Friday, May 24, 2024

Saving our sons, Brother II Brother…

November 9, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( It was a beautiful and warm Southern California morning as nearly 300 young men arrived at UCLA for the 3rd Annual Brother II Brother Youth Empowerment Symposium.

Some were hurried as their buses arrived a little late. Others walked with wide-eyed wonder up the stairs and into Moore Hall unsure about what awaited them since they were rousted awake by a parent or caregiver on a Saturday morning and whisked away to Westwood.

They came from middle and high schools from the Inland Empire, South Central, Watts, Compton, Lawndale, Hawthorne, Inglewood, the Crenshaw District any beyond. For many of the young men their journey to participate in the male mentorship program has been less than storied. Foster care, broken homes, communities riddled with gangs, poor school performance are just a few of the challenges these young men face in their lives. But they are the kind of challenges Brother II Brother has taken head-on with great success.

Stinsen Brown, chairman of Brother II Brother, glided through the hallways squaring away a few details as the youth arrived. Brown, a 22-year veteran and renowned drill instructor at the Los Angeles Police Department, founded the organization in 2007 after growing tired of witnessing young men die in his arms from gang related violence. Tragically, Brown’s only son, Stinson Ameer, was murdered by a teenager this past July. Standing before hundreds in attendance at his son’s funeral, Brown pledged that “the work of the organization will not stop.”

As the young men were escorted into the auditorium they were greeted by 60 male mentors from a wide variety of professions. There were two judges, a medical director, a carpenter, corporate sales executives, teachers, probation officers, police officers, professional athletes, entertainment professionals, independent business owners, civil servants, construction workers just to mention a few.

“Spellbound” is the word that most accurately reflected the expression on the faces of the young men when mentors personally welcomed each of them with a firm handshake and a caring smile. They filed in orderly, silently and expectantly, clutching their Brother II Brother agenda in their hands. They took their seats and I sat at the back of the auditorium and watched their eyes jet left and right, surveying their peers and gazing at the array of strong men, suited and booted, that filled the room.

“We are all here for you,” said Pernell Clark, pharmaceutical sales executive and Vice Chair of Brother II Brother. “We care about you and this day is all about you.”

Chris Schauble, NBC4 early morning co-anchor of “Today in LA” was the Master of Ceremony of the event. It was a fitting choice in that Schauble was adopted as a child, yet he persevered and is now one of the top broadcast journalists in Los Angeles. He told the group of eager participants, “You can overcome any barrier you face in life and you can be a success.” And they heard him.

The program was packed full of speakers who challenged the young men to find the greatness within them. Actor and author Hill Harper was also a speaker whose words of encouragement helped to make the day a memorable one for the young men.

During the breakout sessions the mentors guided the young men in discussions about taking charge of their lives, education, health, and being better than average. The mentors created a safe space for the young men to talk about some of the challenges that were affecting their lives and the young men opened up and asked numerous question. It was a powerful “male focused” moment that was a first in the lives of most of the young men.

The beauty of Brother II Brother lies in the simplicity of what it does: it relates to at risk male youth, brother-to-brother, in a way that exhibits caring and kinship. That is what I saw that day and I have never been as touched as I was by seeing the strength and veracity of African American men who more often than not are painted in hues of darkness and despair in the media. It was a bright and brilliant moment that demonstrated the norm and not the anomaly when it comes to African American men in America. I am honored I had the opportunity witness this.

The lives of those young men shifted in a new direction that Saturday. The lives of the mentors did too.

Written By Veronica Hendrix

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