September 30, 2014

Rites of Passage for "Tender Warriors"

The Tender Warrior Association (TWA) is a non-profit, group mentoring organization, serving male middle school students, ages 11-14, who are from Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. TWA is the inspiration of Jeff Robertson, it's Founder and Executive Director. While TWA was incorporated in 2008, Jeff has been on a hero's journey of Man-Making work for the past 20 years. Today, TWA consists of 3 major components, Outdoor Adventure Activities, Ivy League College Tour Program, and a powerful honoring event called the Tribe 7 Ceremony.

Outdoor Adventure Activities: The men and young men meet on the second Saturday of the month for fun and some time for just hanging out. While the activities vary, Jeff believes in getting his young men out into nature as much as possible. On any given Saturday, they may be playing sports, heading out for camping, or hiking. Whatever the activity, there is always time toward the end to circle up for a conversation about some aspect of becoming a man.

The Ivy League College Tour Program: When funds are available, men and the young guys head out to visit new cities and take a look at life on New England college campuses such as Princeton, Harvard, and Yale. Their next college visit will be a guided tour of Dartmouth College, including lunch on campus, and tour of the city of Hanover, New Hampshire. As a bonus, they are hoping to tour NBC studios in downtown New York City. These trips provide the young men with a look at the world beyond their communities and always expand their horizons and view of what's possible.

. . . powerful expressions of
acknowledgement, caring, and blessing
are focused on the young man.

The Tribe 7 Ceremony: The Tribe 7 Ceremony happens early in a boy's involvement with TWA. It's a ceremony in which a young man is witnessed and honored for crossing an important line on his journey toward manhood. The family of each young man is supported in finding 7 men from his circle of extended family, friends, faith community, school, or his neighborhood. These men agree to participate in the ceremony and to support the young man in the days and years ahead. Jeff says in a world where men are often absent in many parts of a boy's life, it's sometimes a big challenge for a family to even find 7 men who will step up. However, when the men are found and the Tribe 7 Ceremony is possible, there are powerful expressions of acknowledgement, caring, and blessing focused on the young man. The boy is always deeply moved as are the men and families participating around the edges of the event.

The video below is just a short segment of a Tribe 7 Ceremony. In it you can actually see the ritual working its magic on everyone. The young man, thirteen-year-old Shariff Levine, is at the center of it all, nervous but beaming. The men, sometimes also feeling a little awkward, each have 2 minutes in which to accept and commit to the role of man-maker in Shariff's life, bless the young man, and present him with a special object to which the man has given special meaning. In the ceremony, each of the candles and the swords has special meaning which is explained to the initiate. They represent values such as strength, passion, determination, courage, confidence, and there is even one for the young man's "unknown potential." As you watch, can you begin to feel the power of what these men are focusing on this one young man?

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

I don't know about you but I was blown away by Jeff giving Shariff a gift of opening a savings account for a college trust fund. It also warmed my male heart to hear the men surrounding Shariff pledge to be there for him as he moves toward manhood. Who among you wouldn't have wanted that in your life as you were entering adolescence?

On September 30th, Jeff Robertson is being honored by the Architect of the Capital for his innovation in creating this group mentoring organization for young boys of color. He is one of my Man-Making heroes and truly deserves all the recognition he gets (and more)! Speaking of more, if you like what Jeff is doing you can donate to his work. The donation request on the TWA website is for $7, but whether it's $7, $70, or $700, you can be sure it will be put right to work setting young men on a positive journey toward manhood. You can reach Jeff at (301) 442-7760 or visit the TWA website at: to learn more about their programs.

Trust that you and your men friends
are hardwired . . .for this work . . .

If you are inspired by Jeff's example, gather up some of your men friends and see what you might create for a young man in your world. In addition to Jeff's example and others I've described on this blog, here is a "how to" article describing a passage event I created with some men friends years ago for one of the men's son.

Anything a group of good men
do in support of a young man or group of young men
simply can't fail.

Anything a group of good men do in support of a young man or group of young men simply can't fail. Be prepared for this work to feel a little awkward because it's been so long since this was a normal part of life for men. Trust that you and your men friends are hardwired, deep in your male psyche, for this work and will know the right things to do and say. Be ready to be amazed by the young men's reaction, what happens to your male heart, and the positive reaction from the community around you.

If you have even a little desire to do something and want some guidance, contact me. Right now there is something every man can do in service to young guys. It's time for men to go to work. The boys are waiting and, as men, we do know how to do this!

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