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Harold Mezile

Harold Mezile

President and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Minneapolis. As a child who grew up during segregation and the Civil Rights Movement, Mezile has dedicated his life to empowering youth in urban and suburban communities.

Born: Kansas City, MO, United States
Heritage: African American

You must be determined not only to graduate from high school, but you must be determined also to go on to college or technical school. Education is very important. The most important factor in education is dedication and hard work. If you believe in yourself and if you are willing to work hard, you will be successful.

Harold Mezile

President and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Minneapolis. As a child who grew up during segregation and the Civil Rights Movement, Mezile has dedicated his life to empowering youth in urban and suburban communities.

My name is Harold Mezile. I was born in 1945 and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. I am married to my high school sweetheart. My wife’s name is Peggy. She is a very attractive, classy girl. We have two daughters. One daughter lives in Baltimore, Maryland and the other daughter lives in Atlanta, Georgia. So that gives us an opportunity to travel to different places to see them.

My mother’s large family originally hails from South Carolina that moved to live in Oklahoma on a farm. Her father died early and her mother could not keep up the farm and manage the boys, so they eventually moved to Kansas City. My father’s family hailed from New York. He grew up in an orphanage. My grandmother was part of a family that came from Louisiana. They migrated from Louisiana to Kansas City in the 1920s.

When I was young there was segregation. The Supreme Court eventually struck down that law in the early 50’s. This allowed my family to move into any neighborhood they wanted to. We were the third black family move into an all white neighborhood.

My neighborhood became the seat of the Civil Rights Movement in the area. At that time the schools were still segregated. There was a school that was two blocks from our house. I could not attend that school because it was for the white students in that neighborhood and not for the black students.
I had to walk about 15 blocks away from my home to go to a school that was for, quote, Negro children. That school was so overcrowded that we had to go to school for only a half a day. Our parents went down to the school board and demanded that we get the right to go to that school. The same school that both Ginger Rogers and Walt Disney once attended. The school board capitulated, but my parents were successful in opening it up for black children.

After High School I went to the University of Missouri, where I got both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Social Work. I became involved in the Congress of Racial Equality, which is called CORE. I went to Selma, Alabama and was a part of the voter registration drive. It was a life-changing event for me. What impacted me more than anything else, was the very patronizing way in which some looked at the Blacks. Real empowerment for youth and all of us comes from doing with, and not for.

Not long after I graduated I got a job with the YMCA. I’ve been with them ever since. I started working for the YMCA in Kansas City, Missouri, then went to work with them in Atlanta, Georgia, then to Baltimore, Maryland, before coming to Minneapolis, Minnesota 15 years ago.

I’m now the President/CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Minneapolis. My job is to empower youth by providing young people with a lot of fun and educational opportunities.


Reach Up For The Stars

Honoring Harold Mezile

Reach Up For The Stars
(Honoring Mr. Harold Mezile)

Oh, oh, clearly, really
Don’t be afraid to work hard
If you do you will go far
Reach up for the stars

I was born in Kansas City
We were the 3rd family
To move into a white neighborhood
We were black - we did the best we could
When the courts said, “integrate”
Yet all the schools still did segregate
Until my parents marched down
To the school board in my town
They demanded we had a right
To go to school with the whites
We won the battle but sure enough
Some bad guys came and jacked it up

Somewhere along the line
In high school we did find
They fell in love with the black kids
The entire school did
We couldn’t date but we could play ball
To be friends walking down the hall
When they turned the school around
Every student was college bound
Working together at the core
To do with and not for
Pushing us to achieve

Went on to the university
Got myself two degrees
In social work to pay my bills
First found work in a steel mill
Then got a job at the Y
Making sure to provide
Lots of fun, activities
To build a community
Around the children to close the
Between him and her, this and that
In a world where there’s no defeat
Keeping kids off the streets

Music by LARRY LONG. Words by LARRY LONG with Ms. Sherron Taylor’s 4th Grade Class of FAIR Downton School. (Minneapolis, Minnesota.)

© Larry Long 2011 /BMI