Our Young Men Need Strong Mentors, by Vincent Brown

I see a lack of mentorship for our kids today, especially for our young men. I’m particularly looking at the African-American community and at our children in poverty. When I worked on conflict resolution at Priestley High School, there were many Teach For America teachers who were well intentioned but didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. We don’t have bad kids, but some of them have real traumatic issues. Lots of their teachers were able to teach, but not able to connect. I wasn’t a teacher but would try to instill things that were not in the school curriculum.

At the same time, the jails are bursting at the seams. Even when driving along the highway, on one side you can see OPP and on the other Xavier University, and you know there are a whole lot more black males in the prison than in the college. In prison everything flip-flops: what’s wrong is right and what’s right is wrong. Once a man gets that mentality, it’s hard for him to live on the outside. A lot of our children have family members who are in the jailhouse, and they’re learning from them, emulating them.

It can be hard to tell a kid not to go out hustling when you’re in a ragged truck or have tattered shoes. It’s hard to break the slave mentality that I still see in our community. Now we have all these lions in cages. Our young men want to volunteer their lives to the prison system. Jail is nothing to them. They’re in and out; it’s just part of life. But they lose part of their life. The easy route is the quick hustle. But it is the quick hustle that is killing us. I want to start a program that connects the child with the right mentor. Our young men are often surrounded by college graduates who they

can’t relate to, or guys who got stuck in distorted prison mentalities. I want these kids to learn the value of hard work. These mentors may not have
gone to college, but they work hard each day at the construction site, or as electricians, mechanics, maintenance workers. Our education focus is
so geared to college that we forget to teach kids a trade. These mentors may not look clean cut, but they want to make a positive change in our
community. They can share stories of their own hardships. I have a 9-year-old son – called Little Vince – and I’m expecting a twin boy and girl in early September. I want them to grow up in a village, a positive village. We have great culture, great sound, great reason. The way
we love each other down here is different from anywhere else in the world. But there’s a terrible rage in our young people. Our communities are
linked. We’re all a family. If we put good into our young people, we will get good out.