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It’s Time to Stand Up, Black Man! Find a Way to Make a Difference in a Young Boy’s Life

August 22, 2007 by  
Filed under Health, News, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the nation’s first and largest predominately black Greek-letter fraternity, has partnered with the March of Dimes to create Project Alpha. The national initiative is an extension of the work the fraternity does with Big Brothers and the Boy Scouts of America and seeks to teach young men to make better choices about their sexual behavior.

While in Orlando, Florida celebrating the fraternity’s 101st anniversary, I participated in a Project Alpha workshop with some local boys at one of the YMCAs. Of the 10 boys that participated, only two lived with their fathers, and only one other knew or had an even casual relationship with his father. What is more, a number of my fraternity brothers confessed that they too grew up without fathers. The 70 percent illegitimacy rate is real and has very real consequences. And the men of Alpha are working to end the cycle of fatherless children.

I was blessed with three beautiful sons. I watch them from across the room as they wrestle or sit quietly reading, and I am in awe of God’s handiwork. The miracle of their lives takes my breath away. I listened to their heart beats when they were no bigger than goldfish swimming in their mother’s womb. I held them when they were helpless, fed them and cleaned them, and every day, they grow a little bit further into themselves and away from me and their mother. I cannot imagine being more in love with another human being. There is nothing I would not do for them, nothing I would not give.

What is truly astonishing is that there are so many men in this society that willingly forgo the transcendental experience of watching their children grow and mature. They abandon the work of raising their sons to the mother. Although there are times I wish I could stamp “Return to Sender” on my children’s foreheads and send them on their way, given a choice, there isn’t a thing I would change because as selfish as it sounds, they have made my life richer and fuller.

More importantly, I make their lives fuller. If not from me, from whom will they learn manhood? How will they learn to treat women if not by watching how I treat their mother? How will they learn faith if not by witnessing me on my knees in prayer? How will they learn discipline without my firm hand to guide them? Without fathers, boys are left to make it up as they go along — or they will latch on to the first knucklehead that shows them some attention.

Perhaps of greatest concern is that the true consequence of fatherless children is borne by you and me. According to recent Justice Department statistics, more than 40 percent of violent crime in America is committed by young black men, and the overwhelming majority of their victims are other black people. Over half of all murder victims are black men between the ages of 17 and 29, with 93 percent of those murders committed by other black people. Ninety-eight percent of black women who are raped describe their attackers as black men.

It is not a coincidence that most black men in prison were raised without fathers. When we as fathers fail in our duty, the results are wasted potential, wasted lives and wasted communities.

That is why groups like Alpha Phi Alpha are so important. They are a vanguard of principled manhood fighting the tide of a popular culture that teaches boys that principles are for suckers.

But the Alphas can’t do it alone. It will take the combined efforts of all the men that have grown wise enough to know that popular culture is wrong. You don’t have to be in a fraternity to make a difference. There are quite literally thousands of young — mostly black — boys on waiting lists for a big brother. It doesn’t take any money; just one hour out of your week. Contact your local Big Brothers chapter or any other mentoring program near you and see how you can get involved.

Stand up, black man! Find a way to make a difference in a young boy’s life. If ever was the time, it is now.

By Joseph C. Phillips


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