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Boys in the summertime What could go right?

  • Written by Tony Nichelson
So, what could go wrong for urban boys in the summertime?  A lot… What could go right? Almost as much.
 Tony Nichelson

The original title of this commentary was to be “Boys in the summertime: what could go wrong?” I thought of the many negative summertime issues that could affect young urban males, including unemployment, crime, mischief, tragedy, and even getting an unsuspecting young female pregnant. We witnessed a young man on the very first day out of school, being run-down by a couple of idiots drag racing on a city street…without headlights. We saw just last week a young man nearly drown in a creek, before his friend saved his life. And we certainly have seen enough of the petty crimes, purse snatchings and general mayhem from so many idle minds among our boys.

Rather than dwell on the predictable summertime mischief of boys, a friend reminded suggested I flip the script after reminding of the highly successful “Man of the House” Mentoring Event, held on Father’s Day weekend, when 110 men and boys came together at the National Civil Rights Museum, for a day of fellowship and instruction. The event garnered some great coverage from Ms. Stephanie Skurlock of News Channel 3, and was reported as a really positive activity for the boys, most being raised in single-parent homes by their moms.

Some other useful initiatives have taken place this summer, including the Memphis City Schools’ “Watch D.O.G.S.” recruitment of fathers to support the upcoming school year; the Girls, Inc. Summer Session; the Division of Parks & Recreation Summer Camps; and a major health summit for men and boys, sponsored by the Church Health Center, along with U.T.  I even notice an occasional Vacation Bible School site.

The “Man of the House” Mentoring Event featured a guided tour of the National Civil Rights Museum, breakfast, lunch, exposure to the list of the highly regarded “110 Tasks Every Young Man Should Know How to Do… Before Ninth Grade,” fellowship with real men such as the No. 1 Stunna’s MotorSports organization, and some hard lessons about what men should really be about.  The organizers announced new Quarterly “Man of the House” Mentoring Symposiums beginning this fall at selected middle and high Schools.  

So, what could go wrong for urban boys in the summertime?  A lot… What could go right? Almost as much.

When we think about how we can truly help our boys become better men, we have to start with improving the skills they already possess, and then add as much as we can, or as much as they can take.  Every mentoring program, every summer camp, every basketball clinic, and every faith-based initiative MUST address the fundamental core of skills that are necessary for young urban males to be more successful in school, in their community, in business, and ultimately, in life.  

What are we waiting for to realistically introduce young boys to the basic skills and tasks that are necessary to apply for a job, and to groom themselves correctly, so that they will have a real shot at part-time employment? Why is it taking us so long to agree on a philosophical approach to their basic literacy, and the protocols that must be adopted for such a transition to take place?  

How crazy do we have to be to allow these boys to wear “afro-puffs,” flip-flops, and neck tattoos when they are seeking new employment or educational opportunities? What’s wrong with us, as parents, when we know our boys can’t speak well, can’t spell the word “faith,” and have never given a firm handshake in their lives?  Are we waiting until they turn thirty-five years old, and are completely unskilled, uncouth, unrefined, and prone to the most petty behaviors, including petty crimes?

Right now is a great time to emphasize “awareness,” and “faith”… literacy and good manners…and a host of other positive choices for our boys. Now would be a perfect time to have your sons spend just one hour a week on thoughtful reflection, while reading the list of “110 Tasks,” or a chapter of “Proverbs” from the Bible.  

There could be no better time to make some good things happen for our young men, than right now… why not?  A lot could go wrong for boys in the summertime, but a lot could also go right: No pregnancies, greater civic awareness, improved reading skills, part-time employment at churches and neighborhood businesses, better grooming and hygiene habits, and greater spiritual faith are all possible, but only if we make it a reality for them.  

Have you done your best for the young men in your “circle of influence?” The 110 Institute offered the “Man of the House” Mentoring Event as a start, with much more to come. All of us united, offering legitimate skills training and spiritual awareness – consistently – can make a lot of good things happen for the hapless boys of Memphis in the summer of 2011…Let’s try it and see.

(Anthony Nichelson is Public Affairs director for the Citadel Radio Group and founder of the 110 Institute.)

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