black-male-family_web.jpgA legislative push to empower black men and boys is sending a ripple effect through educational institutions and mentoring networks, setting off a statewide chain-reaction to elevate black men and boys.

In response to the Florida Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, administrators at Broward College (formerly Broward Community College), Nova Southeastern University, and the historically black Florida Memorial University have recently formed task forces and committees geared toward empowering black men.

Educators and policy makers said black male students in South Florida could see increased academic financial support and college preparation assistance from schools and community organizations as early as sometime during the 2008-2009 school year. The goals, which focus primarily on education, include the following key points:

•    Expanding the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program.

•    Expanding the 100 Black Men Reading for Success Literacy Program in predominantly underserved, black communities throughout the state.

•    Exposing young black men to a structured, college preparatory environment.

•    Promoting foster and adoptive parenting via the black church.

•    Launching multimedia ad campaigns that portray positive images of black men.

Bolstered by the support of the Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, black leaders and three South Florida colleges and universities have taken on the task of expanding programs that empower black males. 

“There are far too many of our kids who cannot read on grade level, and if that’s the case, they’ll have difficulty doing math and they’re really confined in their life experiences to what they see,” said Christopher Norwood, chairman of the council. “We’re charged on a yearly basis to analyze some of the problems facing black males in the state of Florida and make recommendations to the Legislature on how to deal with it through the Legislature.”

While mentoring groups for black males are not new, South Florida’s educators and mentors see the idea of receiving funding and direct attention from law makers as a welcomed opportunity.

Operating under the umbrella of the Office of the Attorney General, the council was established in 2006 to study social ills that affect black men, such as homicide and incarceration rates, poverty, violence, and drug abuse. The organization, led by Ft. Lauderdale Attorney Levi Williams and Norwood, was subject to a sunset provision that would have seen the council end in 2012. But legislators passed a bill this year that would make the council a permanent non-profit organization.

The recent vote has offered hope that resources will be available for programs that educate and heal black men in traditionally matriarchal and underserved communities.


“If you don’t have a vision of yourself in the future, you really don’t value your life,” said Sen. Frederica Wilson (D-Miami Gardens), who spearheaded legislation for the governor-appointed task force and founded the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence 16 years ago.

“Many of our black men never see any man getting up and going to work,” Wilson said. “You have to give children a vision of themselves in the future. Those children who have a vision can make it.”

As black and Hispanic boys continue to carry the highest percentage of underachievers in grade school,  she said, dropout prevention programs like the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program increasingly have become a solid resource for school districts.

The program started out with three schools, said Wilson. Now 101 Miami-Dade schools participate in the program, which operates on a $500,000 annual budget generated from the Miami-Dade school district.  With help from the council, as many as four more county school districts, including Broward County’s, plan to adopt the Role Models program.

On the collegiate level, Broward College President David Armstrong has established a college level council that plans to support black male students in many ways, including creating a “buddy system,” welcoming military veterans attending the college, and educating first-generation college students about financial aid.


NSU Dean of Community Education and Diversity Affairs Delores Smiley said the key to the success of the programs among higher learning institutions is collaboration. Smiley said she is currently pulling together information on how to help black men navigate the college system.

“There are a number of programs out there and people doing things everywhere,” said Smiley. “Nova is now a majority minority institution. The first step is to look at what is out there.”


One of those initiatives is the Black Male Explorers, a 13-year-old college preparatory program adopted by all historically black colleges and universities, said Kareem J. Coney, a director of the Explorers program at Florida Memorial University.

Coney, who was raised in a single-parent home, said he would like to see the Explorers program, which touts its signature five-week summer course for boys in middle and high school, included in the council’s focus as well.

“We’ve seen a 100-percent high school graduation rate for our boys, and a 98 percent college graduation rate with our young men,” said Coney. “A lot of this is attributed to being involved with the parents and providing activities that are meaningful and purposeful to being a black male in the community.”

The Explorers program offers help with standardized testing such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, and the SAT. The group’s summer program offers a unique experience to its 75 young members, who live in FMU campus dorms for five weeks.

The boys also attend pertinent seminars on subjects like abstinence, crime, and self-awareness, issues often left unexplored among young black men. Young black men can get lost more frequently if they don’t have the support of a mentor, said Coney, who continues to mentor young men who have graduated from FMU and become mentors themselves.

“Black women tend to be more self independent, somewhat more focused, and not as stressed as a black man,” said Coney. “We think differently as black males. We don’t say much. The black woman especially, knows she has to survive for her family.”

Coney continues to mentor Noel White, who recently graduated FMU with a degree in marketing. White, in turn, mentors more than 10 young men in the Explorers’ program, including Jordan Hall, a Miami Carol City High School student.

Hall’s mother Valerie Hall, whose two other sons ages 14 and 19 are also in the Explorers program, said black males “desperately need” mentors.
Hall, a Miami-Dade County police officer, said in her line of work she sees young black men who are falling into the social stereotypes that continue to plague the futures of black men.

Hall said black parents need to realize they can’t always give their children everything they need to prepare for success. Finding a strong mentorship program could mean all the difference, said Hall, who watched her 17-year old emerge as a leader in the Explorers program.

“It is a turnaround process for a black male who has been sheltered and for those in a negative environment,” said Hall, who works with her husband Sgt. Milton Hall. 

“I believe my children can learn from anybody, from a homeless person on the street to Barack Obama. When you shelter your children from the world, they miss out on so much.”

Norwood said he is hopeful that communities throughout the state will be able to build on programs that work.  Once the boys have the foundation of excellence, they will become men who expect excellence, he said.

“We really need to provide a re-acculturation in our community about how we look at black men,” said Norwood. “There are many brothers … getting as much education as they can and giving back to the community and working to better the community and doing right by their children and providing for their families. We need to expose them in Florida.”


WHAT: The Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Quarterly Council Meeting.

WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8.

WHERE: City of Miami Gardens, 1515 NW 167th St., Suite 200, Miami Gardens.