“We need more African-American men, for example, to step forward and serve as mentors to young kids who don’t have a responsible, caring adult male in their lives.”
Colin Powell, 2009 Interview with Don Lemon from CNN.
The need for mentors in the African-American community is great, and the need is not being met. Colin Powell reminded us of that simple truth during his interview with CNN’s Don Lemon in 2009, acknowledging the need for Black males to step up and be role models for the young black men in their communities; discovering ways to uncover and create opportunities for self exploration and improvement.
This has not been exemplified more than in inner city neighborhoods throughout the United States. Dream Chaser Mentoring in Cincinnati, Ohio has taken on the charge head on. Dream Chaser Mentoring is seeking to provide youth mentoring in Cincinnati’s inner city. Professional training will be provided for youth during the summer months when youth are out of school. Dream Chaser Mentoring hopes to provide mentoring, financial training, and fitness education to Cincinnati youth in a safe environment. The goal is to provide mentoring to 25 to 50 youth ages 8-18 per year and facilitate overall fitness and health.
Multiple factors combine to paint the picture of Cincinnati’s young African-American men, including the connection between poverty, education, and race, as well as the status of employment. These issues, in turn, affect a range of areas critical to the makeup the city’s Black male population, such as homelessness, and a lack of health insurance. In looking at the city’s county population, poverty rates have risen steadily in recent years, and went from 18.3% in 2012 to 19.8% in Oct 2013. Black/African Americans are living in poverty at a rate of 34.5% compared with 11.8% for White residents in the county. 15.9% of the population is living under the federal poverty guideline, represented by 7% White and 7% Black/African American. This is an increase of 1.9% since 2010 and an overall increase of 4.1% from 2000 for Hamilton County, the Ohio county in which Cincinnati is located.
The good news is that in Cincinnati, young men of color are showing us what is possible when we provide them with the support needed to be successful. Cincinnati’s chapter of 100 Black Men of America, The Greater Cincinnati Urban League and the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency are all leading the charge by providing young men of color with rich opportunities to reach their potential and access their talent. The programs which they offer include YouthBuild, and BluePrint for Success as well as programs to enhance health and wellness, economic development and education, have a wide range of goals. But they share one similarity: an emphasis on mentoring – a key component.
According to K.A. Simpson, an African-American small business owner of BookMark Online ( www.bkmkonline.com ) located in Cincinnati, “Mentoring can be an important catalyst to ensuring successful development of young Black men into a generation of men who will be contributing members of our community and our society as a whole.”