Wall Street is rarely the conjurer of charitable sentiments, but for someone with philanthropy hardwired into his DNA, it is what you make of it. As the president of 100 Black Men of Long Island, Curtiss Jacobs is applying his experience to provide mentorship and advocate for education, economic empowerment, and health and wellness in Long Island’s underserved communities.
In addition to supporting his own family, Jacobs’ father made sure to do what he could to support the community, from organizing little league baseball teams and turkey giveaways to serving on the community board. “My family, they were always active in the community, arts and culture,” Jacobs said. “We always knew that we had to give back.”
Jacobs, a Queens native, never followed anything resembling a traditional career path. He’s worked for the New York State troopers and spent two years doing photography with Richard Avedon before he started working nights at Merrill-Lynch, eventually working his way into higher positions at places like Bank of America and AIG. It’s this breadth of experience that makes Jacobs uniquely suited to 100 Black Men’s brand of mentorship, which provides youth in underserved communities access to knowledge and a network of resources they may not have. Of all of 100 Black Men’s goals, mentorship remains it’s most central focus. Just like Jacobs witnessed community outreach growing up from his father and other men of his community, 100 Black Men holds to the motto “what they’ll see is what they’ll be.”
Although the organization does its best to serve anyone in need, for Jacobs there is a certain pride in working for such a legendary force in the black community. “I love the fact that we’re called 100 Black Men, because there’s a stigma that we don’t take care of our communities. It shows that we’re real men giving real time, working to progress the agenda of the community, to address the needs of the community.”
Since taking over as president of the Long Island chapter in 2015, Jacobs has been addressing the issues his organization faces while keeping them moving forward. For Long Island, one significant problem is reaching communities that are far more spaced out compared to, say, New York City. Moving forward, Jacobs and 100 Black Men are focusing their attention on recruitment, to help build the network mentees have access to and to have more hands on deck as the number of people in need across the Island rises.
And when it’s finally time to step down, Jacobs will likely do it just as he leads, quiet and dignified. “We don’t do this philanthropic work for the accolades. I believe leaders wind up leaving a legacy of future leaders.”