Jun 10

Black Male Mentorship

Although efforts to ameliorate the lives of young Black males have been primarily led by adults, it’s time tap into the power of having young Black males to mentor other young Black males. In my experience working with and mentoring young Black middle to college males from across the nation, I have found that giving Black males around the same age the opportunity to support one another delivers impressive results. While many adults may not be ready to begin to think about partnering with the youth to improve mentoring efforts, they will find that numerous young people will be willing to listen to other young people much more than they will be willing to listen to adults. In no way am I suggesting that Black adults should turn the important task of mentoring Black male youths completely over to young Black males; however, I posit that young Black males can be meaningful partners in mentoring endeavors. Those of us involved in mentoring young Black male should begin to establish formal organizations and partnerships to advance Black male mentorship, and we should allow capable young Black males to be mentors.

The Black community has to learn to stop looking for those outside of our community to help us to improve ourselves. If we keep looking to those outside of our community to help us, we will never progress. We have what it takes within our own community to enable young Black males to experience success. When we look to identify young Black males who will be good candidates for mentoring other young Black males, it’s not necessary to find “perfect” young Black males to be mentors; you’ll never find “perfect” young Black males—nobody’s perfect. You can, however, locate young Black males who have good behavior and grades, and they can serve as respectable candidates for mentoring other young Black males. In “Mentor A Black Boy, His Life Depends On It” (published by Healthy Black Men), I explained how essential it is for young Black males to have examples of successful Black males in their lives. These examples of successful Black males must include young Black males.

In the postmodern epoch, being “cool” is pervasively popular with young Black males. In all honesty, being “cool” is wildly popular with many adults, regardless of race, ethnicity and gender. Instead doing the almost impossible task of trying to defeat our national (and largely international) era of “cool,” let’s use the concept of cool in a beneficial way. Let’s construct organizations and partnerships in our communities that cause young Black males to see positive notions of success as cool. Young Black males need to know that excelling academically isn’t about “acting White”—it’s being responsible about one’s future, breaking manacles of poverty that ravage too many Black families.

Adults don’t have all of the answers! Our Black children have solutions to many of the challenges they face. Young Black males can become key stakeholders in their own economic, social, professional and academic progression. It’s up to adults to allow them to unleash their stored potential.

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  • Great idea Antonio but I wonder if the older ages (College) would be more receptive to this than the kids like that young man in the photo? The reason why I ask this is because of the ego and embarrassment that some boys go through when it comes to a peer having to help them get better at something. You are the teacher so maybe my assumption of this is overblown beyond reality but I always think of that one kid who rides out the mentor for being a nerd, etc., etc. The little girl in my life is an Ace student and even she deals with it at school when mentoring others as part of her AVID program.

    I also have a huge problem with the “cool” that kids perpetuate nowadays… it is very different from what we knew as it is now more towards being aloof, sleepy, and tired-looking in one’s gait. Just recently I was counseling a young man on what he needs to do to get started in IT and his attitude made me think that I was wasting my time. I wanted to shake some life and spirit into him… which was very frustrating for someone like me but like your article asserts, maybe someone closer to his age and successful would not be as put off with it.

    Thanks for writing this, it is worthy of discussion and attention as it isn’t a tactic that is considered very often.

    • Antonio M. Daniels

      Thanks! Great question. From my experience, I have found that while the younger males (those high schoolers and below) often call the same-age mentors names, they’re willing to receive the help and find it a little refreshing than having an adult help them, which they often perceive an adult mentoring them as “it must be something wrong with me.” One would think that Black males in college would be less resistant to mentoring, but, from my experience, there’s not much difference. In some cases, Black male college students perceive mentoring as “people are going to think I’m not adequate enough to be a college student and question my legitimacy of even being at this school.”

      While there are barriers to overcome in mentoring K-12 Black males, Black males in college, and older Black adult males, I have found mentoring to have positive results when mentees have an opportunity to be mentored by mentors who are around the same age.

      One of the dominant things I want to accomplish with this article is for there to be greater consideration given to how much talent and potential that lies within many of our young Black males to mentor struggling young Black males. Since more research is needed concerning mentoring, especially the mentoring of Black males of all age groups, I assert that the main idea offered in this piece is worthy of exploring in an effort to expand the available pool of mentors and improve the quality and outcomes of mentoring.

      I’ve had many mentees who started off just like the guy you mentioned. I just remained committed to them improving themselves and exposed their “cool posing” directly to them as a self-defeating behavior. My experience has taught me that we have to expose (in a direct manner) to Black males of any age the things they are doing that are negatively impacting their progression. I model for them successful behavior and help them with their academic work. When they see that I’m highly successful, but at the same time could be considered “cool’ in many respects, they begin to embrace me and my mentoring.

      Thanks for your question. Your question is one that truly further focuses and expands the value and potential of this idea about mentoring.

  • Lonnie F

    When I first started out in undergrad, there was an upperclassman
    that me and all of my friends looked up to. We all wanted him to be our
    mentor, big brother, old head or whatever. There was no way he had the
    and energy to help us all (10 of us), but he did what he could. We
    gravitated toward him because he was so far removed from all of the
    nonsense that we were talking about. I respected his time and modesty
    and I backed off. These other cats were still running to him for every
    little thing every little problem. He graduated and then we were on our
    own. He knew the game (academically) because he worked many jobs in the
    school. We were a bunch of hood cats on an all white campus. Without
    him, many of us fell off or dropped out. Some of us (myself included)
    eventually got our acts together and graduated. I think that it’s
    because I let that cat go that he came back to me.

    years later he was working as an administrator in the school I was
    trying to get into (as a part of my academic rebirth my redemption…
    ready for business). Even still, he was a high profile brother with more
    responsibility and even less time, but he did what he could. With his
    help I got in there and got out of there the right way. It’s been just
    over 10 years now and I consider this brother one of the best friend’s
    I’ve ever had. It took that long to really understand how much we had in
    common. Without the noise of all those other “friends” around we
    stopped trying to be cool on collective terms. As a man I could just
    respect what he’s about and vice versa. That’s what made us cool. There
    were times when I wanted and needed a lot more guidance and I had to
    just figure things out and take the L’s as they came. Why I agree so
    much with this post is that he’s only 2 years older than me. Definitely a
    peer! Way back then, I knew that he knew the game, but now I seen the
    way he’s played it and I’m just as impressed as I was then if not more.
    He just wrapped up a doctorate. I’m proud to say that such a close
    friend of mine has achieved that.

    Looking back, had that cat not
    been where he was WHEN he was there… I don’t know where I’d be. If I
    can recognize that potential in a young cat then I’m ready to do what I
    can too.

    • I appreciate you sharing this Lonnie as it shows me how wrong I am with my assumption that people would blow off a mentor just because of his age. That was pretty deep and I’m sure the man would be honored to know he made such an impact on you all even though he probably didn’t see it as him doing much. I recall the focused guys in school and they were impressive, we never knocked it either we just assumed that they were about their business more than the rest of us crammers and party animals. Thanks again for commenting.

    • Antonio M. Daniels

      Lonnie, your awesome story can be an inspiration to numerous young Black males and Black males your age who need guidance in progressing positively. Each one, teach one. I encourage you to mentor as many Black males as possible. We have the power within our community to solve many of the serious problems we face. Thanks for reading and I very much appreciate you for sharing your inspiring story.

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