For many people the weekends represent a sense of freedom, time to spend finishing those long delayed projects around the house, visiting relatives and friends , piling the food onto those plates at the cookout and so on. For me the past eight weeks I decided to invest my time wisely balancing travel, family, rest and work by contributing to two worthy causes.
The decision to volunteer my time with two youth programs that speak to a passion within to make a positive impact was easy, especially given the current pulse of the nation. For the past six years I along with a group of dedicated men in the community organize a summer basketball league that serves close to 200 youths. The league serves as an outlet for many of the participants and coaches and helps to strengthen neighborhood ties.
However it’s the second program that allowed me to interact with another group of youths that impacted my life. The program is called “Know thyself” and is the brainchild of Salih Rowe . Salih is a young man on a mission to improve the quality of life for young black boys as they prepare to face the roadblocks and challenges of entering into manhood. The program is funded entirely through the generosity of individuals and organizations that see the value of the work being done; allowing for the participants to attend at no cost and receive a meal.
For the past eight Saturday’s the “young lions” meet with older black males for two hours to discuss and analyze a variety of topics including the responsibility of men as protectors of the family, finance, education, relationships with law enforcement and the media’s influence. I can share that I eagerly looked forward to awakening on Saturday mornings with the same excitement I displayed as a boy awaiting my favorite cartoons. We engaged in serious dialogue, complete with guest speakers, media clips , literature and supportive materials. It is these type of conversations that do not happen often enough with our young men, until its too late.
As I sat and listened to Salih wrap up the final topic and call for the last weekly “squad photo” I suddenly felt a feeling of emptiness at the realization the program was over and the secret wish for more time rushed in. The young men said their goodbyes as they filed out one by one, thanking the older men for spending time with them, the change and transformation of those eight weeks was evident on their faces. I don’t know if any of the adults will ever truly see the fruits of our labor, but I am confident the seeds of greatness were planted and the future of these young lions is as bright as the morning sun rising on the Savannah.