July 21, 2013

Hey Mr. President - We Can Help The Boys!

Mr. President, This is a little rushed, but I heard your speech, and I wanted you to know that I do know a little about some of the challenges facing young black men. I agree with you, we need to find ways to bolster and reinforce African-American boys.

Just for example, it's heartbreaking to learn, according to the America Community Survey:
  • A black male born after 1991 has a 29% chance of spending time in prison at some point in his life.
  • Nearly one in three African American males, aged 20–29, are under some form of criminal justice supervision whether imprisoned, jailed, on parole or probation.
  • One out of nine African American men will be incarcerated between the ages of 20 and 34.
  • Black males ages 30 to 34 have the highest incarceration rate of any race/ethnicity.
  • Only 52% of Black males graduate from high school. (Schott Foundation, 2012)

Truly, support for this population is critical.

I also feel ALL of "our boys" could use some support. Since about 2005, in this very blog, I've been profiling good men, organizations, and communities, who are scrambling to create innovative ways to support at-risk and other young men. If you look back at the posts in this blog, you'll find a few hundred examples, just about any of which, if scaled up, could make a significant difference in young male lives and the quality of community life across our country.

In this blog alone, you'll read about community-based approaches supporting young males, rite of passage experiences, and help with anger management. There are programs offering mentoring for young males struggling with math and reading, or just staying in school. There are outdoor adventure programs to get young guys out of the hood and into the woods or mountains. There are programs specifically for boys without fathers, some to help young men learn practical living skills, and others to match young men to a caring male ally, some of whom will be a friend and supporter for life. And I know I'm leaving a lot off the list.

What all these programs have in common is they give young males access to solid male role models who care about them. Men who, by the simple fact of their involvement, demonstrate our boys are worth loving and saving. When men show up, regardless of the content of the program, those essential male nutrients of attention, compassion, and blessings are delivered. That is water in the desert for so many of our young males.

Mr. President, I want you to know that each of these programs is a heroic effort on the part of the providers. We seem to be living in a world where investing in youth no longer seems to be a big priority. Far too many of these initiatives have seen their grants reduced or eliminated, and their community funding sources dry up. Yes, we should do something about our out-of-control young males, but today, there is not enough money being invested where the needed changes can be made. We both know prison construction with it's ever growing populations of incarcerated young males is not the answer.

So, Mr. President, if you want to give young men a sense that their country cares about them, and values them, and is willing to invest in them, please read through my blog, or give me a call. I can point you to lots of programs which, if funded and scaled up, will make a big difference in the lives of young black men or any young male needing guidance on his journey toward manhood. Taken together, these programs can reduce violence in our communities, build up all our young males, set them on a path toward a solid and contributing manhood, and greatly increase the quality of life in our communities.

Here are just a couple of programs on my mind right now. How about funding:

Urban Boatbuilders:

UBB is a group of mentors working with young, inner city kids in St. Paul, Minnesota. They teach them about building boats. In all that interaction, of course, there are occasions for learning, skills acquisition, and countless blessings from adults. UBB is currently trying to raise funds to build canoes. When the canoes are completed, they take the young folks into the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area in northern Minnesota for yet another set of amazing outdoor experiences. Funding UBB would help a lot of kids and, if it was funded nationally, what a difference that could make!

Archie Boone:
My friend Archie is a songwriter/recording artist who is starting to work with young kids in schools. He's a passionate and creative man with a great idea. He just needs a little money to get off the ground. Archie says, I want to use my summer and after-school hours to teach songwriting to inner-city children. My classes will teach them pro-social skills, help them share their thoughts and feelings, while providing a bridge across cultural boundaries, leading to respect of all people. Here is a taste of what Archie is creating:

If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a few thousand Archie-like rappers in schools across the country, teaching kids to write their own music, full of love, honesty, respect for men and women, and diversity? Want to fund that jobs program?

Finally, there are all the "Men in Schools" programs that are starting to pop up. One example is the Boys to Men organization, a California based organization with branches in Virginia, Arizona, and elsewhere, where trained men sit in supportive circles with young men. In these small groups, the young guys develop their emotional vocabulary, learn to share and get support for the hard truths in their lives. Many young men, for the first time in their lives, have a positive relationship with a man and learn to trust men in the process. If you even wonder for a moment about the impact of this intervention, check out this video clip.

If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

How about a Boys to Men group or groups in every school across the country. Now there's a jobs program that will save boys' lives, improve graduation rates, and reduce the prison population. If you really want to bolster and reinforce African-American, or any boys, this might be an approach worth funding.

So Mr. President, there are good people out there with some answers to the boy problem, if only you'll give them a chance. Like I said, just give me a call or send me a quick message. I'll come running with my list and we'll get started helping all our boys.

Earl Hipp

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  1. Anonymous10:50 AM

    Well done Earl, now how do we get him to read this?
    Joe Sigurdson
    Boys to Men Mentoring

  2. I've sent the link to the Whitehouse.gov and posted it on the Presidents Facebook page. Any other ideas?


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