The Power of Mentorship with Will Jawando

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This deep dialogue explores a life-affirmative story of hope and respect for men of color at a time when Black men are routinely stigmatized. Will Jawando’s vivid and moving story not only applies to black men but is a reminder for all our children, most especially those at risk, how even a brief encounter of positive mentoring can make all the difference in their lives. As a man born of a Nigerian father and a white mother, his story is a clarion call to families and communities to provide crucial support to young people and Jawando is our guide for the essential gift of mentorship and how staggeringly transformative it can be for an entire community. He talks about his first mentor, Kalfani, who only a few years older than Jawando was his protector and first basketball teacher. Jawando makes this powerful point regarding his childhood friend, who died young in a drug deal gone wrong, “I believe that if he had the access to these mentors, these father figures like I did, and had had personal relationships, a place to go, an after school program, all the things that could have exposed him to these people, he might still be with us today.” As you listen to this conversation allow your mind to remember the people who mentored you along the way and be inspired to pay it forward. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Will Jawando is an attorney, an activist, a community leader, and a councilmember in Montgomery County Maryland, a diverse community of more than 1 million residents. Called “the progressive leader we need” by the late Congressman John Lewis, Jawando has worked with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Sherrod Brown, and Pres. Barack Obama. 

Will Jawando is the author of: 

  • My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist’s Memoir of Race, Family, and the Mentors Who Made Him Whole (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2022) 

To learn more about the work of go to 

Topics explored in this dialogue include: 

  • How Jawando’s father was an “absent presence” and it was his stepfather, Joseph Jacobs, who intentionally exposed him to the African American experience
  • What is the difference between after school activities for a “decision” kid and a “destination” kid
  • What was the significance of Jawando’s first black male teacher who wore a suit and tie to class
  • What was the importance of Jawando’s Nigerian grandmother
  • How nineteen year old Jawando was gifted a trip to Nigeria by his mentor, Deen Sanwoola
  • How the trip to Nigeria gave him a view of himself as part of a larger worldwide Black culture
  • How Professor Dean Hoge widened his perspective of the of the sociological and economic different types of inequality
  • The difficulties he encountered in starting a NAACP chapter at a Catholic University
  • How he got to be part of President Obama’s staff and even played basketball with him
  • How all the mentorships led to his becoming a Councilman for Montgomery County Maryland which includes over a million citizens
  • Why participating and voting in local elections is important
  • What is the difference between affordable housing and low-income housing
  • How Jawando reconciled with his father and how he gained appreciation for his father’s experience as a Nigerian immigrant 

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 7/8/2022   Program Number: 3764

Music Playlist

From Album:  Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Friends
Artist: Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Opening Essay: Track 01 Homeless
Music Break 1: Track 09 River Of Dreams
Music Break 2: Track 10 Mbude (with Taj Mahal)
Music Break 3: Track 15 Mamizolo