by Garrett “Gee” James, Guest Blogger
Some years ago, my family was spring cleaning and in the corner of the attic was an old basketball. It was junk so my mom picked it up and threw it in the trash pile. In the attic, it was nothing more than junk. In the hands of the wrong person, it was trash… but in the hands of the right person, great things could happen! Today, I liken young lives to that basketball. With no guidance, some will undoubtedly end up on the wrong track. In the wrong hands, others may become nothing more than a statistic… but in the right hands, under the guidance of a caring adult, greatness is bound to happen!
I am extremely passionate about the mentoring of young black boys by black men. In the two years of my recruitment of men to mentor, I have recruited five. None of the mentors have been black men. I wasn’t surprised because I have always seen black men outnumbered in service-oriented work. But I’ve made it my mission to change this!
January was National Mentoring month but it’s never too late to establish or re-evaluate your commitment to mentoring the lives of young people. That being said, here are three reasons that I think black men should be active (or get active) in mentoring:
1. Paying it forward is rewarding!
Think back to the first time a black man told you they were proud of you; how old were you? Me? Well I was 25. That’s 2 decades too long!- and it’s an unfortunate reality for far too many black boys. The relationship I shared with my mentor inspired me do greater things including, encouraging others. Mentoring is the perfect opportunity to use the knowledge you’ve received over the years and share the lessons you’ve learned.
Let’s face it – success is a measure of vision and standards. Unfortunately, many of our youth can’t see much. My heart shattered years ago when a young mentee said his life’s goal was to have an apartment and work the register at Target. Now being a cashier and having an apartment is fine, but neither should be a boy’s life aspiration. So we changed his vision – exposed him to the possibility of attending college and even owning a department store. We showed him he could own homes and the many other careers to explore. Re-defining vision and standards is very challenging and at times a slow course, but the process can’t begin until you show up and get committed.
3. It’s what GREAT men do
I think what makes men great is not a few accomplishments, but rather the culmination of their life’s work. Think about the great men in your life and those you’ve heard of; Jesus mentored 12 disciples, Dr. Benjamin Mays mentored MLK Jr., and even Prince Hakeem mentored Semi. Great men build legacies and teach others to build their own legacies. Our young boys need you to walk in your greatness. When I talk to black men who are down, I ask them what they have been giving. It may seem like a strange question but I believe that it is through the giving of ourselves; our talents, our time, & our resources, that we are fulfilled and live abundantly.
Black man, today’s a perfect day to further your legacy by connecting yourself to a young boy and helping him build his. I challenge you to give more than you were given. This will be easy for some and very difficult for others, but in all situations it’s possible and you and your mentee will be better for it!
In the DC area? Check out DC Cares and allow them to help you find a mentoring program that fits you!
Garrett “Gee” James is a freelance writer and photographer in the DMV area. He created Capital Media USA in 2011 with the mission of changing lives through storytelling and community awareness. He mentors and believes all black men should, with no exceptions.