Frantz Toussaint, an 18-year old junior at Palm Beach Lakes High School in West Palm Beach, is precisely the kind of young man that national radio host Michael Baisden is trying to help.
Toussaint has no father around, yet he says young men like him need someone to talk to and someone to guide them down the right path in life.
“Usually, in our society, we don’t have mentors, or people to look up to,” the young man said.
Baisden agrees, and that’s why he has launched his 73-city, One Million Mentors – Saving Our Kids tour, which will cross the United States touting the need for mentors to help save the lives of black youth.
Last week, the tour bus rolled into South Florida, stopping in Miami on March 5, and West Palm Beach on March 6. A standing-room-only crowd packed the Harriet Himmel Theatre at CityPlace in downtown West Palm Beach to hear Baisden, 47, share disturbing accounts of black youth, magnifying the need for mentors to help guide them into adulthood. The event was hosted by radio station B106.3 FM.
“Originally, we were going to do a couple of cities – maybe go to Chicago and have a town hall meeting and make a big deal of it,” Baisden said during a private reception just moments before he took to the stage. “But then what? We wanted to do something ongoing. We decided to take the show to all of our markets.”
Mark McCray, operations manager at B106.3, said he was pleased that Baisden brought the tour to Palm Beach County.
“Anything that involves kids is important to Michael Baisden, and we feel the same way,”McCray said. “Obviously, our station caters to an adult audience, and our audience has kids who are paramount to their lives. Kids are our future. It’s not just a cliché, it’s the truth, and we have to make sure that in the next 20 years, we’re raising a bunch of leaders.”
Baisden, whose show is broadcast locally on WHQT HOT 105 FM, said he was inspired to take action after the tragic death of Derrion Albert, a 16-year-old honor student who was bludgeoned to death by a group of other teens on Chicago’s South Side last September. The horrific beating was captured on videotape and was seen around the world.
Sadly, as Baisden pointed out, there are numerous other horror stories involving teens, which only magnifies the need for proper guidance for today’s youth. Baisden shared the story of teen girls who made a pact to commit suicide by laying on a railroad track and waiting for a train to run over them. He told the audience of parents who traded their 14-year old daughter for sex in order to get money for their car payment. He told of parents who pimped their children for drugs. The accounts are endless, he noted.
“I make a concerted effort to talk to our kids every day, on a show that’s really designed for adults. The reason I do it, is because nobody else is going to talk to these kids,” Baisden said.
But he can’t do it alone. As he zig zags across the country, he’s hoping to inspire 1 million mentors along the way. He has partnered with other well-known mentoring groups such as 100 Black Men of America, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and the National Cares Movement.
Steven Cornette, director of the West Palm Beach Boys and Girls Club, was a panelist at the March 6 event. He said he knows all too well the need for mentors. His mother enrolled him in the organization after his 16-year-old brother was killed.
“My brother followed the dope boys. My brother followed the rap stars. He followed ‘the dream.’ And that dream ended up getting him killed,” he told the crowd.
C. Ron Allen, a long time journalist for the Sun-Sentinel, has devoted the past 20 years to mentoring youth. He was compelled to start the Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network while covering the police beat as a reporter.
“I just got tired of seeing so many kids in the system for stupid things – things that had there been a positive male figure in their lives, would have been prevented,” he said.
Today, over 250 youth have completed Allen’s mentoring program.
Legendary soul singer Jimmie “Bo” Horne presented Baisden with a check for $500 on behalf of the Community Learning Outreach Center in Palm Beach County.
“We feel that mentoring is so important. We must support him,” Horne said.
The Rosenthal, Levy and Simon law firm, an event sponsor, presented Baisden with a $1,000 donation.
Baisden is donating $5,000 of his own money to each market he visits on the tour. He presented the Boys and Girls Club of West Palm Beach a check for $5,000.
“We need people’s time, and we need them to get involved,” Baisden urged.
To find out more about Baisden’s mentoring campaign and the 73-city tour, log on to onemillionmentors.com.
Photo by Carol Porter. Michael Baisden