MIAMI GARDENS – Imploring the audience at Antioch Baptist Church of Carol City and generally the country’s black community, former Essence magazine Editor Susan L. Taylor borrowed the words of Marcus L. Garvey, demanding, “Get up you mighty race of people.”
The Dec. 12 event marked the launch of the National Mentoring Training Day, facilitated by the 100 Black Men of America, Inc.
Partnering with the “100” and Taylor’s National CARES Mentoring Movement is syndicated radio host Michael Baisden, who will launch his own mentoring initiative in February.
Baisden empathized with today’s guidance-deprived youth, telling the audience of about 200 that his mother had three children by the time she was 17, and that he could understand the challenges. But, he said, community involvement in a child’s life was much greater during his childhood.
The best-selling author said that “back in the day” neighbors could chastise each other’s children without fear of repercussion. Not so today, he noted.
The self-proclaimed “bad boy” of radio said he has zero tolerance for absentee fathers, challenging them to not only show up for their own kids, but also for other children who do not have a male figure in their lives.
The number of black people engaged in mentoring lags behind that of their white counterparts, and women out-volunteer men by three to one, said Gayle Sayers Nelson, vice president of Big Brother/Big Sisters Miami.
At events that bring together the organization’s mentors and their young charges, Nelson, who is black, said it is not uncommon to look out at the audience and see hundreds of young black males partnered with white men or women.
He said that of the 1,000 youth on the Miami organization’s waiting list, 65 percent are black boys.
He spoke directly to the black males in the audience when he said, “I can take [a black boy] off the waiting list today if a man will step up.”
Bobby Hall is the president of South Florida’s 100 Black Men chapter. He said one of the mentorship opportunities his organization provides is the Leadership Academy, which, in addition to helping youth develop important leadership skills, positively reinforces those who are doing the right thing.
“It’s OK to make great grades,” Hall said, highlighting one of the messages that the organization drills into the young men.
Lamenting her inability to sip margaritas on a tropical island while immersed in a good book since she stepped down from her post at the nation’s most popular magazine for black women, Taylor said she founded National CARES because “the fall of our vulnerable youth is faster than our response to catch them.”
She minced no words, chastising black people who “drive right past the pain into the sanctuary,” and have no problem raising “$60,000 for a pastor’s anniversary;” alluding to black people who drive from their suburban neighborhoods to attend church services at houses of worship in inner-city communities.
“Stop pointing the finger at the children and look in the mirror,” she urged. “We’re asking that you give one hour of your time each week.”
State Sen. Frederica Wilson, founder of the 5000 Role Models program, said she was compelled to create the program following her tenure as principal of an elementary school. In order to better understand why the little black boys at her school behaved differently than others, she began having lunch with them frequently, asking why they were so angry and prone to inappropriate behavior.
What she discovered, she said, was that “they didn’t have fathers and grandfathers in their lives. They never saw men getting up and going to work.”
The senator was accompanied to Saturday’s event by a couple dozen of the red-tie wearing young men from her program. They respectfully stood when she was introduced. Wilson said there are currently 6,000 boys in Miami-Dade Public Schools enrolled in her program – all of whom will get a “free ride to college” upon graduation.
“We’re not here to pontificate, to posture or to take pictures,” said Tommy Dortch, chairman emeritus of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. “We’re asking the men here, who are not mentoring, to man up. When you mentor, miracles really do happen.”
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Susan Taylor, left, and Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson, right.
THE MORE YOU KNOW
National CARES Mentoring Movement
100 Black Men of South Florida
Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Miami