39, Largo, Md.
Most hated stereotype: “The racial profiling and the racial oppression that African-Americans have faced since they got here.”
When students in Prince George’s Community College’s Diverse Male Student Initiative look up at the program’s leader, they can see a bit of themselves.
With tattoos on display, a deep knowledge of hip hop and a firm grasp on its vernacular, Brian H. knows he’s not a typical educator.
When asked what a stereotypical teacher looks like, he laughs.
“I think very modest, somewhat subdued. Very conservative,” he said. “That typical old-school schoolmarm.”
For 15 years Brian has guided students of all ages with his boisterous, friendly demeanor and uncommon appearance.
He remembers running into one of his students off the clock and being mistaken for a thug. He understands stereotyping as something that everyone does – even him. The problem begins when people act on those thoughts, he said. It’s a lesson he’s learned and passes on to his students.
“I’m the guy promoting my guys to be stereotype killers, to go out here and break every rule, break every notion about what people think you’re supposed to be, so you get the real opportunity for the authentic you to go out.”
Before he created the Initiative in 2009, Brian taught in various school districts, fulfilling different roles – teacher, vice principal, dean of students, coach and mentor.
But it’s his current program that allows him to be the type of educator he wants to be. More than 700 men have participated in the Initiative, which includes leadership development, academic support, and career and entrepreneurship readiness. Recently, Brian established a pipeline from the community college to Morehouse University in Atlanta.
Other than commitment and energy, he prides himself on giving students a safe space to grow.
“Where do black men find that space? Hardly anywhere,” Brian said. “We talk about the personal, talk a little bit about what hurts and what’s good. But you have to feel you’re in a safe space to feel that way. I think I give them a safe space to be themselves and to trust that we all have the same good intentions for everyone to grow.”
Brian is now preparing to take his messages for men on the road, establishing his Brian Heat Worldwide brand. Joined by actor Dondre Whitfield and relationship expert Hasani Pettiford, he will soon visit different cities with The Manhood Tour. Together, the three will host energized discussions about personal growth and development, healthy relationships and igniting personal passion.
The son of an educator and an entrepreneur, Brian’s path is a perfect meld of what he saw growing up. His budding brand combines education, motivational speaking and performance.
“Too often, people live two lives. They live their job description and that makes them act a certain way, dress a certain way,” he said. “But then when they’re not at work they have a whole different swag. They have dreams and goals and hobbies. I said, you know what? I’m tired of feeling empty. I’m tired of feeling like I’m missing something. I want to consolidate what I am.”
From there, he started to combine his interests – music, clothing, performance and public speaking. Today he continues to build his brand around his personal passions, encouraging others to do the same.
“This is my opportunity to be a public speaker, but to do it my way. You’re not getting Brian Heat the public speaker, you’re getting 100 percent me. Unapologetic,” he said. “I did a keynote last year in Timbs (boots) and a tuxedo. It feels good because I’m doing me 100 percent.”