Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Year Resolution: Mentor Someone Today by Akindele Akinyemi

2008 is the Season of Completion for many of us. We have opened up the new year with Senator Barack Obama and Gov. Mike Huckabee winning the Iowa Caucus. I am not fan of Obama but I would rather have him win than Hillary Clinton. That is ONE person I cannot stand for a number of reasons.

However, back down here in the community we need to begin to instill hope for those who are not as fortune enough. Too many of us opened the new year with nothing to feed our families. Too many of us opened the new year with no one to hold on to our lonely. Too many of us opened up the new year not able to pay their next mortgage or how they are going to help their parents.

What about the young men who are out on the streets who needs guidance? How many of us are willing and able to mentor a young man this year? Mentor a young girl?

A mentor is someone willing to provide guidance, advice, and foster a friendship based on trust and mutual respect with the understanding that the mentor has the best interest of the youth at heart.

Therefore, I am attempting to take an additional 20 young men statewide from various ages under my wing this year as part of my Genesis Project. This is an educational ministry that is geared towards building families through educational and economic factors. One factor is opening a school to gear our children for the 21st century. The past 20 years I have mentored over 2000 young men and women nationwide. Most are doing great things in life. Being in the classroom for the past eight years have also allowed me to connect with families and children who are less fortunate.

It's about giving back. Regardless of me preparing to open a school, work on certification and enrolling in a Ph.D program I know that our young men and women need guidance. We have to complete their training. As desperate as I want to to open a school in Detroit thanks to your teacher unions that will not happen unless Detroit Public Schools drop their enrollment under 100,000 students.

One of the most important things about mentoring is developing the mind of an individual. As a family advocate in our community I strongly feel that if we ANY chance of revitalizing family and educational values in our community it will have to start with our young men. Mentoring is no longer an option, it’s necessary if we want to continue to live.

Mentoring gives children an opportunity to see something they can aspire to, they are always looking for role models, lots of times the role models in media aren’t the real life role models they need so they need more down to earth people to look up to. Black males around the country aren’t graduating from high school and many are in the criminal justice system.

This is why those who are educated must step up to the plate. With rising numbers of fatherless households, mentoring is critical. Our programs are designed to expose young people to the possibility of life, What they see is what they will be. And if you have women claiming that they can raise a man (spiritually and mentally) that is not true.

Each day I struggle to reach black youth who are being consumed by what I call the culture of death. This culture is largely promoted by hip-hop and legitimized by corporations that control hip-hop and modern media.

Mentoring is also important because look at what is going on out here. The reality of life for large numbers of young black men is bleak. When one calculates the pejorative effects of poor schools, rampant unemployment, racism, parental neglect, and the perpetuation of negative cultural messages, the magnitude of the problem becomes clear. Black males are lagging behind men and women of all ethnicities in this country, and the destabilizing effects on the black community and the rising economic costs to the nation can no longer be ignored.

In addition, 50% of all black males drop out of high school; 72% of black male high school dropouts were unemployed in 2004; and' by the time they reach their mid-30s, 60% of black male high school dropouts had spent some time in jail. The disproportionate incarceration rate of black men has created a cycle of desperation and hopelessness that is crippling the black community. What type of men will our girls marry in our community if we do not turn things around?

Brothers become virtually unemployable. Many of today's jobs require a clean record due to terrorism-related security concerns. This, compounded by the ever-present specter of institutional racism, handicaps their chances of re-entering society as productive citizens. This indignity and demoralization results in feelings of disconnection and financial disenfranchisement, which often leads many to seek illegal sources of income. Thus begins the perpetuation of a vicious cycle. In Detroit 82% of single-parent, female-headed households reinforces the likelihood of more black youth subsisting in inner-city poverty, while floundering within substandard educational systems.

It's time for African Americans to use their dollars to help solve the community's problems. We generate over $800 billion a year as consumers. Blacks must build a strong network of philanthropic organizations, which would fund nonprofit groups geared toward addressing a multitude of issues, most specifically the challenges of black males. This network would be financed through "civic tithing," meaning Blacks would perceive philanthropic giving in the same way they view church contributions.

Black professionals and entrepreneurs must take the lead in providing opportunities for young people. Mentoring and job shadowing are critical in giving black males exposure to various career options.

A huge part of restoring black men is supporting any and all form of legislation that is dealing with equal parenting rights. The Friends of Courts (especially in Wayne County) is corrupted. I cannot possibly understand how anyone can be against this policy. We must push for the system to reduce tension, rather than the current "winner take all" system that encourages enflaming the situation and family and child dysfunction.

My biggest mentee is my son. Anyone who is close to me knows that my son shows up with me to speaking events as well as other events. Aside from me teaching him the game of life and death I am exposing him to things that will carry him far in life. I am building a legacy for my son and I encourage others to do so.

It remains important is for Black men to serve as mentors to Black youth. Considering that we live in a society where the Black man is stereotypically viewed as shiftless, criminogenic, and self-destructive, the accomplished, law-abiding, proactive Black man -- and there are many of them -- must reach out to the Black boy to not only show that such men exist, but that such men are also interested in helping young boys follow in their positive footsteps.

And then our young men will be eligible for marriage to our young women.

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