Do you remember the posters of Uncle Sam with his outstretched finger pointing straight ahead with a message of recruitment from the United States Army – WE WANT YOU!

The recent killing of George Floyd has rocked our conscience as we saw and participated in peaceful protests and some not so peaceful that included looting of stores and violence. Our cities have been experiencing massive unrest and many community-minded people and local government leaders are working to offer solutions.

Mentoring is an opportunity for African American boys to connect with positive African American male role models who will offer them hope, good values, character development, and a chance for a better life. A 2016 national survey of 1,451 youth mentoring programs serving over 400,000 youth nationwide revealed that most (76%) of their mentees were youth of color. The number of African American boys who could benefit from a mentor is mounting. Here is the challenge. From my experience, it is difficult to recruit African American male role models for these young men. For decades, local mentoring programs have concentrated time, energy, and money to reach out to sports teams, exercise facilities, businesses, and black fraternities to match mentors with mentees. Progress has been slow and disappointing. African American men willing to mentor have not been forthcoming.

These potential mentors do not have to be concerned with the goals of traditional mentoring programs that often concentrate on academic achievement, improved school attendance, or preventing violence. Mentoring programs need to recruit African American men who are willing to spend time with a young black boy, help to promote his positive ethnic/racial identity, and teach him skills to adapt to a toxic environment. Mentors need to teach from their own experiences about healthy behaviors, making good choices, and the importance of never engaging in substance abuse. African American boys need African American male mentors who will show up, listen to them, and help them to lead a good life.

The time is today. WE NEED YOU NOW!

Dr. Susan G. Weinberger