June 17, 2019

An UN-Father's Day Message

This is a repeat of an older post describing what Father's Day means to me. It's all still true for me and it feels good to honor my father, father's, and fatherless boys in this way today. It is my intention to run this out every Father's Day.




Fathers, for better and worse, are THE most powerful man-making force on the planet. In this dad season, good fathers are my heroes, and certainly deserve high praise and celebration. That said, here's another way to think about Father's day.

. . . that stew pot of memories
called "Dad" . . .

As the commercial messages about Father's Day bring fathers and fatherhood into sharp focus, for me that stew pot of memories called "Dad," with its very mixed bag of confusing emotions, gets seriously stirred up. From my childhood through adolescence, my dad was lost in his marriage, was sick, and in the throes of alcoholism. While there were some gifts from him, too often he treated me horribly and I've been finding my way back ever since. Even though I know my father was the best dad he was able to be, I'm left feeling the complicated remnants of rage, love, sadness, hopelessness, and a kind of father-hunger driven emptiness at my core.

After years of self-discovery work and digging around in my family history, I've been able to find some true expressions of my dad's fatherly love. Like water in the desert, I treasure those few positive memories. Taken together, they form a small shield I can use to protect myself on Father's Day. At this point in my life, I'm exhausted by both talking and not talking about my dad issues. But when the third Sunday of June approaches each year, for me it's an Un-Father's Day. I find myself looking forward to the relief on the day after Father's Day when it all goes underground again.

In this dad season, I'm also very much reminded of the many men, adolescent males, and young boys I've come across in my man-making work who don't have any good dad memories to use as a defense on Father's Day. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I'm reminded of of all the really bad dad stories I've heard shared across a circle by often sobbing guys.

I'm just saying,
I've heard lots of really bad dad stories.

I have heard from countless men, young men, and boys who have never known a dad because he simply wasn't identifiable, because they were adopted at birth, or because of a court ordered separation from their fathers. There are all the dads who left during pregnancy, or the dads who were shot in the hood from gang violence. Then there are all the kids whose dads are in jail, or lost to PTSD or substance abuse. I remember a soft-spoken boy of ten whose initiation name was Steel Heart. He was in the room when his dad killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head. I'm just saying, I've heard lots of really bad dad stories.


I always wonder if just the idea of Father's Day results in re-wounding these fatherless young males. I wonder if the day stirs up their deep, confusing, profound, and not very well-defended sense of abandonment and father-loss. For them and me, again this year, it will be very much an Un-Father's Day.

So on this Father's Day, if you have the good fortune to have a good dad to honor, count yourself as lucky, and don't miss a chance to say thank you. However imperfectly he fathered you, he was there and doing the best he could do. He deserves to be thanked and celebrated. Thanks Dad, I love you.

After honoring your father, please take a moment to allow into your heart all those tragically abandoned or under-fathered young guys in the world around you. The boys, young men, and men who won't feel those good-dad feelings on Father's Day. Remember that on Father's Day, and every other day of the year, these guys will experience a profound hunger for the blessings that can only come from having a caring father in your life. Remember all the boys and men who, maybe like me, are just hoping all this complicated emotional dad business will pass by soon, go back underground, and that life somehow will get back to a survivable normal on the day after Un-Father's Day.

. . . I believe there is/was a father who loved you.

On my Un-Father's Day card I'd write:
Today I honor good dads everywhere. Thanks you for all you have done and will do. Blessings also on the dads who in some way checked-out, who walked or were not available to their sons, and on the sad legacy they have to live with as a result. And especially, blessings on confused, sad, and dad-hungry males everywhere. Buried underneath all the drama and tragedy that kept you and your father apart, in my heart I believe there is/was a father who loved you.


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June 11, 2019

The Gentlemen's Agreement

For years I've been writing about how so many of our young boys need the support and guidance from non-parental adults. In some ways, it's a replacement for, or addition to, the approach of surrounding them with extended family and "it takes a village...," that used to be how raising kids was naturally done. The basic idea is providing kids with this kind of exposure to caring adults in schools!

"...the new norm for education..."

The genius in this idea is that schools are where the boys are corralled and where we can get their attention. This is what one New Jersey high school principal, profiled in my last blog post, described as, "...the new norm for education..." where we put, "...some loving people in the (school) building...."

In my winter home in Arizona, I'm working with Boys to Men Tucson, where a big part of our programming is putting trained and background-checked men into middle and high schools. They offer support group experiences to young men aged 12-17 during the school day. The academic data we've collected, the boy's reports, the praise from the schools, and the feedback from parents all tell us this is clearly an idea whose time has come.

Participants in The Gentlemen's Agreement
A recent article in The Wilson Times, from Wilson, North Carolina, describes a similar program for boys called, The Gentlemen's Agreement. This program was started at the high school level and has now moved into two elementary schools. They know it's working because when you can get a fifth grader to say he has "learned to take responsibility for his actions," you have clearly and positively altered the trajectory of that young man's life.

The Gentlemen's Agreement program offers career inventories, has conversations about college or other careers, teaches leadership skills, and covers heady ideas like what it takes to become a good man! Who would you, dear reader, be today if you had exposure to these ideas when you were in the 5th grade? You can read all about this wonderful program in The Wilson Times article.

On the Man-Making Blog, if you put the word "school" into the right sidebar search window, you will find many years' worth of descriptions of school-based programs like The Gentlemen's Agreement for boys. What all these programs have in common is they need people like you to help them run. I like to say that what the boys need and really want is time with gloriously imperfect men, who care enough about our young guys to show up.

"Because you're still reading this post,
it means you're interested and qualified..."

If not yet, this idea of supporting boys in schools will soon be arriving in your community. Because you're still reading this post, it means you're interested and qualified to participate. You could start now by asking around about volunteer opportunities at a school near you. Or maybe you can start a boy's group in a school! If you're interested, give me a shout, and we can talk about how to do it.

What I know for sure is that the boys are waiting for men, just like you, to appear and make a difference in their lives.



CONTACT EARL: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm also available to help you bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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© Copyright 2005-2019 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
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May 24, 2019

Man-Making Heroes - Bringing Love to School

He's going to any lengths to keep kids safe.

In the clip below, listen to one of my heroes, Akbar Cook, the principal of West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey. He says, "Let's put some loving people in the building...." If he is right, and this is, "...the new norm for education...," we all have a place in his vision and some work to do.


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

Oh yeah, as it turns out, the famous Oprah heard about the Lights on Program and donated a half-million dollars to Newark's West Side High School!

"Let's put some loving people in the building..."

We all can't be Oprah, but what small thing can you do to support "our" kids?

Thanks to another of my heroes, Joe Sigurdson of the Boys to Men Mentoring Network in San Diego for his example and this inspiration.



CONTACT EARL: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm also available to help you bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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© Copyright 2005-2019 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
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March 7, 2019

Learning to Take a Stand for Others

I've posted here previously about Father Greg Boyle, because without knowing him, I love him. He is simply one of my heroes in the work of standing for others who need and deserve our attention and support. I love his message describing his incredible work with gang members through his organization, Homeboy Industries. His message of compassion and acceptance is always able to touch my heart, and inspires me to action.

See what this short clip taken from his talk at a Pepperdine University commencement event does for and to you?



If this clip doesn't show up use this link for the full version.




CONTACT EARL: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm also available to help you bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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© Copyright 2005-2019 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
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March 3, 2019

Teaching Boys about Toxic Masculinity

On the CNN website, Inside Africa, there is an article with a wonderful description of how some good men in South Africa are supporting and inviting young males to look at the collection of men's issues being called toxic masculinity.


The article describes men meeting with boys in Pankop, a small town in eastern South Africa. They call their not-for-profit organization the Young Men's Movement, and their work is to create safe spaces for conversations about manhood in schools, local churches, and even gardens in their town.

. . . the men are hoping to build
a "different generation of men."

Kabelo Chabalala, a group leader says ". . . teaching men to "respect women" is a crucial part of the group's aim." In a country where the rate of femicide is three times the global norm, and rape culture "ever-present," by stepping into action the men are hoping to build a "different generation of men."

Check out the CNN article and learn more about what these courageous men are doing for boys, men, women, and their community.



CONTACT EARL: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm also available to help you bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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© Copyright 2005-2018 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
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January 3, 2019

Fishin' with a Mission


Sometimes the efforts of one extremely motivated man can do so much good for kids in his community. This is the case with my brother in mission, Mustafa Mahdi. I've watched this man be relentless over the years in finding ways he and a few other men can be a positive force in the lives of young men around them. Nothing fancy, no big budget, just little by little, he keeps showing up. And guess what happens? The boys come, hungry for the blessings of male attention and the fun.

Mustafa's tools are a chess board and a fishing pole. He serves youth and families in metro Atlanta, as well as Fulton and Clayton counties. He calls his two programs, "The SMART MOVES Chess Club," and "Fishin' with a Mission to Save Our Sons." Here's a link to a Man-Making Blog post on the chess club that I did in 2009! There is zero cost to the young people involved in any of Mustafa's programs. Everything, including Mustafa's time, is either donated or paid for out of Mustafa's pocket.

"Someone should do something
about those kids!"

Baba Mustafa is one of my heroes in the work of man-making, and he's been at it a long time. To be sure, he's a great role model for the kids he supports. He's also a powerful role model those of us who, after watching yet another tragic boy story on the evening news, have said to themselves, "Someone should do something about those kids!"


Mustafa Selfie at Chess Club

To learn more about this good man and his work, check out this Facebook page. It's where he's holding a little fundraiser to try to collect $2000 for snacks, chess boards and pieces, fishing rods, reels, and bait. While you're there, honor him for his commitment and efforts. You may also want to slip him a $5 or a $20. I did because Mustafa and men like him so deserves our support.

Thank you, Baba Mustafa! 

You are a gift to your community and the world.




CONTACT EARL: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm also available to help you bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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© Copyright 2005-2018 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
Sharing with attribution allowed. All other use require permission.