As a youngster in Bermuda, Dennis Rahiim Watson got kicked out of school 37 times for being insubordinate and disruptive. Those attributes are now channeled positively. As a motivational speaker, he shares his message about 25 times a month to audiences worldwide.
In the early 80s, his good friend Denzel Washington encouraged Dennis, a performer / poet, to write a one-man show. Entitled “The First Black President,” Dennis performed it 500 times from 1981-2008.
“All along, I was working with youth,” Dennis says. During that time, he founded the National Black Youth Leadership Council to inspire young folks to be winners, achievers, and successful.
The organization changed, now called the Center for Black Student Achievement. “In three decades, we’ve reached three million children,” he says.
Much of his speaking is on college campuses. “I concentrate on the hip-hop generation. I want them to be problem solvers and have academic success.”
“You can change people’s perceptions,” he tells them. “You can’t talk like a thug. You should have suits in your closet, polished shoes, and know how to tie a tie.”
He emphasizes how he wants to create a generation of role models, innovators, and mentors––global leaders, looking to Barack and Michele Obama as excellent global examples.
Watson wants Black men to love, honor and respect each other and particularly to end gun violence.
“Gun violence is a plague in the Black community. We have to find a solution,” he says. He speaks to gangs about consequences–injury, death or incarceration, “It’s your mother that carries the burden for the rest of your life; she will be inconsolable.”
Dennis volunteers 25 percent of his presentations and has spoken at 100 prisons. His message, “You’ve one life, why mess it up? Do you want murder to be your legacy?”
One of his talks, “Life Lessons from Big Mama: What I Learned from My Mother” is lively and emotional. With call and response, his presentations get the audience involved. “I see students cry,” he says.
In addition to his mother, he particularly thanks his mentors Pan Africanist Dr. Roosevelt Brown and Queen Mother Moore, Harlem Prep’s Dr. Edward Carpenter, and African history teacher Dr. Josef Ben Jochannon as adults that believed in him. Watson acknowledges his loving teachers in Bermuda and others who acted like big brothers and role models for him. “I count 500 ‘investors’ in me and I don’t want to let them down.”