My name is Nathaniel Broadus. I am a writer, community activist, youth advocate and mentor born in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on March 28th, 1986. I am a Marine Corps vet who has served as an 0311 with First Battalion/First Marine Regiment, travelled the world on the 13th MEU, and have been drawn back to my wonderful hometown, in search of the next mission.
I grew up idolizing superheroes: Batman, Superman, and the X-men were my favorites. As I grew, and aged, I finally accepted that I probably would never be able to fly, or lift a house with my pinky. I spent a period of years recklessly running the streets, and straying as far away from hero like behavior as possible. I ended up at rock bottom, with nothing. Self-alienated from family and friends, homeless and destitute, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. But that is not my origin story.
When I returned home from my enlistment, I was still nearly as lost as when I had left. Transitioning back to the civilian world was much harder than I had expected, I felt a bit like Steve Rogers, man out of time. THIS my friends, is where my story begins, in the halls of the Homewood YMCA. After about 20 minutes of lazing around the weight room, I saw a jar calling for YMCA members to drop their name and number, in order to volunteer for…..anything. I was awfully bored, and awfully stressed out, I could certainly volunteer for…anything.
The next day I received a mysterious phone call…
“Hello, is Nathaniel there?”
“Yes this is he.”
“We received your number in our jar. You indicated that you would volunteer for ‘…anything'”
“Well, I’m a bit unsure on what the ‘…anything’ part means.”
“We’re going to need you to come in and referee a basketball game tomorrow”
“Oh okay…interesting. When you said “…anything”, I didn’t think you meant something that took actual skill. I hoop, but I’m not a basketball player” (Doesn’t every bum say this?)
“Don’t worry about it, everything will be taken care of. Just be there.”
So I showed up, at the YMCA on that Wednesday evening. I was privileged to meet one of the most important people that I’ve had the privilege to cross paths with, Coach Wan Wesley. I had never seen someone that selflessly, THANKLESSLY dedicated, and effective at saving lives. He did it on a basketball court. He patiently taught me some nuances of coaching and refereeing basketball games, and eventually let me coach my own team for the rest of the season.
I had the privilege of “coaching” a seven year old named Tim, who I can credit as being one of the great leaders that I have ever met. From his first time in practice, he could tell that I was a bit unnerved, and he went into coach mode himself. He put all of his teammates in the right position on defense, he set up plays, and called them seamlessly in the middle of game action. When a teammate missed a shot, or fell down he was right there to pick them up, and encourage them. He stressed the importance of encouragement to his teammates, and they rallied with him. Once again, I’m talking about a seven year old. Our children are SUPER.
So maybe I could never turn invisible, but if Coach Wan, and Tim are in the line of fire everyday, actively saving lives, actively making people better. If Shanon Williams can grind her fingers to the bone tirelessly. for gun reform, police reform, community reform. If I can watch a child’s mind expand before my eyes as I watch Darrell Kinsel teach them that art IS a viable career field, and art IS important. If after being paralyzed in a traffic stop shooting by Pittsburgh Police Officers acting in a criminal manner, Leon Ford can rise up and become one of the most POWERFUL voices in the country…
If these people can do their part on the frontlines of the war to improve this world for every single person; if they can fight and put themselves in harms way for the soul of our society, our city…how can I sit on the sidelines?
How can you?