Message to a Youngblood
– A Conversation with Our Sons
I tend to write like I’m having a personal talk with a young adult. This conversation addresses the personal struggles of under-represented young men of African descent in a voice that is non-threatening and relatable to them, with mental and spiritual wellness as the main objective. Topics include functional depression, self-labeling, hyper-masculinity, how to communicate effectively, young fatherhood, life during and after incarceration, police terrorism, anger management, alternative education, and making good choices when faced with few options. Our sons are discouraged from expressing their feelings early on in their emotional development when it matters most. As a result, they become emotionally absent men who lack the capability of expressing who they are on a deeper, more meaningful level. I wanted to offer them a tool that would give them permission to reveal their innermost feelings without the pressures of having to be ‘hard’ for the sake of acceptance from their immediate and general communities.
The book also includes illustrations by young artists, as well as interviews with various teen and young adult males sharing their thoughts on family conflicts, self-image concerns and finding healthy definitions of Black manhood. For the parent, it is a welcomed tool to help start discussions on identity and personal accountability. To both counselors and teachers, it is an ideal intervention incentive to help improve grades and behavior with a section on how to use the book in a classroom, group or foster homes, male-based programs or youth detention centers. To the young men themselves, it is a well-needed conversation between a father figure and son about the realities of American life for Black boys and Black men, and finding solutions to an on-going national crisis.
This project made media coverage, including an interview with NBC News anchor, David Ushery. It also received a kind nod from then Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Dennis Walcott. ‘Message to a Youngblood’ is now used in alternative education, youth counseling, detention centers, youth ministries, foster care, anger management, and as a tool for parent-youth mediation.
“I just spoke with your mom. I think it’s fair to say she’s worried about you. She sees how you crash in and out of people’s lives, resent authority figures and cover your pains with self-destructive behavior. Who knows you better than an older Black man who himself was an angry, troubled teen? But let me ask you something, is it working for you? Are the results meeting your objectives? Because part of being a man is knowing when to admit that your plan of action has flaws. No quick fixes here.
Each man has to discover for himself what gets results and what brings trouble. Some men know instinctively what works. Other men play with fire until they learn to master their selves. Mastering your self means knowing your power. Knowing your power means knowing who you are from who you’re not. And this is why I’m here. To help you understand why things aren’t going your way.”