Friday, February 26, 2010

Invisible Boys

Males Who Grow Up Without Their Fathers Suffer A Myriad Of Problems

Countless sources and statistics are all in agreement that boys who grow up without fathers are more likely to suffer serious problems throughout their lives. They also have a higher incidence of drug abuse, spousal abuse and suicide.

According to the National Center Of Educational Statistics, boys are 30% more likely than girls to drop out of school. Boys are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Furthermore, boys make up two-thirds of the students in Special Education.

It is common belief at The Street Angel Project and other quarters that a lot of these issues could be corrected if boys had a loving and caring father in their lives. A positive male image to help them negotiate the journey from boyhood to becoming a man. According to Michael Thompson, Ph. D., boys are more likely to get into trouble than girls in school. This is due to the fact that they are not given enough opportunities to move around, both in actual physical activity and how they learn—because they spend too much time sitting and not enough time learning by doing, making and building things with their hands. Then, when they go home, it’s the TV, or the video game. This keeps them mentally and physically stagnant.

And last but not least, according to PBS.ORG, most elementary school teachers are women, therefore there are few male role models for learning as a masculine pursuit.

An active father, whether or not he lives at home, in most cases is the equalizer to these boyhood issues. As one old-school friend of mine told me: “My father gave me strength and courage to face life’s challenges. He taught me early on that a man has to be responsible for his actions. And that’s what I passed on to my 2 boys when they were coming up.”

Years ago, a father living in the household was the norm, not the exception. He helped his son with homework, took him to baseball games and usually provided an even mixture of guidance and discipline. He was there to help his son through the difficult formative years. His leadership was the personal “rite of passage” that assisted his maturing boy on the difficult journey into manhood.

Derek Phillips of the ‘Real Dads Network’ puts it this way: “Boys need a male role model, whether it’s the father, uncle, or grandfather. They need a male in their lives that is the yang to the mother’s yin. If you think about it, the reason why many boys join gangs is because being around other males gives them that re-enforcement of manhood that they would normally get from their father or male role model.”

Dick Barnett, former New York Knicks guard adds: “My father was my hero; he taught me the usual things about manhood, but one of the most important things I learned from him is to respect women. He didn’t have to actually tell me this, I just learned by watching how he treated my mother, sisters and every female he came into contact with.”

There’s been a lot written lately about how schools are failing young boys. In some circles it is believed that with all the attention over the past decade on the bias and shortchanging of girls, the pendulum has swung to the other side and the reality seems to be that it is now boys who are suffering. Most current statistical studies are now proving this in a wide-ranging area.

We posed the question to Lonny Shockley, head counselor at ‘Friends Of The Island Academy’ about why boys, specifically boys of color, are having such a hard time. “In a word—anger.” he replied. “Young Black boys have anger deep inside them. The anger could be due to the conditions they live in, the failure to get ahead in school, or the way society views them in general.

“This anger consciously or sub-consciously affects everything they do and everyone they come into contact with.

“Here in our program, we’re finding the anger males have is also being played out when they are involved with females in a relationship. One of the things we do in our young men’s group is have them understand this, then try to get to the root causes of why they’re angry and go from there.”

There is no understating the importance of a father or father-image in a boy’s life. There is also no understating all the societal problems boys have if there is no male role model in their lives. A father’s job is not just to create a child. He should also be a nurturer, protector, and teacher.

It’s time for all fathers to stand up and be counted. ^

Monday, February 8, 2010

Todd Brown and the Glaring Insanity Of Our Nation

It's becoming more and more apparent that there is an insidious mental disease gripping our nation. On the weekend that saw America transfixed on the Super Bowl footbal game, the grieving parents of 14 year-old Todd Brown tried to make some sense out of the senslessness of his murder inside a middle school in Alabama. Shot dead while changing classes by another 14 year-old.

As we become more and more obsessed with all things media; from football games to reality shows to sharing crass pictures of ourselves on the social networking sites, more and more children are committing murder right in front of us in real-time. Only we are so clouded and absorbed with the pursuit of all things trivial and care only about self-gratification, that we either don't pay any attention or worse, just don't care. Like someone commented on a blog when a kid got shot once: "As long as it is black kids killing other black kids, who the hell cares".

It seems that we Americans have lost our collective minds. We drool over any of the latest salacious gossip spat out by the network news, but barely raise an eyebrow over the increase in kids incarcerated in our prisons. Instead of setting a good example for our young, impressionable children, we adults, for the most part, act just as childish as they do. We've become obsessed with looking and staying young and cool. Instead of allowing ourselves to age gracefully, we chase the many "fountain of youth" products advertised so we can feel good about who we are. So when we look in the mirror, we only see the things we want to see; not the person, but the mask.

Our children aren't stupid. They see the void in leadership and they see the fewer and fewer mature adult role models out here. And this is probably why they are acting out--because they know that what we are experiencing today in this country is not natural. And our kids are crying out for help in basically the only way they know how--acting out. While adults anesthesize themselves with drugs and porn, our kids are doing the same thing with T.V. and video games. They rarely play outside anymore and this is a big reason why Michelle Obama is spearheading a "Fight Child Obesity" campaign. But where is the national "Fight Youth Violence" campaign? Isn't this just as important as child obesity?

The bottom line is we have failed our young children and are too blinded by the arrogant "culture of me" to even notice it. But all is not lost. More and more I am seeing adults waking from their stupor, realizing what's happening and fighting back. And that gives me hope. For as long as there is hope, there can be change.

Teen shot at Ala. middle school dies; student held

MADISON, Ala. -- A ninth-grader was shot by another student during a class change at a north Alabama middle school Friday has died at a hospital, officials said.Todd Brown, 14, was shot about 1:45 p.m. and taken by ambulance from Discovery Middle School to Huntsville Hospital, where he died, said hospital spokeswoman Kristen Bishop. She wouldn't release any other details. The suspected shooter was arrested inside in the school, where police are regularly stationed. Police did not release the name of the alleged shooter, also a ninth-grader at the school, citing their ongoing investigation. No one else was injured, school officials said. It wasn't immediately clear what prompted the gunfire.

"This was a singular incident," said Dee Fowler, the city school superintendent. He said churches are working with the school system to offer counseling throughout the weekend and counselors will be at the campus Monday They said a 14-year-old suspect taken into custody by a resource officer at Discovery Middle School will be charged with murder. The newspaper said the suspect is being held at the Neaves-Davis Center for Children, the juvenile detention center in Huntsville. Witnesses told the Times the suspect fatally shot Brown during a Friday afternoon class change.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Two Mothers Weep For Their Sons. One is Dead and One is In Prison for Killing Him.

The mothers of Fernando Corea Jr. and Quindel Francis are both in tears. Another sad Bronx tale that you probably won’t see made into a movie.


Quindel Francis, a 21-year-old Bronx man who spent the last five years in jail on charges of murdering a classmate, was convicted of manslaughter on Friday, bringing an end to a legal saga that had stretched through two mistrials.

A Bronx jury cleared Mr. Francis of second-degree murder, the most serious charge, but still held him responsible for the 2005 slaying of Fernando Corea Jr., a high school football star. He faces up to 32 years in jail on both charges. Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 17.

Both Mr. Francis and Mr. Corea were 16 years old when Mr. Corea was shot to death on Feb. 11, 2005.

“It’s your fault!” Mr. Francis’s mother and other supporters shouted at The Corea family as they left the courtroom moments later. “It’s because of you!”

The angry scene capped an emotional afternoon in the Bronx courthouse that left the mothers of Mr. Francis and Mr. Corea weeping on opposite sides of the gallery. Each had family member comforting her, but the sobs threatened to drown out the judge’s words.

Mr. Francis never denied that Mr. Corea was shot with his gun. In an interrogation video recorded the day after the shooting, he claimed that he confronted Mr. Corea in the Throgs Neck neighborhood where they both lived, and Mr. Corea swung a metal rod at him. He said that when he ducked, his gun fell out of his waistband and discharged. He said he picked up the gun, but fumbled it, and it went off several more times.

As the court room cleared, the victim’s parents hugged tightly, and cried on each other’s shoulders. The long-awaited verdict brought tremendous relief, said Evelyn Ortiz, Mr. Corea’s mother.

“They made justice,” she said. “Now my son is free.”

By SAM DOLNICK for The New York Times


Now, another two women join the ever-growing list of mothers with lost sons. The tragedy of our young black and brown boys killing each other over senseless beefs and a warped version of respect.

Our fight to end this senselessness continues.