TEACH A MAN TO FISH
“Today wasn’t a good morning. I work at the Medical University of South Carolina, and I am part of the trauma team. I work with victims of gunshot wounds,” Keith Smalls tells me.
Smalls speaks candidly about his morning at the hospital, where he counsels several victims of gun violence each week. The weight of those counseling sessions is one of several reasons that drove him to found his organization, My Community’s Keeper Mentor Group (MCKMG), bringing the “village mentality” back to his community.
“Amid COVID-19 in July 2020, I founded MCKMG. Before then, I was always out volunteering my services and making connections. I wanted the community to know I was available to them,” Smalls says. “Now, MCKMG has become a group of men and women who are making an impact and changing lives.”
As the Founder and Executive Director of MCKMG, Smalls works tirelessly to revitalize urban communities in Charleston, South Carolina. The MCKMG programs give families, adult individuals, and at-risk youth a safe haven to nurture their talents, grow within their profession, and form meaningful relationships.
Two signature programs, Boys Will Be Boys and A Girl’s World are popular because they provide young men and women with the resources to build their self-esteem and confidence while learning practical skills like financial literacy and business etiquette.
“One of the biggest challenges is getting the community to buy in and give effort. MCKMG is helping to reshape the community and get them back to the village mentality,” Smalls says. The village mentality allows the community to be interdependent, whether it be economically, socially, or politically. “In the minority community, we are still learning how to support each other, accept help, and believe that some people have your best interest at heart.”
Although Smalls has accomplished remarkable feats within a short period with his prominent organization, he doesn’t shy away from speaking about his past mistakes—which he has fought to overcome. An inspiration to many, Smalls courageously documented his story on the globally known stage, TEDx Talk.
A misguided young man at the time, Smalls was arrested when he was 21 and spent 19 years in prison. Upon his release, he was reunited with his family and immediately became a
servant-leader for his community. In addition to serving his community, Smalls became a community representative for the previously incarcerated for the Charleston County Criminal
Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC). Currently, he sits on the Executive Board as Co-Vice Chair for CJCC.
Tragically, a year after his release from the department of corrections, Smalls’ only son Amari Smalls was a victim of gun violence at 17 years old. Yet, despite his pain, Smalls chose to persevere for the betterment of his community. Smalls is a gun violence prevention advocate and Tri-County Gun Violence Coordinating Council member. He uses his platform to speak up against gun violence in hopes one less person won’t have to experience the unimaginable pain he has suffered.
“I am considered a gun violence survivor because I am the father of a murdered son. Coming home, I always thought I would be a part of revitalizing my community. Never could I have imagined that my son wouldn’t be here with me on this journey.”
Smalls honored his son, Amari, through his first fundraiser, which was hosted at the Okeeba Jubalo Gallery in North Charleston.
Dr Annie Andrews addressing the audience at The Okeeba Jubalo Gallery
The name of his fundraiser is “Teach a Man to Fish,” which comes from the old age adage, ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime.’” Smalls teaches his community how to fish by supplying them with tangible skills to succeed.
“The goal of the fundraiser was to introduce our sponsors, community partners, and mentors to MCKMG,” Small says. “Our work is revitalizing our community.” The donations from the fundraiser will go toward sustaining and growing the programs.
Okeeba Jubalo, Keith Smalls, Judge Tamara Curry & Eduardo K. Curry, Esquire
Keith Smalls addressing his audience at The Okeeba Jubalo Gallery
Additionally, MCKMG proudly partners with three schools in the Charleston area, where students enjoy being involved in after-school activities led by MCKMG.
Keith Smalls’ mission is to continue providing programs that help his community flourish, thrive, and live peacefully.
Keith Smalls and his My Community's Keeper Mentor Group team.