Real Black Excellence is furthering its mission of supporting the community

Educational Activists play a game with elementary students at South View Elementary School in Muncie, Indiana, May 18, 2023. The activists help teach students how to read and write in small groups. Real Black Excellence, Photo Provided.
Educational Activists play a game with elementary students at South View Elementary School in Muncie, Indiana, May 18, 2023. The activists help teach students how to read and write in small groups. Real Black Excellence, Photo Provided.

Stephen P. Hargrave has strived his whole life not to be limited by how he chooses to identify.

This freedom is something he likes to describe as being underground. 

“There's a grassroots realness with somebody considered underground,” Hargrave said. “You can say whatever you want, but we're down here and it's like this. That's a rallying cry to the regular people.”

Remaining underground was key in the creation and survival of Hargrave's organization Real Black Excellence. 

“We put ‘Real’ Black Excellence because we encompass a lot. We realize there's no excellence without connecting to other communities,” Hargrave said. “It's just a recognition, a symbol, realizing that we network with everyone, and real excellence is a human interaction that connects with all diversities.”

Hargrave said he has been working under the organization's mission for decades with some other community members, stating it was something he started to better Muncie. The group was officially declared a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2023.

Real Black Excellence holds different events that focus on the youth in the community. This comes in the form of weekly history classes for youth, along with bi-weekly and monthly meetings with guest speakers who talk to youth. 

As a part of its initiative, the group is hosting a concert at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at Cornerstone Center for the Arts, with Grammy award-winning jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum.

The group also volunteers locally to help achieve its mission. At the Muncie Youth Opportunity Center (YOC), it runs a restoration academy for young men and women.

Within the academy, the group teaches hygiene, how to improve the way they treat others and how to recognize media messages to improve media literacy.

The non-profit has also implemented eight ‘Educational Activists’ in South View Elementary School. These activists work daily, teaching students how to read and write in one-on-one or ICU.

Rachel Tocholke is one of these educational activists and is also the assistant coordinator for Real Black Excellence. Tocholke said the experience has meant a lot to her because of her ability to help students in rough places.

“It’s nice because we’re dealing with really poor students who come through broken homes or are homeless,” she said. “We’re dealing with education, but we’re doing more within the community… It’s everything.”

The organization prides itself on its ability to do all of this, honing in on people's ‘gifts’ and how each individual can improve the community as a whole. Hargrave said focusing on this creates a unique ability to reach people and showcase change.

“There's no shortage of programs. There's no shortage of sincere people,” Hargrave said.“There's no shortage of people that have a mission; but there's not an organization that says,  ‘Come here, here's how this works.’ This is what community means, and that's why we exist.”

Other organizations exist under Real Black Excellence, which acts as an umbrella. Mission Force, Negasi Gardens and Concrete Rose follow the overall mission created by Hargrave, while pursuing passions through action. 

Members of Negasi Gardens harvest vegetables at a community garden in Muncie, Indiana, June 17, 2023. The group is on track to triple its food production in 2024. Real Black Excellence, Photo Provided.

According to the Real Black Excellence website, Mission Force is a three-week-long boot camp that aims to prepare young people for all that service entails. The organization looks to provide people with a full and deep educational experience that cannot be found elsewhere.

Concrete Rose is a non-profit led by Sasha King that focuses on educating and empowering Black youth in Muncie. King said the group prides itself in its ability to teach kids about its history, not to just learn it, but to see real examples of how to better themselves.

In addition, they learn ways to engage in giving back to their community in the process. 

“We try to provide these opportunities for them so they can stay out of trouble and grow individually and learn the importance of giving back to the community,” King said.

Within the group, youth from first to 12th grade can participate. She said members are required to volunteer and participate in community service alongside their education hours earned at Real Black Excellence history classes.

One of the group's biggest events occurs around Thanksgiving when King takes the group to a soup kitchen. The group works together to feed families, raise money and hand out ‘blessing bags,’ gift bags made by youth.

Concrete Rose will host its annual “Celebrating the Struggle” program Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. at Cornerstone Center for the Arts where members of the group will participate in spoken word and perform in front of their community.

Aside from its events, the group provides scholarships to every senior in the program at an annual end-of-the-year banquet, regardless of post-high school ambitions. 

“It's a big deal because they get left behind if [they’re] not going to college, as there aren't very many resources for [them] available,” King said.

Concrete Rose also frequently partners with Negasi Gardens, an agriculture group run by Megan Benion. She said her organization looks to promote within the Black community the historic role it has played in agriculture. 

She said she likes to split up the word agriculture into ‘agri’ and ‘culture’ to showcase the true importance and meaning behind the word.

Creating better access to quality food for people across the community is something Benion prides herself on. Last year, the group provided Muncie with 6,000 pounds worth of food. Overall, she said the organization looks to create excitement surrounding healthy relationships with food.

“We have been growing on urban sites for the past two years. This past year, it has more than doubled, and this year, it is on track to triple,” Benion said. “I think it's important the youth are educated on where our food’s coming from. I think the food system of America is quite messed up.”

With all of these separate, yet unified, endeavors, Hargrave said his experiences with his organization have been more than beneficial. Regardless, he said there is always more to do.

“It's difficult to see every benefit that is in our hearts to see. In some ways, we have not even started,” Hargrave said. “We are so proud to be Black. I repeat this over and over again —we're so proud to be Black— if we started telling you about it, you would get proud.”

For those looking to get involved with Real Black Excellence, head to their website or email them with questions at

Contact Trinity Rea via email at or on X @thetrinityrea .


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