Alabama Kings

m at Valiant Cross Academy—an all-male private school in the heart of the city. I’m outside, watching ninety African American boys in uniforms shout the Lord’s Prayer in unison.

Montgomery—the old Dexter Avenue Methodist church is catching early sun. The red bricks look orange, the Alabama state flag is golden-colored.

There is big history here on Dexter. Across the street is where Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. preached Sunday services. The capitol building is up the road a piece.

It’s a busy morning downtown. Taxis. Public busses. Range Rovers. Old pickups with muddy tires. Homeless men sleep on benches. Welcome to Alabama.

I’m at Valiant Cross Academy—an all-male private school in the heart of the city. I’m outside, watching ninety African American boys in uniforms shout the Lord’s Prayer in unison.

These boys have a string of rally cries they chant to start their day.

They shout things like:

“GOD LOVES YOU! AND SO DO I!”

“WHO’S GOT YO BACK?”

“I GOT YO BACK, I GOT YO BACK! OOOOOH, I GOT YO BACK!”

“GREAT DAY! GREAT DAY!”

“LET’S FINISH STRONG!”

“JEEEEEE-ZUSS!”

“OUR FATHER, WHICH ART IN HEAVEN…”

Then, ninety boys from varied backgrounds—most from rough neighborhoods—face the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes you’re not living right.

These children come from a world with bars on their living-room windows, daddies in county prison, and drug deals on public playgrounds. They are at the academy to make better futures.

Some enrollees tell staff members they don’t expect to live past age eighteen.

“We call them scholars instead of students,” says school founder, Anthony Brock. “Because we’re training scholars, decent men, and fathers. Not students.”

Anthony and his brother founded Valiant Cross three years ago. They started the school because they’ve seen enough kids slip through the cracks of a crumbling Montgomery County public-school system.

They decided to do something about it.

So, armed with little more than a few dimes and a prayer, Anthony started transforming forgotten Alabama kids into kings.

“Our morning shoutin’ helps take the boys’ minds off problems at home,” says one staff member.

Rituals include prayers, pledges, clapping, hand-shaking, and lots of hollering. Mostly, military-style yells of encouragement.

“Our teachers here are almost all men,” says another teacher. “That was on purpose. Lotta these boys need to see strong male role models, we’re showing that to them on a daily basis.”

The teachers here are more than role models. They are sturdy men who have become brothers, parents, and protectors. They understand broken homes, and they love their boys.

After rally cries, the kids walk single-file through a receiving line, shaking hands with faculty and administrators.

Today, I am in this receiving line.

I get ninety firm handshakes from boys with serious faces. Each young man looks me in the eyes.

Some of these boys have seen more hell in their childhoods than grown men see in ten lifetimes. They know more about life than I’ll ever know.

A small kid with large eyes and thick eyeglasses shakes my hand.

“You have a great day, sir,” the boy says.

I wish him the same.

Anthony says, “I love my kids, I want everyone to know that THESE boys aren’t just a statistic, they’re beautiful, they’re going places, and they’re created in the image of God.”

God.

I knew something seemed familiar about this place.

43 comments

  1. Connie - November 4, 2017 11:42 am

    God bless the men doing this. All too often, children today grow up with no good role models, so they don’t know how to act. Little girls see their moms go out to party and act foolish. Or watch their dads treat their mom like a punching bag, and they think that’s how it’s supposed to be. Little boys watch their dads treat their moms like crap, or go out and cheat on them, or drink their paycheck away, and they think that’s how men behave. Somehow, someone has to show these children the right way to behave. Thank you for sharing the ones who do with the rest of us. It gives me hope. ❤️

    Reply
  2. Judy Ennis - November 4, 2017 12:15 pm

    Wow! So encouraging to learn about Valiant Cross in Montgomery. Im interested in knowing more about their program. Possibly there is a website? Will pray for the faculty,staff,and scholars for continued success!🙏🙏🙏

    Reply
    • Russell - November 4, 2017 1:09 pm

      valiantcrossacademy.org

      Reply
      • Russell - November 4, 2017 1:11 pm

        Sorry, it’s valiantcross.org

        Reply
  3. teachenglish67 - November 4, 2017 12:17 pm

    The song WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR came to mind as I read this. These 2 brothers had a wish and made it come true. The “scholars” now have an opportunity to be more than they could have been without the wish and dream those 2 brouthers had. Thank you, Sean, for telling us about this school. Perhaps an address could be given so others could send “appreciation and encouragement” contributions to the school.

    Reply
    • Russell - November 4, 2017 1:16 pm

      They would be blessed by gifts and by prayers.

      Their website, valiantcross.org indicates that donations can be sent to:
      Valiant Cross Academy
      301 Dexter Avenue
      Montgomery, Alabama 36104

      Or by going to valiantcross.org/donate and giving online

      Reply
  4. Susan Hammett Poole - November 4, 2017 12:21 pm

    What a day-brightener! This is one of the most encouraging articles you’ve shared with us, Sean. From the school’s name to the morning rituals and shout outs by the young men a.k.a. scholars, I see only positive outcomes for all involved. God bless the founders and staff of this fine academy. I know your heart was lifted by being there.

    Reply
  5. Marty from Alabama - November 4, 2017 12:34 pm

    Anthony is doing something about a serious problem, not just talking about. What the world needs is more love and a whole bunch of Anthony’s.
    This is my 101st thank you.

    Reply
  6. Jane - November 4, 2017 12:43 pm

    What an amazing thing Anthony and his brother are doing for these young men in Montgomery, Alabama. Stories such as this should be on the news every night so that all Americans see the good in our country and the young men and women that are the future of our country. I will pray for Valient Academy to be successful and strong!!!

    Reply
  7. Donnie - November 4, 2017 12:48 pm

    Thank you Sean. Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Sharon Reaves - November 4, 2017 12:49 pm

    Thank you for highlighting these men and their scholars. Media outlets only want to feed us the negatives in our society, so this was a welcomed story. God bless the Valient Academy and the work that they are doing to shape the lives of these young men!!

    Reply
  9. Donna - November 4, 2017 1:13 pm

    I am from Selma, Alabama and I have read about Valiant Academy!
    These founders and teachers and leaders are doing GOD’S work!!!
    I pray for the continued success of this wonderful school!
    Donna Holifield

    Reply
  10. Virginia - November 4, 2017 1:26 pm

    The most encouraging thing I have read in a long time.

    Reply
  11. William Myrick - November 4, 2017 1:28 pm

    This school being started is one of the greatest things that could happen for these young men. They will multiply the efforts of the founders and teachers at this school. Thank God for them.

    Reply
  12. Virginia - November 4, 2017 1:30 pm

    One question: Do they live there or do they have to go home every night?

    Reply
  13. Kay Brown - November 4, 2017 2:10 pm

    I shared and I hope everyone will share this on Facebook. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Sean’s readers were able to pay the bills for a month.

    Reply
    • L. Haynes - November 6, 2017 4:07 am

      The brothers of Huntingdon College’s chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha held a fundraiser for Valiant Cross this past week featuring Sean. Sean put on a wonderful show and 100% of the ticket sales, over $5200, went to Valiant Cross. It was a great event for a worthy cause.

      Reply
      • Janet Mary Lee - November 18, 2017 9:41 pm

        Bless you guys!! Wish this was more broadcast than drinking and hazing for sororities!

        Reply
  14. GeeGee Chandler - November 4, 2017 2:26 pm

    When boys follow men and men follow God, they find the way, the truth, and the light. Wonderful for Valiant Academy and the men and the scholars.

    Reply
  15. Sharon Hand - November 4, 2017 2:30 pm

    This made me smile.

    Reply
  16. Judy - November 4, 2017 2:32 pm

    Thank you for meeting with the boys and their leaders of Valiant Cross Academy. This school is a bright shining star in our city and I greatly admire the founders. I had an opportunity to come hear you speak that evening and a conflict kept me from attending – and I am so sorry.

    Reply
  17. Judy - November 4, 2017 2:37 pm

    Also…those wanting more information about Valiant Cross Academy – they do have a web site: ValiantCross.org and you can find them on Facebook and Twitter.

    Reply
  18. Jan - November 4, 2017 3:03 pm

    A wonderful blessing to wake up to this morning. I an filled with joy and admiration for the founders of Valiant Cross Academy. Thankful for them and the young men they are forming! Thank you, Sean, for bringing us a new reason for hope!

    Reply
  19. Jenny Young - November 4, 2017 3:48 pm

    I am so happy to hear about this. Men are such an important part of children’s lives & I love knowing that there are men who will be there for children who need that structure & love. I pray every single boy in this school takes advantage of gifts from their school.

    Reply
  20. Wendy - November 4, 2017 3:50 pm

    INSPIRING from all angles!

    Reply
  21. Traci - November 4, 2017 4:08 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  22. sandysewwhatever - November 4, 2017 5:33 pm

    This is brilliant. Thanks for enabling us to find out about this good work. What amazing men are going to be coming from Valiant Cross Academy! Thank God for the men who started it. I hope it catches on for other places.
    Sandy in the UK

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - November 18, 2017 9:44 pm

      Sandy, hope it catches on for the dismal examples of public school education found in most of Alabama. Caring and educating done right!!

      Reply
  23. Nancy - November 4, 2017 5:56 pm

    The future good men in Alabama will come from Valiant Cross Academy. Will keep this wonderful school and their scholars in my prayers.

    Reply
  24. Diann - November 4, 2017 6:53 pm

    Love this post! I am a Montgomery resident and this school is the best thing I’ve seen here in a long time!

    Reply
  25. Jonathan - November 4, 2017 7:28 pm

    Amazing testimony to focusing on what’s important and not letting the status quo get in the way.

    Reply
  26. Jack Darnell - November 4, 2017 8:37 pm

    Hey dude, thanks so much for a great read about AL Kings, this was very enlightening and just plain good to know!

    Reply
  27. sarah - November 4, 2017 9:34 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for telling the good news stories out there.

    Reply
  28. Jody - November 4, 2017 11:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing this message. The work of the sponsors and their commitment to the Lord blesses the Scholars and the community.

    Reply
  29. Jerrel Ivey - November 4, 2017 11:45 pm

    Thank you for coming to Montgomery. I am the tall guy with the oddly spelled name. Rest assured, you help people as does your older friend. Your words and your voice make your Dad smile.

    Reply
  30. Barry - November 4, 2017 11:52 pm

    WHY DO WE NOT HEAR ABOUT THIS ON NATIONAL TV. IT’S NOT A FIGHT OR SOMEONE PROTESTING ABOUT UNEQUAL JUSTIC. HERE TWO MEN ARE MAKING A DEFERENCE IN YOUNG MEN’S LIVES FOR THE GOOD OF ALL MANKIND.

    Reply
  31. Sarah - November 5, 2017 12:33 am

    Beautiful

    Reply
  32. Sandra - November 5, 2017 4:44 am

    What a story of hope and joy.

    Reply
  33. Jane Mobley - November 5, 2017 6:32 am

    This place and it’s philosophy has been sorely needed around here for a long while. They are doing a wonderful job and are instilling worthy values in young ones who have had little hope. What a fabulous vision the founders had. May God bless all concerned.

    Reply
  34. Barbara J Schweck - November 5, 2017 8:38 am

    Wonderful to learn about this educational program which also teaches these scholars life lessons and gives them a sense of belonging and gives them hope. The founders and teachers are in my prayers as well as the students.

    Reply
  35. Lee Taylor - November 5, 2017 1:25 pm

    WOW!

    Reply
  36. Molly - November 5, 2017 11:58 pm

    I had the pleasure of hearing you speak at the fund raising for Valiant Cross. Not only do you have a amazing way of telling a story in person, you have a beautiful singing voice!! Thank you for all you did for these young men! May each one grow up to be strong Godly leaders!

    Reply

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