BMe Leader Alex Peay sets the record straight: “Black men mentor everyday.”
It was just the other day when I received the shock of my life. I was talking with my mentor, Trabian Shorters, CEO, BMe, about National Mentoring Month and he informed me that there isn’t much data available on black male mentors. Doing what any millennial will do in today’s hyper-connected society, I pulled out my phone and googled it.
Across my phone’s screen quickly appeared headlines that I knew weren’t true: “Black Men Do Not Mentor” and “Communities in Horrid Conditions Due to Lack of Black Male Mentors,” were just some of the false narratives available for public consumption. Thinking about the countless hours my team of black male mentors put into building our peer-to-peer mentoring organization, Rising Sons, I said to myself: how can they say that when we are doing the work, everyday?
The more I thought about that lie, the more frustrated I became. My truth is, I spend my days helping to grow a network of inspired black men, many of whom spend their personal funds to operate mentoring programs for black boys. The public is spinning the wrong narrative; its not that black men don’t mentor, it’s that there’s a lack of support, funding and visible celebration for those that do.
Growing up I was blessed to have a positive black male figure in my life. His name was Uncle Kenny; he was the ideal figure of a mentor. Uncle Kenny—or “Uncdad,” as I liked to call him—ran his own mentoring program for black boys in Queens, New York, called The Chosen Few.
It reminded me of a fraternity for boys. I remember vividly there was a choir of boys who would use their voices to empower themselves and inspire the community. My uncle Kenny taught me how to properly knot a tie and even how to give a firm handshake. During the summer of 2006, before going into my sophomore year at college, “Uncdad” passed away.
By winter of 2006 I started Rising Sons; but without my “Uncdad” around—and not being on good terms with my father—I had no black men I could turn to, or so I thought. Rising Sons became the mentorship I desired. We were a discussion group of majority black and Latino male students who got together and talked about our lives and communities. Since we came from different cultures and backgrounds we learned from each other. We built a community where we could support each other personally and professionally.
I’m proud to say the tradition we created still lives on today, as we help each other scale the work that we do for the community. I, in addition to the others black male mentor I’m associated with, have sacrificed so much to do this work. So it hurts to only see news about black men destroying our communities. It hurts so bad to get rejected for funding when you KNOW your program is good enough. It hurts when you have to spend your last couple of dollars to make sure your mentee gets home or eats, but we do it.
We can choose to waste our time complaining about those black men who don’t mentor or serve the community, or we can step up and support the ones that do. We all identify with the large brand name mentoring organizations, but a number of them don’t engage black men. In closing, I would like to thank BMe (Black Male Engagement) for saying yes to me when everyone else said no. A BMe Community Impact Grant was the first real funding Rising Sons ever received and it gave us the encouragement to believe that anything is possible. BMe views black men the way societies should see black men: as assets to the community. As a BMe Leader and one of more than 3,000 inspired black men from across the country, I support black male mentors and I hope that all of you will, too.
Happy National Mentoring Month! Celebrate by becoming a mentor today!
2012 BMe Leader Alex Peay is the Founder of Rising Sons and an inaugural member of the Philly Roots Fellows.
**Editors note: Christopher “Flood The Drummer” Norris has curated all of these stories from the mentors in his community for a special a series on mentoring. after the series is complete all of the essays will be made into a book by TechbookOnline.
Source: TBO Inc®
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