Overstanding is the act of going beyond understanding to fully perceive perspective and feelings of others. This word, embodied and frequently used by Elijah McKnight, is what makes him the friend everyone wishes they had.
Lauryn Boudreaux has been a close friend of McKnight’s since they were both very active at Centennial High School in Columbus. She said that overstanding, the word McKnight has been using recently, doesn’t begin to describe his character.
“Elijah has a really sensitive heart and really cares about other people,” Boudreaux said. “He makes a way to make sure people are okay.”
McKnight’s love for helping others has been apparent since he was young. Growing up, he was involved in the Boys and Girls Club in Columbus. McKnight said the organization gives kids in Central Ohio the support they need to succeed, especially during the summer. The organization named McKnight its “Youth of the Year” in 2016 when McKnight was a junior in high school.
In 2017, McKnight suffered the loss of a close friend due to a shooting in their hometown. Following that he participated in a youth-led dialogue through the Boys and Girls Club that worked closely with Columbus Chief of Police, Thomas Qualian.
“All of this is just why I am passionate about what I do and why I am the way I am today,” McKnight said.
Boudreaux said McKnight has had a go-getter personality since the beginning of their friendship.
“He doesn’t quit,” she said. “If something isn’t right, he is going to figure it out and fix it.”
She said McKnight has motivated her in many ways and it is not a question why people go to him for advice.
“He is outgoing, smart, confident, inspirational,” she said. “There are so many words to describe him, and I could never just pick one.”
McKnight was one of the founding members of BRAVE along with Anthony King, Bryce Walker-Ollins and Keisha Merriweather.
He said he is grateful for BRAVE and the opportunities that come with the organization. “BRAVE helps me exercise the passion I’ve always had on more serious levels.”
McKnight said BRAVE’s four values are politics, community, education and being Black-business oriented. He said Black history being represented in youth education is one of his favorite focuses.
“One of our main goals is to educate the youth,” McKnight said. “We have connected with Bowling Green City Schools to help inform the younger generation of Bowling Green; we are really trying to be a voice for the community.”
Another value McKnight is passionate about is helping Black-owned businesses. He said BRAVE is working with Beyond Blends, a Black-owned barbershop that just opened off of Wooster Street.
“I love BRAVE because it is a potential sign of what Bowling Green could be. It’s a small enough town, and we have the resources for Black-owned businesses,” McKnight said.
A common misconception of BRAVE is that a goal is to defund the police. While McKnight said he has experienced police brutality himself, that is not the goal of the organization.
“Black people are a lot of times misunderstood, even before police brutality,” McKnight said. “BRAVE actually works very closely with the police.”
McKnight said along with the police, BRAVE has spoken with City Council, BGSU President Rodney Rogers and Mayor Mike Aspacher about their organization.
McKnight enjoys talking to these community leaders but said his favorite thing about being a part of BRAVE is the love they receive from the community.
“Everyone has been pretty supportive,” McKnight said. “We have potential to make change. We can do it; we just have to all come together.”
McKnight is studying fashion with plans to graduate in August 2021. As for BRAVE, he is excited to continue with the organization and make a difference.
“I really just want to make the community comfortable for everyone,” McKnight said. “If Black people aren’t comfortable, then everyone can’t be comfortable.”