We had the good fortune of connecting with Antoine Joyce-Roach and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Antoine, how do you think about risk, what role has taking risks played in your life/career?

Antoine: You know, when I really think about this question, I don’t see myself as a risk taker. 

Growing up in Brooklyn, just walking outside was a risk. I don’t want to paint a dismal experience, I loved growing up in Brooklyn, but back then, depending on what block you walked down or a person you did or did not know, you literally were taking a risk with your life. 

But, in hindsight, I have taken a lot of risk. Deciding to not follow the approved program plan at PAL was a risk. It got me fired. Trusting Joe was a risk. I didn’t always have a trust for others not in my community, to be straight, white people. The All Stars and other caring adults like Joe changed that for me. 

Today, I think about risk, as taking opportunity. And when it comes to the work I do today, risk is taking opportunity to develop yourself. I guess, even though I don’t see myself as a risk taker, I always wanted more for myself and my community and thus taken a lot of opportunities. 

I think the first biggest “risk” for me was asking my cousin if I can join his dance group back in the early 90’s. I guess, thinking back on it, I wanted to be part of something more than just going to school and church. More than sitting at home playing video games. The gangs didn’t want me (I attempted to join.) So, if he and his childhood friends didn’t let me join their dance group, I am not sure how I would have navigated life. That dance group led to me being involved in the All Stars Project (ASP). 

Ultimately, the All Stars programs empowered me, a kid who grew up in a single parent home, to want to try new things, and see new places. I learned to be youth producer and program organizer volunteering at talent shows all around my city. I was interacting with people from all walks of life, especially those who did not have the same history I had growing up. I attended the ballet, hanging out backstage with the principal dancer, galas, then hosting/emceeing galas, steak dinners, and even NY fashion week. As our youth leaders say to me today, I was learning how to be comfortable being uncomfortable in new environments.  

The All Stars continued to take “development risk” on me. Again, I had this great opportunity to be employed doing something I loved to do. I was still new in developing my professional skills. I made a lot of mistakes, and the All Stars supported me to take responsibility for those mistakes and grow.

Years later, I would take another risk, and quit my job! WHAT! I loved this work. But my production skill set landed me an opportunity to travel the world with Grandmaster Flash. And yes, there are great memories and lessons I learned on the road, but that feeling, that gut feeling that I had back when I was studying at John Jay – I felt most fulfilled when I was building opportunity for youth in poor neighborhoods. And I returned back to the All Stars Project, this time in a fundraising capacity. Another new opportunity. 

And all these risk on myself to grow, led to, I guess the biggest risk I ever took, moving from Brooklyn, to Dallas, TX sight unseen to build the afterschool development programs I was part of growing up. I have to thank our CEO Chris Street for trusting me with such an important expansion to the company. 

Today, I have Shout Out DFW asking me questions about it, so I guess all my risk paid off. Ha!

Please tell us about your career. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?

Antoine: You, know, I answers questions like this all the time and today, I find this question hard. I guess, there is so much I want to say. HA!

I fell into youth development work by accident. 

Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, my mother introduced me to the Police Athletic League (PAL). She raised 4 boys, my brothers and I on welfare for the first 13 years of my life. 

And, after obtaining an associate’s degree, she began working a full time job, as a case worker for welfare benefits. Isn’t that a interesting circle. So what does a single parent need to do with 4 boys – she looks for childcare support. My mother would send my younger brothers to the afterschool programs of PAL and organized a job for me as a youth counselor intern. This guaranteed my brothers were somewhere productive and safe from 3pm-6pm. And, it gave me some money, entry work skills and a responsibility of my brothers from that 6-630pm time when she finally arrived home. 

After graduating HS, the internship turned into a job. I worked at PAL part-time while attending John Jay College for Criminal Justice. But years in, and this is a pivot point in my life, studying criminal law, I started to see ME in all in the system. Young Black men who looked like me. Like the youth in my neighborhood. I realized that, I didn’t want to be part of the system after the fact, I wanted to support youth in my neighborhoods before they entered the justice system in the first place. 

I loved working at the PAL supporting youth. At the time, it was my first entry to helping youth. I often created new ways to engage the youth in my small groups. It wasn’t the approved way of the organization, and ultimately, but I had results.  For instance, I was asked to do an arts and craft project creating popsicle birds houses. Who has bird houses in Bed-Stuy I would ask my boss. Ha! I still laugh thinking about that. Instead, I created a basket ball tournament and the youth created their own trophies – arts and craft. Well, unfortunately, I would lose that job. And That was a lesson. I mean, losing a job period is a lesson, but it also taught me about agency. Empowerment. 

I was 20 years old, a young father and needed a job. Joe Forgione who I knew from my involvement in the All Stars Project, was my life line. He introduced me to a hiring manager in the mail room at Merrill Lynch. Joe always believed in staring from the bottom and working your way up. He was also introducing me into a world I only dreamed of being part of, from watching movies. And now I was staring in my own movie, like Michael J Fox in the Secret of My Success. 

That job taught me so much about what it meant to work in the corporate world. How to dress professionally, interact with business leaders and grow networking skills. I remember a receptionist on the 33rd floor introduced me to what a resume was and helped me create one. I used my new resume to apply for higher paying jobs at Merrill. I got offered two job opportunities. But I took a third! Working at the All Stars Project.

At the time, the pay was less than the other two offers I had at Merrill. But, in my heart, I really wanted to go back to supporting youth, youth like me. And, I will always remember that phone call from Pam (Lewis) when she offered me to work with her at the All Stars. That moment changed my life.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week-long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc. In your view what are some of the most fun, interesting, exciting people, places or things to check out?

Antoine: Okay! I live near Bishop Arts so that’s my go to every time. 

Friday Afternoon: Go for a walk-through Bishop Arts. Do some shopping, supporting local shops and vendors. Hit up Cigar Arts! Grab a cocktail at Bar Eden / Paradiso, and then grab a bite at Written by the Seasons. Do some Karaoke at Casablanca or live music at Reveler’s Hall. End the night with some DJ action at Atlas. 

Saturday – is culture and history tour of Dallas, with late day fun! Breakfast at Ellen’s. Then run thru Grassy Knoll, Reunion Tower, up to SMU (Highland Park), and down to South Dallas / Fair Park. Stop at the African American Museum. Head to lunch at Southside steaks & Cakes for ‘The Realest’ combo.  Or Invasion’s in Old East Dallas for a fire chicken sandwich.

Then stop at Klyde Warren Park for the vibes, and then visit the exhibits at the DMA and The Nasher sculptor center. 

Grab the trolley and zip around uptown and hit up a food truck for a snack when we return. 

We might need a nap! Your boy takes naps now. No shame. HAhAHa!

For Dinner, head out to Deep Ellum. Maybe Ebb and Flow. Then head over to Stirr for some early rooftop hip-hop musical fun. If we need a switch, head to Vidorra for that Bad Bunny vibe. And then see where the night goes. By this time, the NYer in me says, what happens, happens – let the night dictate itself. 

Sunday, have the reservation on deck for brunch at Kitchen and Kocktails. 

Leave there, head up to North Park and check out the art. I am still always amazed by the art in a mall because I’m not really a fan of malls. But it’s a great place to get some steps in after I loaded up on lamb chops. 

Skip lunch today! 

Head to Trinity Groves for an early dinner at Beto and Son’s and catch the Cowboys game in the beer garden. 

Head back to my home in Oak Cliff. Invite my close friends over, and some of my DJ partners (yes, I also DJ), play some real vinyl on my turntables and play a game of pool. I’m okay. 

Wrap up the day hanging out on the balcony with some Uncle Nearest. 

Alright, so let’s jump right in! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there a person, group, organization, book, etc that you want to dedicate your shoutout to? Who else deserves a little credit and recognition in your story?

Antoine: WOW! There’s too many names to mention all of them. He first one is easy, the All Stars Project, as it’s been part of my life for the past 33 years. Buts some individuals that deserve a shout out are my mother, Darcel Baskerville (deceased), Joe Forgione (deceased), Pamela A. Lewis, Chris Street, Gabrielle Kurlander, Pam Hafer, Dan Friedman, Sandy Friedman, Nathaniel Christian, Dr. Lenora Fulani, Dr. Fred Newman, DJ Demo, Dy-Namic Action, Legendary DJ Grand Master Flash, Jim Horton, David Nackman, Hunter Hunt, Nick Cornelius, Miguel Alvarado, my wife Derinda Hunter and my children Armani and Madison. I really could keep going. There are hundreds of others who all given me life lessons that I have benefited from in my life and career, so shoutout to anyone who has touched my life in anyway, whether for decades or a day, I take your influences with me daily. 

Website: http://www.allstarsproject.org/

Instagram: diddyofdevelopment

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/antoinejoyce/

Twitter: DiddyOfDevlpmnt

Image Credits
Kim Leeson Photography LLC, Chase Huddleston TCH Media

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