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Reflection: Black Men Mentoring Our Youth

Posted by: Gordon on 6/10/2015

A reflection from our Race and Power Summit Wednesday, June 10 by Pastor Norma Patterson, United Congregations of Metro East & pastor, Good Shepherd Of Faith UCC, East St. Louis

There is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him.

Mark 7: 15-16

The young black males in my community are in a crisis. Society has seemingly no healthy designated place for them. They gather in large groups on the playground because there are basketball goals for them to play basketball or "shoot some hoops."

As a pastor and leader in the community, my heart hurts for them; however, I have no long-term answers. Sometimes when my church gets a grant, we provide a two- or three-week program of tutoring and field trips. However, we recognize that those two or three weeks of interacting with these young black males is a temporary fix for a more serious problem.

American society does not include young black males in its futuristic positive goals. I recently read a book entitled, "Cut Dead But Still Alive" by Gregory C. Ellison II. Although the author describes the condition of young black males in America, he provides no solutions to the problems they face.

I quoted the Scripture from Mark 7th chapter because I cried out to God when I was faced with a challenge I was not equipped to handle.

The Jobs Task Force is comprised of all black men and women who are primarily construction contractors. They hire people from our “One Hundred Ready Workers” list, or they send them to other people or companies where they can get hired, with a recommendation. As a result, so I thought, these men would be perfect for mentoring the young guys from the basketball court this summer. I introduced the idea to them at our Tuesday night meeting.

At first they all thought, yes! As we began to develop a strategic plan, the men had one demand: none of the guys could participate in the summer program if his pants were sagging.

I thought if they came sagging, maybe by the end of the summer they would pull up their pants, or they would know when to sag and when not to sag. I argued that our goal was to try and teach them to read blueprints, put on a roof, repair a porch, caulk a window, or do some landscaping in the community. However, the discussion became so vehemently loud and intense I thought I stepped into a pit of rattlesnakes. I had to shut it down. I went home that night and wept. The Lord gave me Mark the 7th chapter. The religion and rules of the contractors were more important than the young black men on the basketball court who are in crisis.

I read the Old Testament enough to know God loves rules, regulations, and order. On the other hand, when I read the New Testament with the red writing, I see the love of Christ talking to people of faith in a new way. "If any man has ears, let him hear." Mark 7: 16. God's love is reflected in Christ in a different way.

Suggested Readings:

Cut Dead But Still Alive, Gregory C. Ellison II
Black Boy, Richard Wright
The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison,
The Open Bible, KJV
Ending Racism in the Church, Susan E. Davies, Sister Paul Teresa Hennessee

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