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Becoming the ‘Man of the House’ 2011

  • Written by Tony Nichelson
The need for empowerment of single mothers, the crisis of youth crime and violence, and failed educational mandates are all serious issues that have contributed greatly to the dysfunction in so many homes.
 Tony Nichelson

I’ve written extensively about the need for our young men to seek a more responsible path, inclusive of spiritual and literary growth. The people who really know me, know that I view the issues of urban male youth development, and domestic violence prevention as a large part of the drama existing in the homes of single moms who are raising young sons. These issues – in the mind of this writer – are inextricably tied together.

The need for empowerment of single mothers, the crisis of youth crime and violence, and failed educational mandates are all serious issues that have contributed greatly to the dysfunction in so many homes. “How can we help?” The answer always comes back to the early preparation and training of young men.

When designing programs, planning a curriculum, or even before we throw a chair through a window during a domestic dispute, we would often arrive at a completely different set of decisions on matters of economics, education and emotions if we first asked this question: “How will this action affect the children involved?”

Women might think two or three times before bringing strange men home so early in their new relationships; city councils, perhaps, wouldn’t cut millions from city schools based solely on their petty personal and childish egos; protective orders would be strictly enforced to prevent the in-home violence that children see before they leave for school each day; and parents might just show up for teacher conferences, not just when there was a report of a campus shooting.

We have to start to ask the tough questions about why our children – especially young urban males – act, think and behave the way they do. It is then that we will surely settle on the usual suspects, including the lack of parental involvement, the epidemic of fatherless homes, gang recruitment, illiteracy, and just plain laziness on the part of our young men.  

That is exactly what the Third Annual “Man of the House” Mentoring Event is all about; seeking answers to the early preparation and training of male students, and connecting real men in this community to 110 boys who are being raised in single-parent homes. The 2011 version of the event focuses, as always, on the participant’s exposure to a higher level of personal commitment, starting the process of becoming the “man of the house.” This is necessary, because often a male child of 12 or 14 years is the oldest male in the home, and his “life-task” must be the acquisition of the courage, skill and intellect to truly assist his single parent in negotiating a very complex modern society.

All boys reach a point in life when they must decide to remain delinquent, or adopt a more serious and sober approach to taking care of their home and family. They have to learn the reasons why they need to take out the trash, and check the doors at night, and bring in the groceries, and baby-sit a younger sibling, and even simply stay out of trouble, because Mom cannot afford an attorney for unnecessary criminal matters.

These issues are critical to the early survival and development of young urban students – especially males – as they grow into adulthood, and must assume greater responsibility every day. How dare we not focus like a laser on their early exposure to discipline, responsibility and support of their single mothers?  How dare we, as a society, not recognize the generational decline, and the modern distractions that cause young men to become gang members instead of college students?  And how dare we not ask the tough questions about how many “free speech rights” we afford our minor children when they say they want to get neck tattoos, or wear sagging pants, or slap their girlfriends because it’s “just their business.”

We should always ask first, how will a particular city cutback affect the children in our community, such as when some disconnected politician suggested closing community centers on Saturdays to save money. Who asked the tough questions in 2008 about not cutting millions from the school budget when these children need books and buses and baseball gloves? Why have so many adults – especially local politicians – simply walked away from the discussions about civics, geography and social studies being all but wiped out of middle School and high School curriculums, while 80 percent of our children can’t find Kansas or Kentucky on an unmarked Atlas or map?  

What are we thinking when we allow children to “sex and text” while we continue to buy them new phones with unlimited apps?  

The 2011 “Man of the House” Mentoring Event on Father’s Day weekend at the National Civil Rights Museum addresses these and other major concerns by introducing 110 boys to 100 local mentors, and a full day of thinking about Proverbs and Confucius and geography and civil rights history and better behaviors, and their responsibility to help their mothers and their families by stepping up and doing their duty.

We should ask first, as selfless adults, whether we are doing our best to educate and protect the fragile destinies of nearly four million young urban males, who simply must be made aware of the “110 Tasks Every Young Man Should Know How to Do… Before Ninth Grade.”

We should always ask first whether we should cut another training program or close another community center when that action may save a child’s life by keeping it open, or cast them into the hands of waiting gang members by closing it down.  The 110 Institute, and its Third Annual “Man of the House” Mentoring Event, are designed to ask these tough questions, and to challenge those who would keep the boys from learning new community-based skills, and from fully reaching their early potential as real contributors to the quality of life in their homes and in this community.

Will our actions help them, or hurt them? The answer to that question is the true measure of our city… and of our society.

NOTE: The “Man of the House” Mentoring Event is Saturday, June 18 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the National Civil Rights Museum.  Registration for the 110 male participants is May 14 at Oak Court Mall during the monthly “Taffi-2-K HealthWalk” for Domestic Violence Survivors.

This is one in a series of monthly guest columns designed to focus the community’s attention on issues that affect our children. The column is part of a Shelby County initiative to remind everyone, in every aspect of daily life, to Ask First: Is It Good for the Children?” For more information, call the Shelby County Office of Early Childhood and Youth at 385-4228 or visit www.shelbycountychildren.org.

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