Edwin Buggage Editor-in-Chief Data News Weekly
Changing the Narrative
When many think of Black men in American society, it is rife with negative images. But there are many in the community who are working to change this distorted narrative. Recently, Xavier University of Louisiana hosted the Magnificent Male Weekend, an on-campus enrichment experience for nearly 100 young Black men from across 21 states. The participants and their families were welcomed to Xavier’s campus for a weekend of empowering panel discussions with Xavier alums and other prominent figures, recreational activities, workshops, and excursions in the storied City of New Orleans.
“This program allows the university to walk alongside these young men and their parents from their sophomore, junior and senior years in high school to get them ready for not only coming to Xavier but going to any college,” said Curtis Wright, Vice President of Student Affairs at Xavier in an interview with local media station WDSU.
From over 500 applicants, just over one hundred were selected to join the program, which aims to support and empower young Black men by providing fellowship and mentorship in addition access to resources to enhance their skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and interpersonal relationships.
“I come from a single parent background, and understanding the importance of seeing people who look like me- it’s an experience that carries you a long way,” said Kemani Howard, Coordinator for Black Male Engagement at Xavier and one of the event’s organizers in an interview with WDSU. “When you see somebody who is successful and you hear the story, it gives power to succession. Building that community is what we’re here for.”
At the conclusion ceremony, each young man received a Xavier University of Louisiana cardigan and conditional acceptance to the university. Starting in September, participants will attend monthly, virtual sessions through May, whereupon completion they will receive guaranteed admission and a $5,000 grant to the nation’s only Historically Black and Catholic Institution.
Mentorship and Bridges to Success
Programs such as Magnificent Male are occurring around the nation to address the unique challenges and disparities that Black males may face in American society and the education system. These challenges can include systemic racism, stereotypes, socioeconomic factors, and lack of representation among educators.
Programs focused on Black male academic achievement aim to provide support, resources, and opportunities to help these students succeed academically. They might include Mentorship and Role Models: Pairing Black male students with mentors who can offer guidance, advice, and positive role modeling. Cultural Relevance: Incorporating culturally relevant curriculum and teaching methods that reflect the experiences and contributions of Black individuals and communities. Social-Emotional Support: Providing counseling and support services to address mental health, self-esteem, and social challenges that might affect academic performance.
Also, it includes Parent and Family Engagement: Involving parents and families in their children’s education to create a supportive home environment. Academic Enrichment: Offering tutoring, after-school programs, and enrichment activities to reinforce learning and build skills. College and Career Preparation: Helping students explore higher education options and career paths and providing guidance through the application process. Advocacy and Policy Change: Advocating for changes in education policies and practices to address systemic inequalities that impact Black male students. Community Partnerships: Collaborating with community organizations, businesses, and local leaders to create a network of support for Black male students. Creating Safe Spaces: Establishing safe and welcoming spaces where Black male students can express themselves, share experiences, and build a sense of community.
“Serving as a mentor for the 2023 Magnificent Male Program was an amazing opportunity to interact with young men who are aspiring to excellence. It was an honor to be part of this event that gave Black male high school students a chance to experience college life and get a taste of XU Pride. Also, I enjoyed being the co-moderator of a panel discussion about policing in America featuring several attorneys,” says Terrol Perkins, Collegiate 100 Chapter President at Xavier University.
Each One Teach One: Building for the Future
Male role models, especially within the context of Black boys’ development, play a crucial role in shaping their identity, self-esteem, aspirations, and overall well-being. There are several reasons this is important to ensure the success of Black males in American society.
First is, Representation and Identity: Black boys need to see individuals who look like them succeeding and thriving in various fields. Positive male role models can help Black boys develop a strong sense of identity and self-worth, fostering a belief that they too can achieve their goals regardless of any challenges they might face. Also, of note is, Counteracting Stereotypes: In American society, Black boys often encounter negative stereotypes that can impact their self-perception and how others perceive them. Male role models who defy these stereotypes by demonstrating intelligence, resilience, compassion, and success can help challenge these biases. Moreover, Behavioral Modeling: Male role models can teach valuable life skills, work ethics, and social behaviors. They can serve as examples of positive behavior, decision-making, and interpersonal skills that Black boys can learn from and emulate.
In schools and society more broadly, the negative impact of low expectations and structural biases play a part in many Black males not reaching their full potential. To mitigate this there is a need for the following, Emotional Development: Male role models can help Black boys develop emotional intelligence by providing guidance on handling emotions, managing stress, and building healthy relationships. This is particularly important as Black boys might face societal pressure to suppress their feelings. Academic Motivation: Positive male role models can inspire Black boys to take their education seriously and aspire to academic success. They can demonstrate the rewards of hard work and perseverance in school, which can influence academic engagement. Navigating Adversity: Male role models who have overcome challenges can provide invaluable lessons in resilience and perseverance. Seeing someone who has faced adversity and succeeded can instill a sense of hope and determination in Black boys. Career Aspirations: Exposure to male role models from various professions and industries can broaden Black boys’ horizons and encourage them to explore a wide range of career options. This exposure can help them set ambitious goals and work towards achieving the status of ‘Magnificent Male.’
“The meaning of Magnificent Male is to show younger African American men that we are more than a statistic on a website,” says Calabe Collins, a student-athlete and Financial Secretary of Xavier University’s Collegiate 100. “We are more than the world paints us out to be. That we are image bearers of GOD, who have the ability to reach our full potential and with adequate support and nurturing the sky is the limit.”
xula.edu contributed to this story.