Constituent Spotlight: Corey Hardiman
Morehouse Student Has a Big Dream: To Inspire Young Men and Strengthen his Community
Corey Hardiman has no plans to “escape” from his South Side neighborhood after he graduates from Morehouse College this summer. On the contrary, he intends to move back to Roseland and create a grassroots movement to uplift the entire community.
He’s already started his mission. Instead of heading to Cancun for spring break, Hardiman brought 15 college classmates to Chicago in mid-March to promote “positivity and hope” among Roseland’s youth.
During this “alternative spring break,” he and fellow students conducted Success Training forums for neighborhood youth groups and led a Men of Color Summit that linked up 450 young men to educators, professionals and other black men doing positive things with their lives. The evening included sessions on financial literacy, sexual health and applying for college.
Hardiman and fellow “hope dealers” also read stories to children at Lavizzo Elementary School, helped distribute food to residents in need, and met with representatives of the Chicago Urban League and Roseland Ceasefire, as well as several elected officials. And, through a foundation he formed in 2012 called Enough Chicago, Hardiman awarded a scholarship to Corliss High School senior Ashley Henderson, who plans to attend Spelman College this fall.
“The week went above and beyond my expectations,” Hardiman said. “We learned that every black male on Chicago’s South Side and West Side is not what statistics say. Each one has a born leader inside waiting to be activated. They just want someone to listen to them. They want to be heard.”
During his talks with young people, Hardiman stressed the value of civic engagement and why it’s important to vote.
“The apathy is unbelievable,” he said. “My mandate is to get young people to vote. When President Obama was elected, people went to the polls in droves to make it happen. Presidential elections are important, but most people don’t realize that the most important elections are local and statewide. The local level is where people are most impacted and where they are most connected to government.”
Another concern of Hardiman’s is the incarceration rate of African Americans. A study by the public policy organization Pew Charitable Trusts found that one in 15 black men 18 years of age and older are incarcerated, compared with one in 106 white men. Even more alarming, one in nine young African American men between the ages of 20 and 34 are behind bars, compared to one in 30 of the general U.S. population in that age group.
“African American millennials are going to jail at a troubling rate and arrest records are ruining job opportunities for young men who’ve made mistakes in the past,” said Hardiman, a political science major. “I support restorative justice. Our people don’t deserve to have arrest records following them around for life. Young people need opportunity. Like Congresswoman Kelly has said, ‘A job can stop a bullet.’ When young people have constructive things to do with their time, violence will decline.”
The political science major believes the social problem of his generation is gun violence among young black men.
“I want to motivate people to stand up and be bold about solving this problem.”
Hardiman said he’d like to challenge church leaders to “become anchors of the community again.” He said ministers need to work together with public officials, educators, business leaders, non-profit agencies and community organizations in order for neighborhoods like Roseland to mend and progress.
“What we need is collaboration, opportunities and ways to address the mental health issues plaguing urban communities,” he said. “That means creating jobs, mentoring programs and opportunities.”
Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, president emeritus of Morehouse College, sees Corey as a young man on the threshold of reshaping the destiny of young African American males in America.
"Corey Hardiman is a 21st century moral leader who embodies the best qualities of the Morehouse leadership tradition,” Dr. Franklin said. “Like Martin Luther King, Jr. at this stage of life, he is impatient, courageous, intelligent and disciplined. Above all, he is determined to improve his community and to cultivate the ability to dream big dreams among young people, especially black boys and men. I admire and respect him a great deal."
After he graduates in May, Hardiman plans to work with Roseland youth. He has already been contacted by several schools with job offers. He also intends to pursue a Master’s in education policy in the near future.
“I want to finish my education, continue to work in the community and develop young men in the area,” he said.
Morehouse student Corey Hardiman awards a scholarship from his foundation, Enough Chicago, to Corliss High School senior Ashley Henderson, who plans to attend Spelman College this fall.