Changing the Cycle
By Todd A. Smith
Sheron grew up in a rough environment. He never had a father figure in his life and his mother rejected him also.
He found love from gang members and eventually became a gang leader.
Like many Black males in America, Sheron soon became a statistic. He spent five years in the penitentiary system and when he got out of incarceration, the job prospects for a felon like him did not exist. Had he experienced life with a positive and strong Black male presence, his life may have turned out differently.
Unfortunately, many Black males in America do not see a daily reminder of what a strong and educated Black man can accomplish in this world. Furthermore, many do not see a husband and wife working side by side to give future generations of their family a piece of the American dream.
Yvette Caslin of Rolling Out recently reported that young Black males in America are three times more likely to face incarceration as their non-Black counterparts.
She emphasized that the way to combat this alarming statistic is for more “brothers” to volunteer their time and energy and become positive role models in the lives of Black males who may not have a daily visual of what a strong and successful Black man really looks like.
Unfortunately, the need for Black male mentors is up, but the actual number of Black male role models is down for organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.
According to her report in the Atlanta area alone, 455 children were on the waiting list to be partnered with a “big brother” and 95 percent of those were young males in metro Atlanta.
In Matthew 9:37, Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
Many young Black males in America represent a bountiful harvest if they are cultivated and cared for, but far too many times we run short on laborers who dedicate their time to harvest the crop until it is ripe.
However, one such laborer is Sabin Rich of Sicklerville, N.J., a man dedicated to providing a positive male influence to young men who do not have a father at home.
“That mother can’t teach him how to box…When he gets a little bit older, he’s gotta learn how to work on cars. Mom can’t teach him how to play football, basketball, baseball,” said Rich. “A single woman raising a child by herself (is) handicapping that son to a great degree.”
One such woman is a New Jersey grandmother who desperately wanted a strong Black male role model in her grandson’s life. She reached out to Regal Magazine and we knew we wanted to help out but we did not know how.
Although we have writers across the country, Regal is headquartered in Houston, with very few personal contacts on the East Coast. The email was forwarded to my attention, and I reached out to journalist Krystle Rich from NFL.com whose father has a history of reaching out to others and making a difference in their lives.
Ironically, her hometown of Sicklerville is very close to the grandmother’s hometown of Pine Hill, N.J. Even more ironic is the fact that both families once attended the same church, and the grandmother once participated in the singles ministry headed by Rich.
Any journalist can attest that they can become inundated with emails on a daily basis. Many would fall into the category of spam and are discarded, but this grandmother reminded me of so many strong Black women that I spent time around as I was growing up. They have brought their sons or grandsons as far as possible, but desperately want a successful Black man to take them the rest of the way.
By responding to that email and reaching out to a friend, we all may have contributed to the development of the second Black president or the first man of any color to visit Mars.
Unfortunately, very few successful Black males in America answer that email or that telephone call.
For many of us, success is singular and not plural like it was for previous generations of African Americans.
“Everybody now is self-centered,” said Rich. “People don’t even know each other. Neighbors don’t even know each other.”
We need more of our best and brightest to reach back and pull up another young brother or sister who has not yet escaped the vicious cycle of incarceration and under-education.
Black males in America need to begin measuring their success, by not just what kind of car they drive, but if future generations of Black men can afford those same cars or afford a more luxurious car.
In Acts 4:32 Luke stated, “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.”
Too many of us are wasting our talents and our success on ourselves and not using it to benefit others. Young Black males in America need to see that there is a way to achieve their material wishes without resorting to criminal behavior to achieve it.
Rich is one of those Black males that was able to achieve their material wishes, but he can also relate to temptations from the street and understands how many can be seduced by the appeal of the streets.
Growing up in West Philadelphia in the 1950s and 1960s, Rich knows what it is like to grow up without a father figure in his life. He knows what it feels like to be the victim of gang warfare, a stab wound in his back is proof of that past.
However, Rich also knows what it is like to have a male figure come into his life and care so much about him that they would not rest until he turned his life around.
Rich found that guidance in his pastor, and Rich returned the favor by becoming a guiding light in so many young men’s lives, including Sheron.
Sheron could have very easily remained a victim of the system but because of Rich, that system does not bind him anymore. He was able to break that vicious negative cycle which plagues many Black males in America.
When Rich found out about his involvement with gangs he prayed for Sheron’s employment crisis and told him that Jesus Christ had a better life for him. A few days later he received a call informing him of Sheron’s decision to return to school to become an electrician.
Upon graduation, Sheron discovered that his aunt had a new husband who owned his own construction company. His new uncle needed an electrician. Sheron has worked as an electrician ever since.
Imagine where Sheron would be without the man he calls “Pops.” Sheron did not have his biological father in his life, but he now has a father figure.
Many young Black males in America need a role model to call “Pops.” Will you answer their call?
Smith is publisher of Regal Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.