Like more than 65% of black women in my age range, I am a single mother. I chose my sanity, self-worth, and wellbeing over my relationship and I don’t regret it. Many women find themselves at the end of irreparable relationships trying to pick up the pieces as single mothers, but despite their best efforts society cannot help but blame the woes of the black family and young black male population on single motherhood rather than absentee fathers. They remind us constantly that we, as women, can’t raise a man.
I used to take this sentiment very personally. I know I am a great mother, I provide the best for my son; I intellectually engage him and ensure he is respectful and disciplined. Besides, was I wrong to leave such a destructive and toxic relationship? The harsh reality is that even though we as women can provide our sons with financial and emotional stability we, alone, cannot teach a boy to be a man.
I found, about halfway through my pregnancy, that the relationship with my son’s father needed to end. During counseling, the pastor agreed that the relationship was irreparable and urged me to walk away. But he also relayed one thing to me and my former lover that embodies what I feel today, “No matter how great you are, you can’t teach him how to pee” he said.
Despite the crassness of the analogy, what the pastor was essentially saying to me was that, as a woman, there are certain things that I would not be able to teach my son, and likewise neither will you. You can love him to heaven and back, but boys learn to be men either directly or indirectly from the actions of other men. Even if you do not have a male in your day to day life, your child will internalize the behaviors and attitudes of the men they come in contact with. Your role as a mother is to control the narrative of what your child is taught by providing access to male role models. Even if your child’s father is absent and you do not have a man in your life, you still have options. Below are some national free or low cost institutions which focus on mentoring young boys.
As a single mother, I know how difficult single motherhood can be, but I also know how rewarding it is to see your son grow up to be a responsible young man. I hope this information inspires all of you to move forth and to continue to provide the best for your sons.
Mentorship Programs for Young Men
The Boy Scouts
Big Brothers, Big Sisters
Boys and Girls Clubs
The Boy Scouts of America
Most people tend to think the Boy Scouts is just about hiking and camping but the organization does a great deal to help mentor young boys ages 7 through 21 in the skills of responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance. Through participation in a wide range of outdoor activities, educational programs, and career-oriented programs they help boys venture into manhood and even provide them with the opportunity to gain a skill set that helps them gain accolades for college. For at risk youth they often provide subsidized programs through grants to help cover the costs of uniforms and trips.
Divine Nine Fraternal Organizations
People tend to know the 5 fraternal organizations of the Divine Nine, Alpha Phi Alpha, Phi Beta Sigma, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi and Iota Phi Theta as college men known for doing step shows and community service. What is less known is that these organizations have dedicated mentoring programs for young men ages 7 – 18, designed to teach everything from how to tie a tie, career and college preparation, dinner decorum and other male responsibilities. Members will also be expected to exhibit leadership within the group, participate in community service and (potentially) learn the smooth steps like their big brother counterparts.
Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America
Big Brothers, Big Sisters is a well-known program that pairs individual adults with at risk children ages 7-18 who have similar interest. The adults set their own schedules to meet with their mentee a few hours per month to provide inspiration, guidance, encouragement, visit a museum participate in fun activities or simply to be a listening ear.
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
The Boys and Girls Club might seem like an ad hoc babysitting service to some people but in many communities they provide services to teach children great moral and team building habits. Programs may include: Education and Career, Character & Leadership, Arts, Sports, Fitness and Recreation Programs. Most programs come free with the minor yearly membership costs (in Virginia the cost is $40 per year)
Numerous organizations exist to primarily support the betterment of black males, many of these however have not gained national reach. But with the introduction of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative and the ongoing grassroots initiatives by many community leaders, I expect the list of available mentorship programs available for young men to continue to grow. Here are a few great programs which may or may not be available in your area.