by Marcus Harden
(Black History Today is published in collaboration with Rise Up for Students.)
“In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care. You don’t have to know how many square miles are in Idaho, you don’t need to know what is the chemical makeup of chemistry, or of blood or water. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with.” — Maya Angelou
In our youth, ego often truly is the enemy. For men especially, we are taught to find ourselves to be indestructible, all-knowledgeable and sometimes beyond reproach. We seek a level of independence when, to be effective in this world, we need interdependence — which requires people to walk besides us and sometimes a couple of steps in front of us to show us the way.
Interdependence allows others to serve as a window and a mirror into who we really are ourselves, because sometimes, just sometimes, we forget.
If you’ve ever encountered Danny Cage, Jr., one thing is for sure: you haven’t forgotten it, because his voice and his energy won’t allow it. He’s the original definition of a “mood” (as the kids say these days). Another thing probably also happened if you’ve met Danny, and it’s that he served as that window and mirror for you — just as he has so willingly and selflessly done for so many.
Danny shows up in so many spaces authentically as himself that his very presence inspires and teaches others how to live with joy, zeal, introspection, integrity and a lot of humor.
A proud graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle, Wash., Danny is a man who openly honors the leaders in his life and in his family — especially his grandmother and others who have poured into him to make him the man he is.
Danny’s titles are numerous, including Educator, Elder/Pastor, Basketball Coach, Drill Team Dad/Board Member amongst so many others. I’ve learned so much from watching Danny show up in all of those spaces, giving of himself so others can be more. I’ve watched him truly embody the grace and love that he preaches, into others, late night conversations, meals, clothes, all without question or without judgement.
Danny would tell you his greatest mentorship is at home, with his beautiful wife, Jameelah, who gives of her time, treasure and talent as well, and with his two brilliant and talented children. Danny is the type of man who will conduct a sermon, coach a basketball team and plan a surprise vow renewal for his wife all in the same day — while making time to send an encouraging word to a mentee.
Danny often teaches the gospel, yet Danny’s greatest lesson has been in living the gospel that he professes. As a mentor or teacher who gives selflessly, the reward is never in what you’ve done for others but how they show up for themselves. With that in mind, there is no better way to describe Danny than the words of one of his longtime mentees, Peyton Siva, Jr.:
“Danny is an amazing person. I don’t know if I would be where I’m at without his guidance. Danny was the one to take me under his wing as a mentor and help guide me spiritually and mentally in my life.
I never liked “church” growing up but when I went to a youth bible study that Danny was leading he changed my whole view on Jesus.
He was always someone I could go to , to talk about any problems I had, hang out and watch movies or even just go to his home and eat all his food 😂.
I appreciate Danny more than he would ever know. IAJ”
Let he who has watered, finally be watered. We are all better for having men like Danny Cage, Jr., in our lives, in our communities and in the places where we seek rest, refuge and restoration. His impact has rippled throughout so many communities, often under noticed and unthanked. We all salute you, Danny Cage, Jr., for the man you are, for being a mentor, for being a light in so many lives, and for being, Black History Today!
Marcus Harden is the creator of Black History Today, an annual series honoring Black History Month that pays tribute to the living legacy of Black history in our community and beyond. He is a seasoned educator, with experience as a teacher, counselor, dean, administrator, and program and policy manager. Marcus focuses his work on creating better culture and climate for students, families, and staff. He believes deeply in restorative justice practices and in mindset and resiliency work that leads to excellent and equitable educational outcomes for all students.
Featured illustration by Devin Chicras for the Emerald.
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