Social entrepreneur and visionary leader Anthony G. Barrett has spent his career fueled by opportunities to drive change. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Anthony about his involvement in the Hartford community and what he’s doing to make an impact.
NAN PRICE: Why Hartford?
ANTHONY G. BARRETT: I moved from Montreal, Canada, to Hartford when I was around 12. Growing up in the North End of Hartford has helped shape who I am today because I recognized that many people didn’t have as much access to positive male role models or positive outlets to stay out of trouble. Some of my friends got involved with crime or went to jail. I spent a majority of my time at the Boys & Girls Club in Bowles Park learning to play basketball.
Early on, I understood the plight and the journey to overcome obstacles in the city—even more so in the North End because, at the time in the early 1990s, there was extreme violence and a lot of pressure to be influenced by negative factors. Playing basketball kept me grounded and helped me establish a lot of relationships and find some mentors. Even with all those obstacles, I discovered ways to find positive opportunities and positive people to overcome immense barriers.
I adamantly believe that once you start to ascend in your career trajectory, you need to share your journey. So, I spent the early part of my career working with juvenile boys and young men. I find it’s very important for young boys and men of color to see positive role models from their community who look like them come back and actually work with them or support them in a variety of different ways.
NAN: How do you help support those beliefs?
ANTHONY: What kept me in Hartford is the opportunity to serve and drive change in a community where I’m able to work with families in one of the poorest geographic areas in the state and provide life-transforming programs and opportunities our youth seldom have access to.
Over the last three years, I’ve been able to establish a corporate partnership with Best Buy/Clubhouse Network. We’re helping youth learn more about the future of the digital landscape—everything from coding to understanding the Internet of Things—so they can start planning their careers or advance Black and Brown pathways and representation in tech.
NAN: In addition to your work as Executive Director at the Wilson-Gray Youth and Family Center at the YMCA Greater Hartford, you support Hartford youth in several other ways.
ANTHONY: Right. I volunteer for several nonprofit boards, which helps me impart lessons learned along the way by sharing my talents and thoughts around supporting youth and families in the city.
For the last five years, I’ve served on the Board of Hartford Camp Courant, a free summer camp for all youth in Hartford. I’m also on the Capital Community College Foundation Board and have been working on raising awareness and soliciting resources to support students in need.
I also co-founded Girls for Technology with my wonderful wife, Sabrina Tucker-Barrett. The organization is doing phenomenal work advancing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pathways for girls.
NAN: With the work you do, how do you continue to evolve?
ANTHONY: Here’s an example. About a year ago, I was leaving the Y heading home and I was thinking, I need to do more. In the media, I was seeing so many negative stereotypes and stigma associated with Black and Brown boys and men. I thought: What can I possibly do to shift that narrative and plight for Black and Brown boys and men?
I launched the BoysCode initiative as a way to shift the narrative and show that we are more than just thugs, criminals, athletes, and rappers. We’re educated. We’re scholars, we’re doctors, we’re innovators. We’re brilliant! The BoysCode initiative focuses on how to bridge to the divide of the wealth gap in America through programs and provide access to areas where there aren’t enough young Black and Brown talents.
I ran a few different workshops focused on in-demand career pathways with high earning potential. The hope is that our young Black and Brown boys and men can go into these careers to ultimately build a legacy and close the wealth gap.
I also launched Position 2 Win entrepreneurial speaker series featuring John Henry, who has a new Viceland show called Hustle that works with startups and other founders looking to build out their products or business models.
I hope to continue to do things like this to enhance the vibrancy of our entrepreneurial community, which I think is needed more now than ever to activate economic mobility.
NAN: You do a lot of work to shift the narrative about Hartford. How can we better tell our story?
ANTHONY: Sometimes we don’t do a great job telling even half of what’s happening in Hartford or providing access to the information. Everyone needs to do their piece to change the narrative and share all the wonderful things about Hartford.
We need to focus on publicizing all the activity—entrepreneurial, culture, arts—happening in Hartford and do a better job celebrating all the positivity.