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How Birmingham’s Regenerate Society Inc. Energizes Young People Through Community Engagement

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Since July 2017, the Regenerate Society seeks to revive, restore, and regenerate creative collaboration between multigenerational and multicultural communities by stimulating insightful conversation. (Provided)

By Sym Posey | The Birmingham Times

Devin Tanksley, Executive Assistant for Birmingham’s Regenerate Society, Inc. wanted to become a part of the nonprofit so much that when he missed the membership signup, he did the next best thing – he volunteered.

“I ended up volunteering for a year,” said the Birmingham native. “I loved it. I showed up to everything because I just wanted to serve.”

“As a volunteer starting out, I was coming in Regenerate Society after my mentor (Seneca Wilson, motivational speaker, and author) kept beating the wise words into me, ‘Service is the price you pay, for the space that you occupy’. From there I was like who am I serving besides myself?,” said Tanksley.

The Regenerate Society, Inc. is a non-profit organization that addresses social issues using service initiatives that empower young people to use their gifts through community engagement.

Since July 2017, the Regenerate Society seeks to revive, restore, and regenerate creative collaboration between multigenerational and multicultural communities by stimulating insightful conversation.

The group’s name is based on a wrestling show from the ‘90s.

Wesley Wright, Co-Founder and Executive Director, grew up infatuated with wrestling.  He was even more enamored with the group Degeneration X, a wrestling staple in the 1990′s composed of individual wrestlers from different divisions to become the “degenerates” on TV.

Seeing their impact, Wright thought, “what if this was flipped for good.

“D-Generation X was a group of a bunch of individuals who got five minutes of television time a night, and now all sudden I am seeing them the entire show just because they came together to support each other,” he said. “All their individual skillsets are bouncing off each other to do the biggest thing possible. That’s where our black and green come from,” said Wright.

Becoming A Nonprofit

What began as five individuals in July 2017, expanded to seven creatives who wanted to support each other. Founding Members: Nehemiah Horace (board secretary); Sheleka Laseter (board member), Abigail Little (chief of member development), Oscar Montgomery, Jr., April Moton, Briauna Perryman (board vice chair), and Wright.

“Why not come together and put our talents together instead and show the community what it looks like to be [united]. From our first meeting God kind of tapped us on our forehead and said, ‘I need y’all to do something bigger.’ and it became a nonprofit organization,” said Wright.

The group recruits 17–24 year olds and takes their talents to help address and impact social issues in the city.

“We are faith based but we don’t require anyone to be of any faith to serve with us. We just like to let people know, we like to pray, and everything that we foundational is through scripture (Biblical),” said Wright.

Regenerate Society focuses on five areas:

  • Activism
  • Business
  • Creative Arts
  • Health & Wellness
  • Outreach

Originally from Huntsville, Wright has spent the last 10 years in Birmingham, and it has become his home. This is his first season as Executive Director after he served six seasons as Chief Executive Officer. He is currently pursuing his masters in public administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Seasons, Not Years

Since Regenerate Society functions as a team, they refer to years as seasons.

Over the last six seasons, the group has worked to be more efficient and effective. During their preseason, or planning phase, they spend months planning and strategizing their projects and initiatives.

“During season six, we came to the conclusion that we wanted to think of initiatives that we can work on within three to five years so that way we can actually see the impact and growth of the communities that we serve in the Birmingham area and beyond,” said Tanksley.

Now in their seventh season, they are taking individuals from the community, giving them a chance to learn and teaching them everything they do.

For example, pre-season training camp teaches the history and current context of the group and gives incoming members the opportunity to get a taste of working together.  Throughout the season they learn life skillsets such as leadership training, mental health training and other skills important in their individual pursuits and endeavors.

Once those are the “active season begins” with initiatives like 9 of 99: City Council Project, a project for Birmingham residents on why City Council is important to their neighborhood or community; a Food Club in the Washington K-8 School that teaches 4th-5th grade students about eating healthy and basics of food nutrition; and Operation: Regenerating Hope, is an” initiative solely surrounded to addressing the issue of the [unsheltered] and people without housing beyond just providing them temporary solutions,” said Tanksley.

On the creative side, their Project Capture which is through their Creative Arts division is centered around building a workshop and community for photographers in the city of Birmingham.

As a photographer, Tanksley said,” We’ve identified that in a sense it is a very marginalized demographic. A lot of the times these photographers don’t know how or have access or to the resources to be successful in this industry.”

Wright said this organization has changed his life in many ways. “The plan was never for this to be a nonprofit organization. When we started this, [it] was with a group of people that I look up to and admire surrounding me that now I somehow must lead in some type of direction. It challenged me!”

For more, visit: Instagram: @thisisrsociety; facebook.com/thisisrsociety; team@thisisrsociety.com.