In the U.S. alone, more than 21 million children are growing up in a household with only one parent. Among black children, it’s slightly more than 48 percent. There is a need for black men and women to step up and become the “village” that raises black children. We can do that by volunteering to mentor.
Roland Martin talks with Joshua Dubois, executive director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, who’s here with his “little brother,” Aidid Brayboy; and Mark Tillman, president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated and more.
MR. MARTIN: In the U.S. alone, more than 21 million children are growing up in a household with only one parent. Among black children, it’s slightly more than 48 percent. There is a need for black men and women to step up and become the “village” that raises black children. We can do that by volunteering to mentor.
We’re talking about that with Joshua Dubois, executive director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, who’s here with his “little brother,” Aidid Brayboy; and Mark Tillman, president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated – [of] course, the greatest fraternity out there. I’m a life member.
MR. JOSHUA DUBOIS: Amen.
MR. MARK TILLMAN: That’s right.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome to the show.
This is an issue that a lot of folks talk about. Susan Taylor has the National CARES Mentoring Project. And so how do you really get folks to embrace this, who say, “Look, man. I got a job. I got my own family. I got lots of stuff I’m already doing. You want me basically to help somebody else’s kid?”
MR. DUBOIS: Yeah. You know, it’s a big issue, Roland; but, really, it just boils down to a friendship. You know, Aidid and I were matched almost 13 years ago, when I was in college, and he was six, going on seven, years old. And all we had to do was take a couple hours of every month and spend time eating a pizza, or doing some laundry and just talking with one another.
And so the broad challenge of mentoring is something that’s hard to wrap your mind around, but it really boils down to just a few hours a month in friendship.
MR. MARTIN: Aidid, talk about the relationship and what does it actually mean to you.
MR. AIDID BRAYBOY: It was difficult, at first, having someone new in my life; but after a while, you know, I warmed. And Joshua was just a great support system – you know? It was something I wasn’t getting at home, something I wasn’t getting from my mother, who was the only one in the house with me. I was able to relate to him a lot more. It was, like he said, a friendship – you know? I wasn’t worried about, you know, any type of authority. I could just talk to him.
MR. MARTIN: Do you have a relationship with your father?
MR. BRAYBOY: I do – not as well as I have a relationship with Josh, though. Josh has been – while my father was absent, Josh was present, so –
MR. MARTIN: Now, Mark, one of the things that you’re doing and what Alpha’s doing with Big Brothers and Big Sisters is really trying to drive home this whole notion [of], again, black men stepping up; because at the end of the day, we have to break that cycle –
MR. TILLMAN: Um-hum.
MR. MARTIN: — and also train black men and say, “I need you to take care of your kid so another man doesn’t have to.”
MR. TILLMAN: Right. Well, I’ve come from a single-parent household when I was young, and I had the benefit of being a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout. I went to an all-boys school. And then I became a member of the fraternity and saw that there were many brothers like myself who come from single-parent households.
So, the older I was getting – I don’t have kids of my own, but the older I was getting, I was noticing that a lot of these young kids didn’t have someone to look up to. I at least had the benefit of looking up to a Cub Scoutmaster, or a Boy Scoutmaster, even my band director. And so I wanted these young men – and I’m on my third “little” – to see a positive role model in their life.
MR. MARTIN: One of the things that jumps out at me when I give speeches around the country is – I say, look, when we talk about “it takes a village,” what is interesting to me is that you have folks who are family members who are not actually doing that. I mean the way I –
OFF CAMERA: That’s right.
MR. MARTIN: — look at it is this here, is that before any man outside of a family stepping in to serve as a mentor, it should be the men in that family stepping up. Look, I’m helping to raise six of my nieces right now. And so I can’t imagine saying, “Well, I need some other guy to do this,” when I’m their uncle, [or] I’m their godfather.
So, speak to that – encouraging folks to say, look, even within your own family, you have a role to play.
MR. DUBOIS: That’s exactly right. You know, some of the mentoring organizations call it being a “double-duty dad.” Looking at your nieces and your nephews and folks who may be within your sphere of influence – your next-door neighbors – and figuring out how you can step into their lives – there’s a role for that as well. You’re absolutely right.
MR. MARTIN: Aidid, what would you say to a man out there who may not have a relationship with their son, with their daughter? What would you say to him as to why he should?
MR. BRAYBOY: It is instrumental to have that support system. I feel like there [were] a lot of things, growing up, that I missed out on, you know, not having my dad around – which I’ve kind of benefited – or, I found the influence in another area. But not having that influence around is detrimental to a child’s life – you know? Even some of the mentoring I’m doing now while I’m in college – I can see it. By just spending a couple of hours with a child, you know, it brightens up their day.
MR. MARTIN: So, you’re mentoring right now.
MR. BRAYBOY: Yes. Yes – at the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta.
MR. MARTIN: Okay.
Mark, how have you seen this grow? Have you seen it be incremental? Or, have you seen far more individuals in the fraternity and outside really begin to say, “Hey, if we’re going to reverse these trends, if we’re going to reverse the dropout rate among black men, the crime rate, we have to accept the responsibility and not think anybody else is going to do it”?
MR. TILLMAN: Well, we’re seeing that, just [with] black men getting into college, because it’s affecting our membership rates even at the collegiate level. And so we know that we have to start early. It’s too late by the time you get to high school. You have to start at the grammar school and grade school levels – really, at the fifth-grade level – to say, you know, “This kid needs to have someone positive in their life.”
The mothers are going to do their jobs. My mother did her job on me. But we need to make sure that the men around them are doing their jobs to make sure that these kids have a value system, a foundation by the time they get to the high school and the collegiate levels.
MR. MARTIN: Well, gentlemen, we certainly thank you for what you’re doing, and also we hope other folks step up as well. Thanks a bunch.
MR. DUBOIS: Well, thank you so much, Roland.