Is Help On The Way For Young Black Men?
If black boys are failing, who's helping them succeed?
When you wake up in the morning you're guaranteed to hear one of two things about Black men and boys in America:
They either scored a winning goal in the game the night before, or they are failing miserably in life.
As mentioned in Loop 21's Education Special in September, African American boys are lagging behind young men of other races when it comes to education.
Even though they achieved their highest graduation rates this century at 52 percent, the number is still small in comparison to graduation rates of white and Hispanic boys. And of the number of Black boys graduating high school, only 42 percent were graduating on time within four years.
The shortcomings of young Black men in America are widely reported and it would be easy to assume that no one cares to help them. Fortunately, two major organizations have recently entered the battle to save young Black men.
Hungarian-born billionaire and investor George Soros has made headlines in recent years for his efforts in helping young Black men finish school and become better citizens in general. Last year, he and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $30 million each to a New York City program designed to improve the life outcomes of Black and Latino men.
Soros' organization Open Society currently has a campaign dedicated to putting a spotlight on the plights of young Black men in America and showing how their outcomes affect everyone.
"This squandering of human capital is a disgrace,” Soros said in the afterword of the Open Society's "Where Do We Go From Here?" report. “New generations of African American boys and young men need not become such statistics. With rigorous academic instruction, so many of them can master so much. They need pre-school and afterschool programs. High school boys and junior college young men need internships to expand their assumptions about the realm of the possible in terms of the future—and their future careers. They need mentors and counselors who will prepare some for college and the professions, while helping others to develop marketable skills that will lead, after graduation, to satisfying, well-paying jobs.”
Soros isn't alone.
The Blazer Male Excellence Network (BMEN) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham looks to not only get young Black men out of high school, but into college, and keep them there until they finish.
Led by Michael Brooks, Ph.D., BMEN is focused on helping black male students succeed in college. So far, the group has seen 57 percent of its participants graduate.
“BMEN taught me how an African-American man should act,” said Dominique Tull, a 20-year-old psychology major at UAB.
The BMEN program works like this:
The program accepts students of any ethnicity, but all incoming freshmen who self-identify as black men are contacted by the program directly. Participants attend a weekly seminar course and get a mentor. Brooks and his colleagues teach from "Let’s BMEN: How to Successfully Navigate the College Experience," a book Brooks edited himself.
According to UAB's website, BMEN got its start in 2007 with 21 students. Fifteen of those original members have graduated, and the six remaining will receive their degrees soon. Today, there are 230 students enrolled in the BMEN program, including nearly 60 freshmen.
“We tell them that talent and charisma are not enough,” Brooks said in a BMEN newsletter. “They have to exhibit the ‘Five Wells,’ a concept developed by Dr. Robert Franklin, president of Morehouse College: be well-spoken, well-read, well-dressed, well-traveled and well-balanced.”
While it's easy to point out the shortcomings of young African American men, we will all be better served by pointing out the instances where they are doing well. If more efforts like these were to come about, we could have more opportunities to do just that.