Council’s executive director job puts King in familiar role

Royal King will lead the Council on the Status of Men and Boys as its executive director.
Photo submitted
Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil, is the driving force behind forming the Council on the Status of Men and Boys.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

As the Council on the Status of Men and Boys begins to make inroads with its mission to eradicate crime in Tallahassee/Leon County, Royle King finds himself in a familiar place.

The Council will use three direct support experts to be liaisons between the subjects and the agency. A group of individuals from the community was recently identified to essentially work as a board of directors.

All of that will fall under King, who was hired last summer as executive director of the Council. The subjects that the Council will serve are those who make up the 83 percent who were expelled from school, dropped out or had been placed in alternative schooling. That segment was identified in a LCSO report, “Anatomy of a Homicide,” which was initiated by Sheriff Walt McNeil.

The responsibility of making the Council work effectively has some nuances that King is familiar with. A little more than a decade ago, King founded the Omega Lamp Lighters, a mentoring organization for potentially at risk boys.

The program has won national recognition for how it’s impacting young lives.

“A lot of my strategy for making this successful is following the model that I’ve developed over a decade, getting it to a point to where we understood how we can best be successful,” King said.

The biggest difference between the two programs is life coaching assistants, which the Council will have. An individual was hired as a community-based navigator, and two others as life coach navigators.

Just last Wednesday, McNeil and King hosted a meeting with Community Violence Intervention Service Providers. The intent of the two-hour meeting was to coordinate strategies for community violence prevention.

Each of the CVI currently provides some sort of resources for youths and family. Establishing the collaboration through the meeting is part of the requirements spelled out in $1.5 million grant that the Council received last fall from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Service providers were asked to identify problems and submit recommendations on ways they could collaborate with the Council for solving gun violence. 

“What we are starting to do now is laying the foundation for hopefully what we will see over the next two, three to four, five years,” King said.

For several years before the Council came into being, Rudy Ferguson, pastor at New Birth Tabernacle of Praise, has been attacking gun violence in the city. As part of his mission he formed the Dream Center and The Frontline Project as mentoring programs that gave young people a chance to earn a GED program and learn about the arts.

Ferguson said the work of the Council, which received initial funding from city and county governments, LCSO, Leon County Schools and Tallahassee Police Department is “essential.”

“I’m hoping that the Council serves as a strong resource for a variety of boots-on-the-ground programs that work with Black men and Black boys in our schools, our neighborhoods and our foundations,” Ferguson said.

He added that the apparent lack of bureaucracy surrounding the Council is an encouraging sign.

“Everything that these organizations are bringing to the table must be applicable to our most vulnerable communities,” Ferguson said. “It must be beneficial, applicable and move over it’s accessible in using it; user friendly.”

Ferguson, who moved to Tallahassee from South Florida in 1984 and settled in Frenchtown, said he has eulogized multiple victims of gun violence last year. 

“It’s never easy, especially when a child 15-16 years old has been gunned down,” he said. “Looking at the flip-side of that coin, too; the person that did it is going to prison for the rest of their life.”

That’s the kind of scenario that the Council wants to end. Its subjects will get assistance with getting a GED, employment and other life skills, King said, adding that the Council has a Memorandum of Understanding with Leon County Schools that would involve use of the Ghazvini Learning Center.

Parents and guardians of the subjects will also be involved with helping to change the young people’s lives, King said.

“The whole goal is to try to give them some supportive tools to be better socially, behaviorally, academically, psychologically and also connect them with resources for them to be successful,” he said. “We understand that we can’t fix a child with issues if we don’t address whatever is going on in the home first. 

“Something has to happen at home for whatever they do when we are not with them so they would be able to change their lives.”

Youth crimes have become flagrant over the last two years. So much so that the Tallahassee chapter of the Urban League has been hosting a series of community Police Relations Justice Circle Forums. The most recent was held on Wednesday night.

Maintaining parental involvement is a good first step by the Council, said Curtis Taylor, president of the Urban League.

“You’ve got to be a responsible parent, making sure that your kid is not being on the computer or all these sites that he or she should not be on,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to govern our kids and bring them up the proper way.”

 Looking at the success of his mentoring program, King said he anticipates success will take some time. 

“I’m extremely optimistic because it’s not just me,” he said. “I’m the leader of the agency that’s call to do it but it’s going to be a team of people what I’m working with. Bigger than that, I’m optimistic because my main job is to get the community at-large to buy-in to what we are doing (and) give their resources.”

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