“I told him, ‘I really want to go into the Peace Corps—that’s what I’m gonna do, is help the little children in Africa, little children in a third-world country,’” May recalled. “He said, ‘Lumon, you grew up in a third-world country, you grew up in Morris Court, look at your neighborhood.’”
The teacher’s words hit square on their target. They seem to serve as May’s mantra.
“You don’t have to move out of your neighborhood to be successful,” the commissioner said recently. “Success to me is defined as growing and being a good citizen and being able to change your neighborhood.”
The most obvious way May is attempting to change his community for the better is through his service on the county commission—he was elected to the District 3 seat in November—but his work with the Southern Youth Sports Association perhaps provides a better illustration of such service.
“The reason I stayed in the neighborhood, the reason I coach little league is because I want people to say, ‘You know what, Coach Lumon is cool, I can do all that and more,’” May explained.
As coach, as much in life as on the field, May imparts some words to live by—“The four B’s: Bible, Book, Ball and Balance”—and tries to lead by example. He’s aware of the weight of being an African-American role model in a region plagued with jarring disparity issues—“there’s not that many role models, there’s not that many Bentina Terrys”—and takes the responsibility serious.
“I have a responsibility because those who came before me weren’t given that opportunity. It was just 1968 that we were being segregated. It wasn’t that long ago,” May said. “I owe it to that history, but more importantly I owe it to my contemporaries and my friends, and more importantly I owe it to my children and the kids I work with.”
This is important stuff. A mission, a calling.
“God only gives you a little bit of time. We only have a limited amount of time to make a difference,” May laughed, stressing again the importance of equipping the youth with “ethics, morals and values.” “That legacy passes on long after I’m gone.”