When Nas was a boy, his father delivered papers for The Tennessean. On more than one occasion, police officers thought Mr. Cook looked like he didn't belong in the neighborhood where he was delivering papers, so they pulled him over. With the looming possibility of being pulled over at any moment simply for the color of his skin, Mr. Cook could not do his job without some degree of fear or trepidation. Nas hated to see what his father had to endure. Adding to his confusion about his father's treatment was the fact that his mother worked for the Davidson County Sheriff's Office. How could there be such a fracture between two groups in society when he saw representatives of those two groups living happily together in his own home?
Then, soon after Nas earned admission into MBA, something changed. The next time Mr. Cook got pulled over, he was proudly wearing an MBA baseball cap. When the officer saw the hat, he immediately apologized to Mr. Cook and let him go about his day. All the other times when the police stopped Mr. Cook were awful and wrong, but this one broke the proverbial camel's back. This incident seems to be the key moment that inspired Nas to take action. He could not let these implicit biases stand unchallenged.With a year of Princeton under his belt and the backing of its John C. Bogle '51 Fellowship in Civic Service, Nas is back in town running a new nonprofit called Nashville Youth Initiative (NYI). The organization's goal is to "build common experiences between law enforcement and the urban community to promote inclusion and diversity." NYI is addressing the very problems Nas and his family faced. Modeled loosely after some of the police athletics leagues in the northeast, NYI brings police officers and urban youth together here on the MBA campus.
On a typical day at NYI Camp here at MBA, kickball, dodgeball, and other games fill the morning. Officers and kids play alongside each other. It's worth saying again: officers and kids play alongside each other. Then, thanks to the generosity of Slim & Husky's, everyone enjoys delicious pizza together in the MBA dining hall. The day concludes with some academics, discussions about cultural diversity, a public speaking class, and some team-building activities.
When Nas heads back to school this fall, he'll be leaving Nashville in better shape than he found it.