Celebrating Local Black Heroes: Eric Cunningham
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan is proud to celebrate Local Black Heroes throughout the year. During Black History Month, we are highlighting several Local Black Heroes and businesses. Sign up for our e.news to get updates in your inbox and learn more about the impact of local heroes in your community.
A BIG HEART
With a long repertoire of titles and memberships, Eric Cunningham has been a shining example of putting others before himself. For the better part of this century, Cunningham has been working tirelessly to improve the lives of those around him.
Cunningham, the youngest African American to serve as a City of Kalamazoo Commissioner, also spent time working as a Community Liaison at the Kalamazoo Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, he worked as the Director of Programming here at Big Brothers Big Sisters. These roles give a glimpse into the heart of a person that wants to help people in any way possible.
FAMILY AND MENTORS
Growing up, Cunningham soaked up the knowledge and lived experiences of those around him. His father was extremely intelligent and taught Cunningham about life and the wisdom he had acquired thus far. Cunningham’s mother, he explains, was fearless. This contagious attribute helped give him a heightened sense of emotional intelligence and the mindset that he can achieve anything he puts his mind to.
Outside of his immediate family, one of his high school teachers, Mr. Kenyatta Tucker sticks out as a valued mentor in Cunningham’s life. Tucker, “…had the willingness to look beyond the D- grade that I got in his class…” Cunningham said, “…still investing time and resources into me, and giving me a tangible introduction to college.”
“IT IS ESSENTIAL TO GIVE BACK…”
Cunningham’s work tells a story, centered around his heart in supporting others. He volunteers his time at several local agencies and has served on numerous executive boards. Each of the places he volunteers at share a common goal: improving programming that benefits our community.
His favorite endeavor thus far is as a football coach for Northside Rocket Football. Here, he coaches and mentors community youth directly, investing in them as he was invested into growing up. “It is essential to give back…without my community and parents investing in me, I wouldn’t be who I am today,” Cunningham says.
Cunningham wants nothing more than to honorably carry the legacy and resilience of his ancestors, making proud the names such as Cunningham, Liggins, Taylor and Whitley. Admittedly, he would tell his younger self to be more disciplined in his education and to rely on God sooner. Practically, however, his faith, family and community have shaped a stunning example of dedication, drive and leadership in our community.