'Building Better Men' collecting entries for annual Black hero contest

In February, we honor the achievements of African-Americans. This Black History Month, the organization Building Better Men wants young Black boys to tell them who theirs is.

The contest connects generations by putting pen to paper. It's as simple as considering your hero and then writing a letter to that person.

"Imagine writing a letter to Malcolm X or to LeBron James," said founder/director Odis Bellinger. "Instead of just writing about what the person was about and their history, they actually write a letter to their favorite African-American hero. In that letter, it’s like if they're talking to them."

Building Better Men is collecting entries for its annual Black hero Essay Contest. Black boys from 5th to 12th grade are asked to write 250-word essays to their role model. The winner of the contest will receive $500 plus cash prizes for second and third place.

All entries have to be in by Feb. 18.

"A lot of these young men come from homes, that may not have what they need every day. Some of them look at these cash prizes as something that’s going to help them in their very home," Bellinger said. "It makes me feel good because I believe that every young man, if given a chance, can reach his full potential."

A study from Regis College shows more than half of Black children in fourth grade read below basic reading level.

Bellinger is using the contest to help young boys in Metro Detroit. And it's working. Just ask Brandon Kuhn, now in 7th grade.

"The positive traits I learned from your changes have helped me. I’ve learned from your mindfulness and beware of the consequences of my own actions," Kuhn said in his letter.

He won the essay contest last year with his letter to Malcolm X.

"I think it was that summer, me and my mom read his autobiography, and I was just really interested in him," Kuhn said.

He said he didn't think he was going to win it so when he did, he was very proud of himself.

Entries can be sent to odis@buildingbettermen.org. All submissions must be in by 5 p.m. on Feb. 18.