NEW YORK — Television personality A.J. Calloway opened up Thursday about the racism he faced as a child growing up in New Jersey and announced that he will be embarking on a campaign called "I am Human" aimed at humanizing black boys.
He made the announcement at the National Action Network's convention in New York City during a panel discussion called, "Black Male Panel: Are You My Brother's Keeper? A Discussion on Fatherhood and Mentorship."
"It literally happened last month. I came up with a campaign I'm gonna put out, and I'm gonna work with it and I think it hits the problem at its heart," said Calloway in the run-up to his announcement.
"We are humans, but we forgot how to act and treat each other humanely, and I feel that our young black boys don't feel like they're human. They don't feel loved. They don't have men to say, 'I love you,'" he continued. "I've met many young men that have never had another black man look them in the face and say 'I love you.'"
Calloway then explained that it is this lack of recognition of the humanity of young black boys that is fueling a cycle of anger and resentment among them.
"Now if you don't feel human, how you gonna treat somebody else on the street? You're not gonna treat them the way that they need to be treated," he said.
"So I'm starting an 'I Am Human' campaign. And the campaign basically is HUMAN – humble, uplifted, motivated, academic and non violent. I am human, and we're gonna teach young boys how to be human and how to treat each other humanely," he continued.
Calloway then noted that if Trayvon Martin was seen as human on the fateful night he was shot dead by George Zimmerman, perhaps he would still be alive today.
"I think that if George Zimmerman saw Trayvon [Martin] as a human he would possibly still be alive. And I'm gonna actually talk to Mr. [Tracy] Martin, because I want to do a campaign of all the people that were slain violently: 'I Was Human,'" he said.
"So many people forget this young black boy was human. And they just look at it for what it's turned into. And they forget that that's a father who lost his son. He was human," he added.
The former BET "106 & Park" host then shared how he used the racism his family faced growing up in Maplewood, N.J., to become a stronger person.
"When I was younger there was a lot of, in elementary and middle school, there were writings on the walls. I had my house spray painted 'n***er pig get out.' And they slashed our tires and cut our dog, and this was probably when I was in the fifth grade and it empowered me more than it hurt me," he said.
"My parents were afraid for me to even walk to school because they didn't figure out who was doing all this stuff, and it made me realize at a young age, you know what? I have dominant genes," he explained.