Word from Lowell: All Black Men Aren’t MIA

All Black Men Aren’t Missing in Action When it Comes to Kids

Lowell Perry, Executive Director

Most of us hear all too often about how community organizations, churches and other civic groups are looking for African-American men to be more involved in their communities.

When I worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters, engaging more men of color to become volunteer mentors seemed as elusive as finding the mythical Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot. I have to laugh at that one, especially since the face of what it means to be a “big brother” was and still is an African-American gentleman and my Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brother Mr. Dale Long.

If we relied just on the anecdotal information and statistics floating around the Cleveland area, we might reach the same conclusion about the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood as far as men of color taking an interest in our youth. Are black men really missing in action in the Promise Neighborhood?

One way to change that perception is to talk more about the exceptions such as Men in Early Childhood group. They meet at Starting Point (East 46th and Euclid) every month. This is a collection of concerned black men who come together because of a mutual belief in the importance of early-childhood education in setting the trajectory for kids of color, especially young boys. All of the talk about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education means nothing if a child cannot read.

We dads have a greater impact on the learning of our children than originally thought. The Healthy Fathering Collaborative of Greater Cleveland shared an article, “Father’s Reading Matters,” that says research across the globe has found a “direct connection between fathers reading to their children and cognitive and language development, reading, school success, emotional health, and mental health.”

I am calling on men of color in the Cleveland area, especially fathers, to come see the impact that Men in Early Childhood is making in the community just by reading to kids through the Read2Me program at early-learning centers. The men volunteer to read boy-friendly books. Each volunteer spends 15 minutes reading with the children.

There also are a number of local organizations to which you can give your time, talent, and/or treasure to such as Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood, Men of Central, Council for Economic Opportunities of Greater Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative.

Men, those of you who don’t live in the Cleveland area, make sure to investigate how to get involved closer to where you live. The only option I am not providing is to do nothing.