“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglas
The statistics and data around Black boys/men is and has been alarming for decades. As African Americans in the post-Civil Rights era began to abandon our own institutions arguably nobody has suffered as a result more than Black boys. In almost every category of substance Black boys/men trail and trail significantly against the overall society and within our own community. The consequences of this is seen in the struggles of our communities, institutions, and families. Where are the Black men is a question that is asked so often in spaces that in many ways it has become redundant. Unfortunately, the answer is they were lost as Black boys never to be seen from again in many ways. To become substantive members of our community, families, and institutions requires education, training, mentorship, and so much more. The reality on the ground is that there is very little in the way of organizations or resources that provides enough of that. While Black women have taken upon themselves to create, support, and fund initiatives that support the development and growth of Black girls, Black men have not done the same for Black boys. Conversations between Black men about how they can help Black boys tends to seemingly 99 percent revolve around sports as an answer. Black boys and sports has become a catch all for all things that ail Black boys and yet the outcomes suggest that is a failed investment. The question now is what going forward can Black men do to holistically develop and improve the outcomes of Black boys. Take responsibility and accountability for them. The time for deflecting blame is a broken record in many instances and while there are external forces at work constantly against African American men and our boys, we would be remiss not to as men deal with the protection and providing for them within our control.
- Pre-K-5 Investment Is Imperative. African American boys get lost and they get lost early. The majority of any investment made into African American boys needs to be made in early childhood development. This is where boys develop cultural identity, mental health fundamentals, educational confidence, and more. Any conversations that we have about Black boys needs to be heavily weighted on reaching them as early as possible and as often as possible. The foundation of anything being built will always be the most important part of that structure.
- Donating To African American Organizations That Specifically Support Black Boys. The easiest thing any of us can do is make sure the organizations that are trying to help our boys have the resources they need to not only fulfill their mission, but to excel at their mission and to exceed their missions expectations. For African American organizations who receive less than 2 percent of all national funding into NPOs, this is a mountainous hurdle. African American men can simply make sure they are active donors if they can afford to be and anything is better than nothing as the old saying goes. African American men can do this individually, but the stronger pathway would be as a collective. Two friends or twenty friends of African American men giving together is powerful for accountability towards giving, conversations about giving, strategic pathways to giving, and of course more capital towards giving.
- Create More Organizations That Support Black Boys. Simply put, there just are not many African American organizations that are targeted towards developing Black boys. Arguably, that is because African American men have not created them. This is where inevitably Black boys get funneled into sports and nothing else. Largely because that is what is available. Organizations that solely focus on and encourage Black boys to develop themselves educationally, mentally, artistically, and more are largely absent and in need of existence on the nonprofit landscape. African American men have to take the responsibility of identifying, cultivating, and developing areas where Black boys need development and creating organizations around them. To be clear, we are not talking about organizations where it is boys of color or side initiatives, but actual organizations being created where Black boys are the focus, period.
- Subsidizing Black Boys Supplemental Education. Black boys throughout K-12 do not get nearly enough supplemental education. The basic nature of supplemental education is everything that happens outside of a child’s classroom that makes them stronger in the classroom at its essence. Providing Black boys and their families assistance with tutoring costs, trips to museums, art galleries, academic camps, therapy, etc.
- Give Your TIME and Be PRESENT. This is free. For whatever reason, African American men are plain and simply absent in activities for Black boys beyond sports. From Boy Scouts, tutors, mentors, and civic engagement in general, African American men are just missing for reasons that are frustratingly hard to understand.
What are we up against? Here are just a few reasons African American men need to be at the forefront of the needs of African American boys.
- The 2019 National Assessment of Education Progress data also highlighted that only 6% of 12th-grade Black males were reading at the proficient level and only 1% were reading at the advanced level.
- In 2021, 76% of Black boys finished high school compared to 93% of Asian boys.
- According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 36% of Black male students completed a bachelor’s degree within six years (52% of Latino male students completed theirs within the same time. White males graduated at a rate of 63% in six years.)
- U.S. Census reports African American boys 17 and under comprise over 40% of the African American males in poverty.
- Of the 12.3 million African American men over the age of 25, almost 50% have only a high school diploma or less according to the U.S. Census.
There is a war going on against African American boys and African American men are leaving them to fight for themselves. Our boys are more than their physicality. They are thinkers, they are astronauts, teachers, gardeners, and so much more, but like a flower they too must be nourished and care for by us. African American men can not leave African American boys to experience the gauntlet of life too many of us have already lived.