I have just come from an awesome basketball camp sponsored by YOUNGLIFE. We had a great time of supporting and cheering on some terrific young men while we were there. My organization ThatSuitsYOU and Dr. Alex Ellis Tiedtogreatness were guest presenters. We donated over 150 ties and suits to these young men, which was a trememdous sight to see. We also encouraged them during thier tournament all the way to the championship. I figured this would be the highlight of the week and my job was done, boy was I wrong.
Each night Young Life conducted a initimate smaller group chat with the young men. I was not ready for this. After seeing the guys eat, play basketball, try on ties, etc for most of the day I assumed they were during fairly well in everyday life. I was mistaken. Our young men are in pain, they are hurting. Secretly hiding pain everyday that no 14-21 should have to hide. They are facing issues like
- Living without a father in the home.
CNN recently reported that 68% of black households have 1 parent. Coming from a 2 parent household and being a parent now in a household I know how challenging it is personally to raise children with both parents. So being a sinlgle parent can be even more so. I am in no way am down playing single moms but I know the benefits that a father brings to the relationship of a young man. These young men have developed a strong resentment and hate for their absent fathers. They said they felt unloved, and abandoned. Without their fathers being there, they are being looked at now to HANDLE the hole that their dad has left. So teenagers are asked to play the role of teenager/father in the household.
- Lack of love/appreciate
They expressed a lack of love because they believe in alot of cases their mother treats them harsh because of the disrespect she felt from their dad. Being that he is not present they recieve the brunt of her anger. That misguided anger towards them is also displayed in front of their siblings which adds to their frustration. Also, because it is a single parent home their mother may have to work longer hours to pay all the bills for them to survive, which means less time, less communication, less interaction with the one parent that they have. Again, not to point the finger at her as she is trying to do everything that she can, but they see it as another form of neglect.
- No one to talk to
Just the 2 issues we addressed so far can be stressful and now they feel as though they have no one to discuss these issues with. Their father is either in prison, dead or wants nothing to do with them. Their mother is working extended hours and has so many other responsibilities. They feel they can’t discuss these things with their friends because it will make them look weak, soft or vulnerble. And NO black male can have either of those characteristics because that is a definite death wish in their community. So they basically suck it up and keep everything bottled in until something triggers an explosion.
This explains the anger we see in alot of our youth. This explain the solitude, the rebellion and misunderstandings. All children want is to be heard, to be appreciated, to be loved and supported. I believe alot of times we don’t give our young men a solid chance. They face these issues addressed here and much more. I didn’t even mention gangs, drugs, racism, unfair education, stereotypes, etc. We mix all these things together into a young man, shake it up, let it sit, give him a diploma or GED and say go be a success in life, make me proud!!!
In conclusion there is big money in the prison system. 74 BILLION dollars worth. Any smart and savvy businessman that is in a business that deals with that much money will do whatever it takes to keep that going and to increase it consistently. That is only smart business. Knowing this, we have to be proactive in our thinking to not to expect our help for this growing issue of mass incarceration to come from outside sources. We have to be creative and tenacious to build programs, nonprofits, businesses to address and curb this problem. Their very lives are at stake. To see these young men share and cry and share and console one another was life changing. While TSY provided suits and motivational information and TTG did the same, it was the relationship building that truly made an impact.
Fathers, our young men need us bad!!!
After reading this call your sons, hug them, listen to them, they NEED US!!!
See more videos and photos from this awesome event on our social media pages