A group of scholars and residents say a lack of positive black male role models is cause for concern.
“The young men in our community need to see African-American men making positive choices,” said the Rev. James Kimbro, pastor for Fifth Street Christian Church and residential clinical manager of the Phoenix Program.
“It’s important that we leaders in the community are able to be example role models and set high standards and morals so that we can hopefully establish higher goals for our young people,” he said.
Kimbro will join a panel of speakers and Eliot Battle, author of “A Letter to Young Black Men — You Won’t Find Role Models on Street Corners,” for a public forum Saturday titled “The Black Male — Our Investment in the Future.”
Battle’s book was published in 1997, and he said he hasn’t seen much change since. “I pick up the news daily, and I see so much negativity that involves young black men,” he said.
Jeffrey Williams, an assistant professor of English at MU and president of the Minority Men’s Network, agrees that there is a lack of positive representation of black life in the media.
“Very often, those things go by the wayside, and there’s a kind of sensationalist, maybe even lurid, coverage that examines the worst aspects of black life,” Williams said.
“The media fills a vacuum of identity with the young men,” said Chauncey Spears, a learning specialist at Jefferson Junior High School.
“Teenagers are media-driven,” Spears said. “MTV, BET, that’s who they are. These young people are going to gravitate towards that for their racial identity.”
Panel members agree that education is crucial to the success of black youth.
“I think that education at this point is the only way out for a lot of our kids,” Spears said, adding that children don’t understand that.
“What we have is that void of race is being filled by destructive choices,” Spears said. “They have to see education as part of their identity.”
Panel members hope the forum will have a positive effect. “There is a very dire need for this conversation because it’s not being had enough in our community,” Spears said.
Kimbro said, “We leaders must take the stand and change things on our own instead of waiting for others to change it.”