StoryCorps Atlanta set up recording equipment at the Michael A. Grant Boys and Girls Club in Austell, Georgia to record conversations between young men, their families, and mentors through 100 Black Men of North Metro, Inc.
Today, the dropout rate for African-American boys in urban environments can be as high as seventy percent, and more African-American men are incarcerated or in the criminal justice system than were enslaved in 1850. With this in mind, 100 Black Men of America’s national chapters serve a vital role in the African-American community, helping families navigate the challenges posed by neighborhoods burdened with drugs, crime, and scarce resources.
From the beginning, The 100′s North Metro Chapter mentoring coordinator, Tim Hart, understood the importance of having young men and their families record their stories. Before our recording day, he asked that I come out to spend a day with him, the other mentors, and the young men to observe the program in action. It was informative, and I could feel the genuine concern the mentors have for their mentees. It was awesome! During the day, Dwight Kelly, the North Metro Chapter president, wanted to record his own StoryCorps conversation with Mr. Hart. The one thing that stood out during their conversation, though, was a slogan often used by members of the organization: “What they see is what they will be.” Mr. Kelly discussed the importance of having African-American men who represent the breadth of the community be a part of The 100′s. It’s important, he said, for young men to see business owners, fathers, school administrators, corporate types, as well as men who have retired. “If kids see that, then they will say, ‘Wait a minute. If he can do it, I can do it. It can’t be that hard. I see what he’s doing. If he can achieve that then I can achieve it, too.’”
And that’s where the magic starts. It’s in that moment that 100 Black Men of America believe they can turn a young man around and point him in a different direction. Ultimately, says Mr. Kelly, “There just needs to be a lot more of us out there for them to see.”