Black Boys in Crisis: It Takes a Village
In this series, appropriately titled “Black Boys in Crisis,” I highlight the problems facing black boys in education today, as well as provide clear steps that will lead us out of the crisis.
When they are functioning optimally, communities can be extremely powerful forces in nurturing children. They provide safe, friendly spaces, where a child feels welcomed and loved; where he can play without fear and stretch his wings without hindrance. Far too often, communities, where black boys live, are dangerous, uninviting places. A child growing up in a place where gunshots are common, and there is no green space where he can run around will close in on himself or join the violence.
Community centers can be a wonderful way to counteract those grim spaces. Centers that provide safe, secure afterschool programs can help keep unruly children off the streets. They provide places for kids to play sports or skateboard without fear. They can give them incentives to do their homework. Some programs even provide children with the nourishment they are not receiving at home. Time and again in this book, we saw that strong, regimented programs are helpful for children who have a chaotic home life. Community centers can help provide those programs: they can offer stability and structure and safety. A key function of community centers can be to simply offer a gathering place where important people can come together.
Among those influential people should be mentors. I know from personal experience that simply encountering a strong, successful black man, like the doctor who came to my elementary school class, can have a life-changing effect on a black boy. If you are a successful black man in your community, please consider signing up to be a mentor. Simply typing “mentoring” together with your town or community in a search engine should bring up a list of organizations. Your local public school may also be able to connect you with a child. I can assure you that you won’t be the only one changed by this experience. Mentoring is rewarding for both the mentor and the mentee.
Finally, if you are a wealthy businessperson, or simply have a little extra and want to help out, consider donating to a community center or mentorship program. No amount is too small, and the benefits are profound.
Can you think of any additional ways that individual communities can help end the black boy crisis?