Congratulations to our February 2013 IMPACT Leader of the Month, Marvin Bing.
Going from foster care, the Juvenile Justice System Marvin Bing has truly been grounded on the ideology of “It takes a village to raise a child.”
During the 1980’s in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the only thing promised to a baby born into statistical margins is a life of crime, an unsatisfactory education, and projected failure. Nobody would have placed a child born into the epitome of “hell on earth” to be the future New York State Director for the One Nation Working Together Coalition that was held in Washington, DC in 2010, and one of the Lead Organizers for the End Stop and Frisk March that put 75,000 people in the streets of New York to protest the NYPD Stop and Frisk practices.
Marvin would spend his entire childhood in the foster care system going from home to home and eventually, due to his own actions, ended up in the juvenile justice system at the age of 14. It wasn’t until 2001 upon release from his third bout with juvenile detention, that Marvin understood even in the midst of his unfortunate reality that he was called to a greater mission: to reach back and make sure no one he encountered would have to endure the same trials he experienced.
After graduating from Summit Academy in Herman, PA with honors, Marvin followed his redirected dreams and quenched his thirst through his active involvement with the Children’s Defense Fund and the Young Democrats. Now in his late-20s the Harlem, New York resident is taking his tragic experiences turned beautiful life change as well as his love for community, belief in human potential, and his passion for the disenfranchised, and is using the sum total of his experiences as a tool to invest in himself. In 2010, Marvin was given The Guiding Light in The Community Award named after Philadelphia Former Congressman Lucien Blackwell by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. He was also presented with a City Council Citation of outstanding citizenship from New York Councilwoman Inez Dickens. In 2010, he was also named by City Hall News as a person under 40 to watch in New York City Politics.
Marvin is currently attending New York University studying Film and Media Studies to finish his undergraduate degree. The son of so-called failures builds his life on the principles of community enhancement, through strategic initiatives in the areas of political accountability, urban development, social economics, education, and social development. Marvin Bing continues to beat the statistics. He was born an exception.
INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Marvin Bing
What inspired you pursue a career in advocacy and organizing?
My path to this work was through personal trauma, maybe more mental and emotional. I lost my mother when I was two years old, and my Father was in jail most of my life. I grew up in the foster care system, and juvenile justice system. I would see all these young brilliant minds trapped in a state of trauma and only acted out because they wanted someone to listen and help them understand their situation. At the point when I was being released from my third juvenile placement, I made a conscience decision that instead of adding to the problem and statistics — that I would commit the rest of my life fighting against injustice, fighting for people who made mistakes and needed a second chance, fighting for equality amongst all people (young, elderly, LGBT, women, all people of color, workers, and anyone who wanted a fair chance at a decent and productive life that needed an extra push when they gave up on themselves).
What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?
The funny thing is that in my work and my life everything is encompassed around all these things. In everything I do professionally, I try to figure out a way to give back and keep my social promise to the people that are being disenfranchised. I think it’s hard to separate, and the more you keep them intertwined, the better organizer you will be.
What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing careers in advocacy and organizing?
I think there are three. The first mistake young people make is the idea that they can’t make mistakes. Mistakes are the building blocks of greatness. Second, some young people get into organizing with the wrong intent. Sometimes the people who live to serve the public become celebrities and a lot of people see them as that instead of public servants who serve the people. Third, many young organizers come into this work wanting to be a leader before they know how to follow. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither will your career in social justice or politics.
What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel, especially young men of color?
Believe in yourself even when others won’t, keep pursuing education, always outwork your idols, and don’t think being a person of color is a disadvantage.
What’s been the best experience of your career thus far or the most rewarding?
I think the best reward and experience in my career was meeting Bill Lynch. I was always active as an adult but once I met Bill, he gave me the confidence, the support, the knowledge, the history, and the opportunity to pursue whatever I wanted to pursue. He became a father to me and always gave me the backbone to believe in my dreams and what I wanted to accomplish for the people I cared about. Mentors who really care are a rare commodity these days, and Bill even when he was frustrated never turned his back on me, and always used my mistakes as a way to teach me to be better.
What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?
Every day there is an injustice happening and every day there is legislation being introduced to hurt or setback a group of people. I will continue to organize against attacks on voting rights, union rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, and inequality in employment and wages. You should look out for the 50th Commemorative March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, as well as more advocacy work around foster care youth and young people in the juvenile justice system.
What is your Twitter Handle? What email address can people use to reach you?