week in November. “We want our kids to be multi-cultured,” Jacquez says. He explains that by introducing the boys to another language early, he hopes that by the time they are seniors in high school, they will be bilingual.
The I Am King Foundation INC. is steadily growing, with the camp having made an impact on 189 boys. There are new students enrolling every camp and the need for volunteers is rising as well.
“Traditionally we ask men to come help us at I AM King Foundation INC.,” he explains, “anybody who has a passion for the growth of the youth meets the criteria to be a volunteer with the I Am King Foundation.”
As he was raised by a single mother, Jacquez doesn’t dismiss the important role of women in the lives of young men. “There is always room for a good motherly touch,” Jaquez says.
I Am King Foundation INC. will be debuting the I Am Queen Foundation INC. in January 2018. “Now we are focused on children” Jacquez states, reiterating that with the I Am Queen Foundation, both boys and girls ages 5- 18 in Middle Georgia will be able to be reached.
“I really want this program to see the world” Jacquez says. This is not hard to believe—he is passionate about helping Macon’s children learn their worth. Jacquez paid for the first few camps out of his own pocket. “It was worth every penny,” he believes.
With the help of the community, the camp and foundation continue to grow. The Foundation sends out sponsorship letters for the camp twice a year, in November for the January camp and in May for the July camp. If you are interested in volunteering with the I Am King Boys Foundation, INC., I Am Queen Girls Foundation, INC., sponsoring a child, or making a donation, you can contact Jacquez Harris at (478) 550-7513. More information can be found as well on the Foundation’s Facebook page @ I Am King Foundation, INC.