By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
When it comes to issues facing black men, Chris Anderson, a retired Birmingham Police detective, believes the lack of a blueprint is a big problem.
“We all know most of our youth grow up in a single parent home whether it’s a single mother or father but the majority of the time that happens with a mother,” said Anderson. “I was blessed and lucky enough to grow up with my father in the home with me, and most of my friends did not have that luxury… my father he did something that his own father did not have the courage to do. He stayed. He stayed and gave me and my brothers a blueprint on how we should do things.”
It was that blueprint that “gave me some way that I could gauge my manhood and be a man,” he said.
Anderson was one of six panelists at the Five Points West Library Monday night for the inaugural Real MENtors Talk program sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library.
Real MENtors Talk is a new male mentoring program launched this fall that targets youth who attend afterschool programs at BPL locations across the city.
The “Real Men, Real Issues” panel moderated by Roy L. Williams, public relations director of the BPL, featured discussions on steps to reduce black-on-black crime and problems that can develop with the lack of fathers in the home.
In addition to Anderson, panelists included Overseer Shaemun Webster, senior pastor of the Tower of Prayer Church in Leeds; Jefferson County Judge Charles “Chuck” Price II; Eddie Bradford, owner of Bradford Mentoring and consulting and mentoring chairman of the 100 Black Men of Metro Birmingham; Jay Johnson, president of College Prep U. in Trussville; and Renaldo Parker, a retired Army lieutenant colonel.
Anderson, who now serves as special investigator for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and is host of Investigation Discovery channel series “Reasonable Doubt”, said his father didn’t always set the greatest example, but he did set an example.
“If our men would step up and show our kids what they need to do and the route that they should go… if our young men had that blueprint we would not be in the trouble that we are in now today,” he said.
Webster talked about the role of the church as it relates to addressing the problems.
“Church culture in the African American community has shifted and kids are not going to church like they used to, it is now optional,” he said. “. . . We as the church have to shift and meet the people where they are. Whenever Jesus was providing ministry to people in the New Testament, He always met the people where they were and after He met their need, their lives were changed by the Gospel and that is what we are going to have to do.”
Price said he remembered growing up where you had three maybe four or five guys that encouraged you to work on a trade . . . “college might not be for everybody but that doesn’t mean you have to run the streets all the time,” he said. “Also, in that community or village if anybody saw you out in public and you were acting up, anybody could snatch you up and tighten you up on the spot, and that’s not the case anymore… I don’t know what it is but people are scared to do that now.”
Parker, who served in the Army for nearly 30 years, suggested military service as a way to instill core values of leadership, discipline, respect, honor, integrity and courage.
“Being in the military in most cases, they will offer you the opportunity to do some things that ordinarily you wouldn’t be able to do,” said Parker. “Being in the military teaches you problem solving, how to be a team player, how to think outside the box and how to be resilient and those are all qualities we need in society as well.”
Bradford challenged each panelist, as well as those in the audience, to be an influence in a young person’s life.
“Each of you knows somebody who is heading toward an altered future. Take that individual and let them know how much of a leader and influence that they are,” said Bradford. “. . . Say ‘hey, I want you to change . . . and see how many people that you look up to start to look up to you’. I know this is true because when I was in 8th grade, I looked up to the tough guys at school… one of them came up to me one day and told me, ‘Eddie, don’t be like us because all the while we’re really trying to be like you.’”
Upcoming MENtors Talks
Monday, Sept. 30, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: Springville Road Regional Branch Library. Panelists will include Richard Cade, founder of The Man Project in Birmingham; Birmingham City Councilor Clinton Woods and former Birmingham City School board member and candidate for District 1, Sherman Collins Jr.
Thursday, Oct. 3, 10 a.m. at West End Branch Library. For more information, call West End Library at 205-226-4089.