Monday, April 23, 2012

Black Men & Boys Series: The Insider, David McGhee on Mentoring and Raising Black Boys

Meet our first Insider for our black men and boys series: David McGhee, an award winning change agent, public speaker and advocate for black male achievement. As program director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Flint 100 Men 100 Boys Program in Michigan, David works with male mentors to mentor 100 unmatched boys, annually. This role has also allowed him to produce the agency’s first hardcover children’s book, 100 Men 100 Boys – A Mentoring Program, which focuses on the positive impact mentoring has in the lives of boys.

A native of Flint, Michigan, David graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration & Public Policy from Oakland University, and earned a Master of Science degree in Administration from Central Michigan University. Upon graduation from Oakland University, he accepted an internship with Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. Following his internship, David returned to Flint to work with and for at-risk youth.

In recent years, David has received many accolades for his dedication to improving the lives of others, that includes an honor by the Mayor of Flint in 2011 with “David McGhee Day.” He is also a sought after public speaker, frequently called upon to facilitate discussions and present on leading-edge education, nonprofit, leadership, and youth issues by groups that have included the University of Michigan – Flint, TEDxFlint, the National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community, and other organizations, churches, and universities across the State of Michigan and throughout the country. David’s civic involvement includes serving on the Board of Trustees for the Flint Public Library, serving as a Big Brother, and a 2011 graduate of the National Urban League Emerging Leaders Program. Most recently, David has been active in strategic planning work with the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

Read on to learn how his program is addressing the challenge of recruiting black men to serve as mentors, his personal experience as a mentor, and advice for those raising black boys.

Many mentoring programs are facing the challenge of recruiting black men to serve as mentors to black boys. Are you experiencing this challenge, and if so, how are you addressing it?

The recruitment of black males to serve as mentors continues to be an unfortunate reality. We face this concern here in Flint, as do mentor counterparts throughout the country. To ensure that the black male has the opportunity to excel educationally, economically, and socially, we must break the consternation that has been created. Mentoring can no longer be looked at as something nice. It is necessary! This can no longer be looked at as work, but more so a calling. This is a spiritual and moral calling for black men to be intentional about improving life outcomes for young black boys. As mentors, and mentoring organizations, we have to deliver this message to black males – strategically and consistently. Becoming a Big Brother isn’t something that men do off of impulse. To address this issue, I would offer the following:

Peer to Peer Recruitment: Utilize current mentors to recruit their peers. As mentors themselves, they can give a first-hand account to how rewarding it is.

Group Mentoring: Using a 4:1 ratio, group mentoring has many benefits. Group mentoring allows programs to utilize a small pool of male volunteers. It also attracts men who by nature of external circumstances aren’t likely to commit to a one-to-one mentor relationship.

Big For-A-Day”: This works great! Here in Flint we have used this approach for years. Asking a man to serve as a “Big For-A-Day” is a great way to introduce him to the mentoring experience. Pick an outing that guys like (basketball game, auto show, etc.) and ask them to serve as a mentor for a day, and work with a child during the activity. After this, make the ask!

Recruiting men takes strategy. You have to know who you want to recruit, where they are, when you can reach them, and who is best to do the ask. In many cases, the messenger (recruiter) is just as important as the message. Also, keep in mind that many men don’t make this type of commitment overnight. It may various forms of cultivation – so allow yourself time for this.

Lastly, though this may appear lighthearted, tell men this: “We need you!”

As a Big Brother for six years, what has your mentoring experience been like?

Rewarding! Every time I see my Little Brother, or even talk to him, I am amazed by his ingenuity. My Little Brother currently lives with his grandmother and two sisters. At 11 years old, he is the man of the house, and it pleases my heart to be able to walk with him through his adolescent years. What I enjoy most about it is the fact that I don’t have to “find time” to mentor or hang out with him. I just include him in my regular activities. Whether I’m going to the barbershop, grocery shopping, church, or a community event, I can take him along with me. This not only allows me space to mentor, it also lets him see a man, being a man.

I plan to be right by his side as he graduates from high school and prepares for college, and become the man that God is calling him to be. Being a Big Brother is allowing me to send a message to a future that I will never see. I pray the fruits of my labor will manifest in him, and I am laying the groundwork for him to pour into a Little Brother of his own one day.

Please share more about your book, 100 Men 100 Boys - A Mentoring Program.

Working with young people provides you with so many teachable moments. For over six years I have had the pleasure of directing the group mentoring program 100 Men 100 Boys, and it has been a joy. In my current role, I have been blessed with an opportunity to expose hundreds of boys to a wealth of new and life-changing experiences.

The hardcover children’s book, 100 Men 100 Boys – A Mentoring Program, is the first of its kind, in that it is an adventure book that chronicles the mentoring experience of the young boys who have been in the program. The special jewels in this book are the young men. It is a real pictorial of the program participants and the mentoring experience shared by them and their mentors.

I wanted to bring this book to life, so that years from now the young boys can look back and have a tangible piece of literature that represents them.

What advice do you have for anyone working with and/or raising black boys?

Before offering advice, allow me to say God bless you and thank you to all who are working with and/or raising black boys. In the way of advice, so much can be said, but I would like to offer just three things:

  1. Love them anyway. Yes they make mistakes, no they aren’t perfect, and yes their pants may sag, but they still need love. When we don’t love them, we indirectly torment them – not mentor them.
  2. Be consistent. High rates of fatherlessness and broken social systems provide enough let downs for black boys. These youth need consistency in their lives. They can easily tell if someone is “for them” or not.
  3. Give them access. Black boys are resilient, creative, and resourceful. What separates them from their counterparts, however, is access. Given adequate access to education and enrichment opportunities, the black male can exceed statistics and expectations.
Anything else you'd like to share?

The black male in America has been the elephant in the room for quite some time, but there are many local and national efforts underway to eradicate this. Local efforts such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Flint’s 100 Men 100 Boys Program, and national efforts such as the Open Society Foundation’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement, work diligently to support this population.

Access to positive role models, on a consistent basis, makes a difference. If more positive black males would serve as mentors, the outcome can be beneficial to not only the young black male, but to society as a whole.

Visit David's blog, McGhee's Manifesto, where he offers reflections on life and leadership and follow him on Twitter at @DavidRMcGhee.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just love David. His passion, his choice, and his dedication to his city. Our city. Though I no longer live in Flint, I care passionately about the City. I am always following David's exploits. I grew up with him. Played on that very Indian squad with him from 99' to 01', and can truly say, the David you get an impression for from articles on him, and his messages is very real. Mentoring is the key. I remember the old saying, "it takes a village," and that has never been more evident than now. Not only in Flint, but across our nation. Join David, no matter the organization, to infect growth in our young men and women. No matter how you look at it, our children/adolescents will one day, be adults. The question is how do we want to steer them. Mentoring for me has been a challenge, but also rewarding. I teach for a living and have the opportunity to learn about the everyday lives of many young people. Consistently, the majority are missing that one individual or individuals who are doing what Marty Embry, Thomas Tucker, Jim and Sally Creech, Jan and Richard Haffner, and so many others have done for me and David. Join the fight. Work to eradicate this issue. It makes for a better world. You just don't know the influence you can have over a young person just by developing a mentoring relationship. Down here in Memphis, we call it "Life on Life". David talked about making his men-tee apart of his everyday life. We're not asking for you to mentor everybody. Just one. Not make extra time, just include him/her in you time. I always joke with him about being Mayor of Flint one day. I think he will be a great city leader. I am so proud of his accomplishments. When you see him, encourage and support him. He needs it. Thanks Flint. See you in July.