COMMENTARY: Black Boys Need Rites of Passage Programs in 2019 Across the Country
By Roger Caldwell
2019 is important to African American Men because the opportunities are boundless and amazing. If you can conceive it, you can achieve it. The only barriers holding Black men back are preparation, knowledge and education. The challenge for Black men is Black manhood.
There are many different definitions of manhood, but to be Black and a man is a unique and special position in the United States and the world. Black men come in different sizes and shapes, with individual skillsets, mindsets, ideas, thoughts, visions, and beliefs. Our diversity is our gift to the globe — and we will be first, not last.
The power and fear of the Black man will no longer be curtailed or controlled by racism. Racial bias is being fought in the courts, businesses, sports and entertainment in America and around the world. When Black men start loving each other and working together, communities will change and they will take leadership roles in families, America and the world.
There are Black role models in the communities and the Black media has a responsibility to tell positive and powerful stories of Black men and women who are making a positive difference every day. The emphasis for Black men is to bring attention on the necessity for mentors, to help Black boys narrow the achievement gap in the country.
The fundamental problem for Black boys raised in America is that 70% of Black families are run by a single parent: a woman. African Americans make up about 35% of all children raised in the bottom 1% of the income level and distribution. From the very beginning of life, Black males start with a financial disadvantage and one out of every three ends up in prison.
The system is set up for Black males to fail, and it is extremely difficult to climb from the bottom to the top. “It’s not just being Black but being male that has been hyper-stereotyped in this negative way, in which we’ve made Black men scary, intimidating, with a propensity toward violence,” said Noelle Hurd, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia.
In 2019, there is a call to action for all Black men to be fathers to all Black boys in the communities. “Black boys and young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor. In addition, mentees are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking,” says Dr. Brian Agard, My Brother’s Keeper Lead and Minority Achievement Office – Orange County Public Schools.
Black men can no longer wait for the system and the schools to educate Black boys, they must be engaged and involved from the very beginning. Dr. Agard’s goal in the Orange County Public School (OCPS) system is to recruit 1,000 mentors in 2019, and there are other organizations and fraternities that have after-school mentoring programs in Orlando and Central Florida.
The only way Black boys will learn to be Black men is that they must be taught by Black men.
The ultimate goal for Black boys to become Black men is through months and years of studying the rites of passage. The ultimate goal of the rites of passage is to develop greater leadership roles for the youth and the younger Black boys in the Black communities. By teaching Black boys critical thinking and to understand themselves and the world around them, they will determine what it means to be a man and a leader.
Through an intensive process of self-reflection, community and global analysis and understanding of their individual beliefs and goals, Black boys will become men. As older young brothers have completed the rites of passage, they will help recruit younger Black boys and instead of Black boys/men killing each other they will start working to improve their community and spread love.