Mentoring Urban Black Youth and The Struggle to Not be “Gay”
On May 26th I participated in an amazing conversation during the Research Symposium 2016 where the focus was transitioning research into practice. The conference was hosted by the Illinois Mentoring Organization (ILmentoring.org) . Over 200 companies that service diverse communities within the state of Illinois participated. The fellowship of like-minded individuals was a rewarding experience that provided opportunities to brainstorm, share, network and build while at such a phenomenal get-together in Matteson, Illinois. The need to share findings within urban and rural communities dealing with specific demographics is always necessary while being informed of new breakthroughs providing progress within individual, family and community enrichment.
I decided to partake in two panel discussions one of which happened to be “Nurturing Resilience Among Low Income Urban Youth Living in Chicago: Results from a cross age peer mentoring program. The take away of this panel was to highlight the strength of peer mentorship. Amzie Moore, a co-presenter noticed the power behind allocating roles of leadership that empowered the young people while Mirinda Morenery saw the common level of situational understanding that stemmed between the youth.
It’s clear that kids feel as if kids from their neighborhood can relate to some of the issues they face. Also, by assigning older peers to younger peers , an underlying element of guidance was presented in a discreet fashion that some young people are in need of. I saw this as an amazing way to showcase positive role models to younger students while subconsciously showing first hand how the actions of the older mentors could directly affect and effect their mentees.
This panel provided real life situations that took place between students on the south and west side. Since I am familiar with both areas and I’ve designed and provided my individual and group mentoring classes within both areas, I was able to process the data quickly. I’ve found throughout my personal work that young people want to take advantage of all positive opportunities but they respond better when they are shown physical examples of success which is why my Mogul Academy program is necessary.
The second panel discussion was the “Essential Group Processes in Forming Close Peer Mentoring Relationships among Boys of Color featuring Dr. Kevin Pinkston and Dr. Shelby Wyatt. This portion of the symposium hit close to home. While working full-time with my nonprofit, The Jessica LaShawn Foundation, I noticed my ability to get young urban boys to talk to me. It was clear that the removal of masculinity allowed boys to be less aggressive with me since they knew they weren’t subconsciously participating in a masculinity challenge.
Dr. Kevin Pinkston mentioned how the young boys within the program associated showing emotions and verbalizing their feelings was “gay”. One of the most powerful elements of human emotion is the ability to express it. If our young people as a whole are taught by society that doing so is “gay” and or unacceptable -they are forcing boys to miss out on the good part of allowing themselves to develop feelings and live a fulfilling life. It’s a proven fact that those that are unable to vocalize what they want and or need become violent. It’s frustrating not to express yourself. That’s why certain individuals are promoting brotherhood in a way that embraces love, emotion, support, order and communication.
I learned the importance of male to male contact that eliminates all sexual elements is necessary. It is true that boys need men to teach them to be men. They can learn that from their older peers and others that specifically invest in the emotional, physical and spiritual development of our young boys. I remember Israel Idonije saying that he knew early on the power of having a very masculine role model/ figure in his home within his father. It became extremely clear while working with the youth of Chicago, Canada and Africa which is why he’s so passionate about being a mentor.
I’ve seen first hand how young men become mesmerized by older black men that show some type of concern, connection and emotion with them that inspires them. We all do it, we subconsciously study individuals that we feel are similar to us and we learn from them by looking at them and paying close attention to them- it doesn’t matter if it’s for two seconds or twenty years. Mentorship is nothing more than the direct rearing of a less experienced individual by a more experienced individual that’s interchangeable.