By Torrence Brannon-reese Commentary
Black boys need strong, positive, successful male role models in their lives. Too many young men are growing up in homes where their only adult model is their mom, auntie or grandmother.
This can be dangerous, as I see time and again young men behaving like a woman. Emotionally, they act and react as a woman do. This is no put down of mothers and grand mothers who are struggling to provide for and raise their sons.
It does, however, speak to a potential imbalance in the character and personality of the young man who should see both gender models at work.
You may ask, where is the Black Church in this equation? With the exception of a few, too many Black Churches are out of touch with reality. Many seemed focused on material wealth and celebrity, and focus less on substantive programs and approaches that will help guide young, impressionable Black male youth.
Generally, youth see rap stars, gangsters and atheletes as more attractive and available than the average African American religious or political leader, even in the age of President Barack Obama.
The responsibility to solve the issues confronting the young Black male falls squarly in our laps. As parents, educators, community leaders, business people, and politians, we must dis-engage in a process I call verbal diarreah; or as the late, great James Brown said so eloquently; talking loud and saying nothing.
We must adopt an activist stance when it comes to helping our youth, particularly our young men.
We do not force our value system upon them; we offer options based upon our experiences as men who have achieved some measure of success in life. Yet, we make it clear that they will have to make choices for themselves. Time and again, we see young men making bad choices in search of instant gratification.
The choices are a direct result of the digestion of culturally decadent media images, misogynistic, spiritually deficient music, mind altering video games and unhealthy, ill-informed peer relationships.
Youth generally know right from wrong, yet make conscious decisions to “dumb down” to please their friends and fit in.
We’re great at clothes hunting, styling our hair and choosing the right shoes. We know the scores and statistics to the latest sports contest, have mastered the lyrics to the latests songs on radio, know where the party is on Saturday nights, and which church to attend and ask forgiveness for our sins on Sunday mornings; yet, too many of us are clueless when it comes to educating and solving the crises facing our Black male (and female) youth.
Our FAMLI (Foundation for Arts, Mentoring, Leadership and Innovation) program has employed a “no excuse” policy. We impress upon the young men that they too can be successful, but must be willing to sacrifice, work hard and work smart.
In an effort to inspire cultural pride in our youth, our FAMLI kids have all been given historical names, such as, WEB DuBois, Paul Robeson, Frederick Douglass, Sam Cooke, Dr. Ralph Bunch, Jack Johnson, and many others. We inform them that these people were successful and are remembered because of their courage, talents and sacrifices.
Our program lost its city/state funding in 2008, but myself and my staff of volunteers decided to sacrifice and get the work done. This is in the grand tradition of our ancestors, whose central motivation was education, equal opportunity and the promise of a better life for the next generation.
The FAMLI mentors exemplify this eternal ancestral spirit. To the Black men, I say, please stop making babies if you know you are not ready, willing and able to care for them for the long haul. Taking care of children is a lifetime commitment.
Sex is a great physical thrill , but brings with it a mountain of responsibility. More than ninety percent of my students are fatherless! This has got to stop! To the women I say; stop giving yourselves (mind, body and soul) to men whom you know cannot provide for you and your child/children to be.
You are the child bearer and must honor that GOD given gift by resisting the temptation to engage in intimacy with a chump who may possess the physical characteristics of a man, but the intellect and emotional maturity of a 15-year old child.
The Black male crisis is essentially a problem of humanity. It is a solvable issue that will require dedication, discipline, consistency, intellect, and sacrifice to solve. We can do it, we just have to be willing to make the necessary life changes to get it done. And understand that we helped to create the issue, and only we can eliminate the barriers.
No person is truly free, unless we wish for others what we wish for themselves.
Founding Director, Foundation for Arts, Mentoring, Leadership and Innovation.