Columbia, SC — I’m tired of the stories — story after negative story — about African-American male youth. If we are going to turn around the crime and violence in our community, it is going to require all of us, especially African-American men, to step forward and get involved.
For almost nine years, I have been a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia. Eighty-three percent of the children in this program are African-Americans, as are 31 of the 37 boys currently waiting for a mentor.
Why are more men of color not stepping up?
It can’t be the time required. The agency requires a commitment of just four to six hours a month.
It can’t be financial. Every week the agency sends out ideas for inexpensive and in many cases free activities available in the community to foster dialogue between the mentor and his Little Brother.
Or is it the perception that those of a certain socio-economic class are not wanted that is hindering good black men from stepping up and mentoring? Not having the corner-office-type job; being a blue-collar worker.
I was blessed to be able to receive bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but two men whose shoulders I stand on, my grandfather and my father, had elementary school and trade school educations respectively. School didn’t teach me the values of faith, family and respect for honest, hard work in school. I learned these things from my father and grandfather.
I was raised under the notion that it takes a village to raise a child, and I believe that our community has many capable villagers who can step forward and be positive examples for our youth.
Mark 8:36 asks: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” This is the question worth asking our black men today. Is it OK if only our own children, the ones we are directly responsible for, are doing the right things? If they show respect and compassion for life and for others, does it matter if their peers do not?
It is essential that we make sure our homes are in order first. However, if we are doing nothing to reach those outside of our homes who are on a path toward crime, gangs and other negative activities, we are in essence sending our children out into a society that will ignore the values of obedience to the law, compassion for fellow man and respect for individuals and diversity.
Black men, this is a call to action. This catch phrase has been screamed so many times for so many years by so many people, but let me make it a bit more personal: If we don’t get involved, the sons we are raising to be positive, upstanding men will have a shrinking pool from which to choose their friendships. And men, the daughters we cherish and hold so dear to our hearts, our princesses, Daddy’s baby girls will have an even lower-quality pool of potential husbands to choose from when the time comes.
Ask yourselves these questions:
1. Can I allow my son to bring a friend he met at school home to play video games and not worry about negative practices being placed in his mind? Will this friend help him avoid the appearances of evil that may be around when I am not?
2. If my daughter came home, and said “Dad, I’m in love with this guy, and he wants to be your son-in-law,” would you be fully comfortable with the candidate pool from which she had made her choice?
If you answer with uncertainty, or with a resounding “No,” you can make a difference. The question to be asked is: Will you? Now? Will the real black men please stand up? Please stand up.
Several mentoring programs are making valiant efforts to encourage our youth to stay on the right path. For more information on mentoring a child through Big Brothers Big Sisters, visit bbbsgc.org or call (803) 691-5700.
Mr. Ferguson, a human resources manager for Belk Department Stores in Columbia and father of three, has been matched with his Little Brother since 2005; contact him at email@example.com.