Mentors and mentoring is not the silver bullet, but it is a bullet that we must put in the chamber to combat the pre-school to prison pipeline for African-American males.
One of the things that my current employer got right was the Lunch Buddies program. It is a mentor program in which, males eat with children and have lunch with them and talk about things they do at work. They encouraged the students to stay in school, and talk about anything from school to sports, to college etc. It is an opportunity for boys to interact with positive males. The need for mentors is important for all people, from all walks of life, but especially true for African-American males. For complicated reasons that I will not discuss in these pages, we do not have enough successful males for our boys to look up to in our schools. This is compounded by the lack of successful males in our communities, and doubly compounded by the negative images that we see in our daily lives.
You know the story. When you walk into a school, there are two or three male classroom teachers, maybe. The PE teacher is a male, and so is the custodian. Whether those males are African-American or Caucasian, or Hispanic, depends largely on where the school is situated. What impact does this have on African-American males? It cannot be a positive one, and it is often understated by politicians and policy makers, and even people within our schools.
Schools ask our boys to invest in a system that seemingly has no reward nor end game for them. Think about it: would you trust a doctor who was overweight and unhealthy? Would you invest in a stock that had been on a downward trend for months, years, or decades at a time? Well, education in this country has been on a downward trend since it’s inception. That’s how African American males feel when we are asked to grab our books and go to class. I know, because I felt this way. I felt like schooling was a scam, and that all the time I had invested would amount to zero. Because on the other end of the investment, was nothing but women. There was no one there who looked like me. Until my high school experience, there were not many white males to speak of, let alone African-American males. Teachers were telling me all the things I could be when I graduated and went to college. But I did not believe them because I saw no evidence. How do you, or why do you engage a process if you see no evidence of success?
Our boys are not dumb; they can gauge cause and effect. You can judge a process by the results it produces. If there are no results, then the process is not worth engaging.
The same way you would not put your hard earned money in any mutual fund or stock that gave no evidence of success or growth.
I mention this to iterate the point that if we do not have mentors, we will never be able to stem this tide. Mentors and mentoring is not the silver bullet, but it is a bullet that we must put in the chamber to combat the pre-school to prison pipeline.
It is National Mentoring month, and we should be asking ourselves, what are we doing to help the generations of youth behind us. I recently heard the phrase, “lift as we climb”. That is so appropriate. But this requires a national call to action. Everyone; Latino, and Black male should have a mentor that will follow them from age 5 to 25. Just think what kind of contribution this would make in changing the tide in our communities. The way I see it, some of those 20-25 year olds would start mentoring younger 8-15 year old boys. I see it growing from a programmatic venture, to a culturally rich experience that all Americans can be proud of.
I am imploring you to get involved and mentor. If you are involved, make a friend or loved one get involved. It does not matter your level of education, age, schedule, or creed. Grab the boys across the street. Go to your local church or mosque. Talk to the principal at your local school. There are too many organizations to count; find some place and make a difference!
Check out: www.nationalmentoringmonth.org to help you get started, but by all means, get started.
Originally appeared at sendourboystocollege.com