BAAM, Building African American Minds, is a program that aims to identify first grade African American males at risk for failure and recognize and address socioeconomic barriers that inhibit their ability to learn effectively and provide academic enrichment in a safe, caring, and structured environment.
EEDC: Under normal circumstances, BAAM does a lot. After-school programs, the newly built Athletic Center, etc. How have you had to alter what you do?
Derick Daly (DD): Basically, what we’re trying to do is just continue to be there for the kids as much as we possibly can. Throughout the COVID situation, we issued each BAAM family two sets of hundred-dollar gift cards to ACME or Weis Markets to help them out with food. We’ve given out probably $14,000 now, and we’re probably going to do another set of cards.
We’ve also sent out kits with crayons, pencils, and paper, everything that a child would need to try to try to keep themselves busy. The neatest project that we’ve done is we gave every kid a pot, soil, and seeds and asked them to grow whatever was in their seed packet.
EEDC: COVID has taken quite a toll on kids.
DD: it’s tough for them. Especially when they had a taste of the Athletic Center for the first few months, we had kids that just lived in there, and that’s the way we wanted it. We wanted them there until eight o’clock, nine o’clock until they went to bed. We were rocking and rolling in the Athletic Center. And then COVID…
EEDC: Tell me more about the Athletic Center.
DD: Well, we’re free to every Talbot County resident, and we were open from 8 AM to 10 PM. From a community standpoint, we had different nights for different events. For example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were basketball and nights, and Tuesday and Thursdays were soccer nights. Especially on soccer nights, many Latino kids would come in and play and have a good time. We reached out to the entire community signed up over 700 members to the gym during that short period of time that we were open.
EEDC: The Athletic Center was your 2019 goal, right? What stood out to you this year?
DD: So, this year’s project was is my biggest proudest accomplishment was starting Polaris Village Academy and the Polaris Village Ministries.
EEDC: Let me just stop you for a second and interject, again from your website, that the mission of both is to create a “village of support.” The Academy is a tuition-free private school, and the ministries are for those who want to find their purpose in life and optimize their potential through biblical principles.”
DD: What we’re doing is reaching out to individuals and organizations to create partnerships. It all started back in January when we invited all males to an event to talk about community issues.
That was so successful, we decided to do a program for women in February. The most important issues they came up with were education and financial awareness. That’s how the Polaris Village Academy became something that we wanted to do.
We also started a financial awareness program, not through BAAM, but associated with some of our BAAM members, Board members, and a couple of my own kids. We started the BAAM investment group. We have 14 members, it’s like an investment club, and we get in groups, and we go through investment strategies and so on.
And then, we also purchased a church, Mount Pisgah Church, at 209 Port Street. So that’s going to be our main meeting ground for Polaris
EEDC: Where did all this inspiration come from?
DD: My father was a minister, and I’ve always been around community service. However, I’m an accountant by trade. I got my degree in accounting from Suffolk University and an MBA from Wilmington University. I worked as an accountant and corporate controller for more than 25 years. Then we started BAAM.
My wife and I had a blessed good life. We’ve had great people around us. We were in a stable financial position, and we realized we had to do something more. We started a scholarship fund and put 50 kids through school, giving out thousands of dollars per year for four years. And then I met up with Jim Clark from Clark Construction
He asked, what would you do if you had the resources to do it? I said, well, I would go all the way back to first grade and create a program that would support kid’s mentality. Because 17 years ago, it was a stigma for black children, especially black males, to want to be smart. It was not cool. We wanted to change that culture, that mentality. And I would have to say we’ve done that. Now our kids are striving to be above and beyond that. As for the program, we started with a hundred-thousand-dollar budget, and now we have about $4 million.
EEDC: How are you funded?
DD: Through private organizations and private donors. We have not accepted any government grants or loans because we are restricted from applying since we are a faith-based organization.
EEDC: What is it about Easton that makes it a perfect place to host a program like BAAM?
DD: Easton has a different mentality than places like Cambridge or Grasonville. A lot of the wealth that is in Easton comes from more progressive and conservative areas. Technically, BAAM is a very conservative organization, as we actually encourage prayer. A lot of my donors believe in very conservative ideals. We serve a group that people know need help, and we do them in a way that fits or is comfortable for large private donors to feel like their values are being shared.
EEDC: As if all this is not enough, anything we need to know about what may be coming up in the future?
DD: Here is what I’m looking to accomplish in 2021: I’m a part of a group headed by my son called NAIMA Ventures, LLC., which purchased two blocks of land across from the BAAM center. NAIMA owns 14 duplexes, and we’re going to be knocking those down and creating a 56 unit complex to assist, through Polaris people who want to be in Easton who can’t afford it. In particular, teachers and health care workers who need help affording a place to stay.
Through that, we’re also developing a program with the Athletic Center and building a BAAM Academic Center so we can have the entire program on our so-called campus, Jowite
Street and Clay Street. We’ve already raised 3.4 million and need about 5.4 million to get it up and totally running. We’re starting a public capital campaign next year.
EEDC: How does all of this happen?
DD: I have a great group of people who surround me and allow me to be up in the clouds and just think of things, come up with ideas, and spew them out. They go and make things happen.