Can Young Black Men Be Saved? - Page 3 of 6

Can Young Black Men Be Saved?

likelihood of more black youth subsisting in inner-city poverty, while floundering within substandard educational systems. As a result, casualties multiply in tandem with the growth of dropout, unemployment, and incarceration rates.

In light of this dire scenario, our board devised eight solutions that should be enacted now:
The 21st Century Foundation’s Sheffield believes it’s time for African Americans to use their dollars to help solve the community’s problems. He suggests that blacks build a strong network of philanthropic organizations, which would fund nonprofit groups geared toward addressing a multitude of issues, most specifically the challenges of black males. This network would be financed through “civic tithing,” meaning African Americans would perceive philanthropic giving in the same way they view church contributions.

This could begin the process of channeling black dollars into effective programs that benefit black males. In fact, the foundation finances The Mentoring Center and similar programs, and has produced a report, Community Returns: Investing in Black Men and Boys, which encourages collective community action to help black males advance. (See for organizations with programs that assist black males.)

Thomas Boston says black professionals and entrepreneurs must take the lead in providing opportunities for young people. Mentori
ng and job shadowing are critical in giving black males exposure to various career options.

The style of mentoring is also important. Cheo Tyehimba, director of Oakland-based Forwardever Media Center, runs a workshop and journalism media training program for ex-offender youth who are mandated to receive writing assistance. Tyehimba’s program services young men from Muhammad’s Mentoring Center and regular high school students. The combination of disadvantaged and ex-offender youth learning alongside honor students creates an effective peer-to-peer mentoring dynamic. “We’ve found that when you have some young men within the same generation,” says Tyehimba, “and for whatever reason, some found a way to be successful and productive, the others pick up on it.”

At Muhammad’s Mentoring Center, four or five mentors are responsible for a group of 20 and practice a more “in-your-face” approach, which involves information sharing, relationship building, and providing resources.

Jacquinn Scales appreciates the heavy-handed mentoring delivered by Muhammad and his staff. Scales, 23, served four years as a juvenile offender in the California Youth Authority system and successfully completed The Mentoring Center’s Transition Program. Now he is studying journalism at Contra Costa College in San Pueblo, California, and plans to transfer in 2008 to a historically black university such as Morehouse College in Atlanta. “The Mentoring Center program was excellent,” says Scales, “because every day the Youth Authority staff and officers used to make me feel like I was nothing. But here, the Transition Program brings out a lot of my abilities and skills.”

Scales says now he’ll always look at himself in a positive light, especially after beating out students from Stanford, the University of California Berkeley, and Cal State East Bay in a writing competition to win an internship at the Oakland Tribune. His relationships with the program counselors, and Muhammad in particular, have been the