Why do black boys need black male mentors?
“One good mentor can be more informative than a college education and more valuable than a decade’s income.”– Sean Stephenson
One fateful day in 1966 proved to be historic in the life of a 9-year old kid. While in sixth grade, this kid was given an assignment by his teacher asking them to write what they wanted to become in the future on a piece of paper. “Potato Chip” as he was fondly called, wrote he wanted to be on TV, and his teacher and mum thought it was ridiculous at the time. Against all odds, in what is perhaps the most stunning show of belief in a 9-year old black kid, his dad encouraged him to pursue his dreams. Well, that kid as you know today, is TV Star, Steve Harvey.
In his own words:
“My father was my biggest supporter. Fathers, sometimes our children just need that one moment of our support to guide them in the right direction or launch their dreams.”– Steve Harvey
President Barrack Obama, at a poverty summit, bemoaned:
In the US, the black community has the highest percentage of children born to single mothers. A whopping 72%! More than any other ethnic group, only 3 out of 10 black children get to have a father in their life.
these statistics are only taking into account married vs. unmarried
and cannot truly account for all of the fathers
who are in their children’s lives
or unmarried couples etc.
Even so, the results that these statistics breed, as they are, is very clear. Children of unmarried mothers are more likely to go to prison, use or trade drugs, have their children before adulthood, and perform poorly in school. Mothers are unique personalities, take nothing from them, they give all they can and more, but as much as they love their children, they can only give what they have. There is an irreplaceable part of fatherhood that a mother cannot give particularly to the male child, or may give inefficiently.
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Why do black boys need male mentors?
A father understands the male child psychologically, mentally, and physically more than any female could, via experience. In absence of a father, a father figure will also be able to aid him in these ways.
“You will never truly understand something until it actually happens to you.”– Anonymous
Suffice it to say we are better counsellors to people, when we have gone through a phase ourselves, which is the rationale behind previously violated persons giving back to the society in various support programs. Many celebrities or high-profile individuals who came from poor or humble backgrounds, often talk of helping others in the shoes they once wore. All these, reiterate that an adult male role model is quintessential to the development of the male child.
“A father should present the fundamental qualities of leadership, responsibility, and accountability, as well as the capabilities of planning, disciplining, and loving. Fathering is a full-time job.”– Myles Munroe
Perhaps the greatest influence of the lack of role models is responsibility, a colossal loss of it amongst young black males. The absence of a father fosters a delinquent behaviour, young black males neither see nor feel the need to be responsible, not necessarily because they are wayward, but there was no manly grooming given to them. Many supposed role models, are themselves living in deviance and engaging in social vices or illegal practices, but this is not the bone of contention, as a lack of father figure might have also played a role in that. While we are responsible for our actions, factors can indeed influence them, and clearly, the absence of role models or the presence of deviant fathers could ultimately affect young make children.
Research by Mandara and Murray (2006) showed that young black males were more likely to use drugs than boys in father-present homes. The same research showed that young black males are more likely to use drugs than girls in father-absent homes, showing that the male child is the most ravaged by the void of father figures in any home. The same was true for the likelihood to get into gangs or grow up being poor. And there are more pertinent issues like systemic racism, structural violence, peer pressure, racial profiling, and employment, or educational discrimination at workplaces and schools respectively.
One could infer that the presence of father figures helps these boys to overcome the struggles of childhood and teenage years or provide support through these, at the very least. Strong ties with male relatives such as uncles or grandfathers could also cushion the effect of a father’s absence.
“If you don’t have a father in the home who can act as a source of support and one of your pillars for your formation of resilience, then you’re less likely to be resilient in the face of a lot of sources of trauma”– Professor Howard Pinderhughes (UCL)
Mentorship programs, also, cannot be overemphasized, particularly in black communities, for the holistic development of the male child. The need to be loved must be met, the need to be welcomed, the need to be respected, and most importantly, the need to be understood! Support groups, church schemes, and community programs can go a long way as well.
Black Male Mentoring Programs
List of Black Male Mentoring Programs and Organisations
All of the listed organisations are UK registered charities. Their charity number is listed alongside name.
|100 Black Men of London |
|London, UK||Their focus is on mentoring, economic empowerment, education & health & wellness.|
|Online, London, UK||They offer online courses, bootcamps, weekly workshops, workshops in schools and prisons. Four-moduled curriculum.|
|Nationwide, UK||African Caribbean Careers & Employment Support Services UK (Access UK) provide training, workshops and employment for black youth.|
(For free services see here)
|Online, London, Birmingham, Bristol||Specialises in mentorship and therapy.|
|The Amos Bursary|
|Nationwide, UK||Peer and professional mentorship focussed on ensuring young men of African and Caribbean descent have the opportunity to excel in education and beyond.|
|London, UK||Supporting black youth to get into STEM education and training, schools, sixth form and university focus.|
|New Initiative Rites of Passage / Origin Rites of Passage cn:1121523||South London, UK||African-centred Rites of Passage for black boys & curriculum. See their annual report, here.|
|Somerset, London, Bristol, UK||Four different programs: 1-year programme for young men in prison,|
6-month programme for young men ‘At Risk’, Under 18s caught up in knife crime, working with schools to provide presentations and workshops.
|National Association of Black Supplementary Schools||Nationwide, UK||African-centered Saturday schools directory, London, Birmingham, Manchester, High Wycomb, Leicester, Scotland and online schools.|
|Westside Young Leaders Academy (WYLA)|
|North West London, UK||They provide a tailored leadership programme for young black boys between the ages of 8-14. Holiday Programme, Mentoring Plus, Parent University, Service to the Community.|
|Southside Young Leaders Academy (SYLA)|
|South East London, UK||SYLA’s programme empowers boys to be strong and self-reliant, positive and active citizens and prepares them to be a new generation of community and business leaders.|
President Obama speaking at a Father’s Day service in one of Chicago’s black churches had this to say about deviant black fathers:
“They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison….They are more likely to have behavioural problems, or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”– Barack Obama
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In the long run, the effects go beyond individuals and families to communities as a whole. While the role of a mother in raising male children is not in any way undermined, and while it is not impossible for mothers to raise male children, the effects are not the same. The main concern is that if/when young black males are not mentored by responsible men in the home or community, they may soon unwittingly turn to older deviant male role models, who seem to be more emotionally and/or physically available for evil vices. The harsh reality is there is no sitting on the fence! Action must be taken to get these young men engaged in some progressive and productive mentoring. This is the future of the Black Community!
Boys to Men – BBC Documentary
Boys to Men tells the story of 3 promising teens, striving to overcome the challenges and dangers in their environment. Reuben, Leon and Micah are members of The Manhood Academy; a community based program that provides mentorship and empowers young men who lack positive male role models.
Rites of Passage For Young Black Males
What is it and how can it help my son?
French Anthropologist, Arnold Van Gennep first used the term ’rites of passage in the early 20th century. He used it to describe the journey of a young person preparing for adulthood. The journey would be overseen by the community as a way to nurture responsible adults. This served the young people as well as the community. Due to the rise in gang culture, drug addiction, teen pregnancies etc. We are seeing more and more need for such programs and the topic and question of ”Are there any Rites of Passage programs near me?” keeps popping up.
Young people stand to benefit greatly from such programs in the sense that they feel that sense of belonging – the same sense of belonging which pulls them to gangs. Mentors who work closely with them help them to boost their self confidence and discover their path in life and place in this world. In addition, although it may not seem like some of these young people carea all, they actually do want to feel accepted, appreciated and valued by their wider community. Children who take part in these programs develop a sense of pride within themselves.
As you can see above we definitely have some but we need more and they need to cover all areas where our youth are at risk. It is a lot to ask of somebody, to volunteer their time for the betterment of the community but we must return to the village mindset. With the right training of mentors these things are not difficult to set up so I am urging more people to take the initiative.
The youth are our future.