OKOLONA – Rev. Lesley Mabry said his children are fortunate to have a mother and father in the home but he pointed to hundreds of homes in Chickasaw County and thousands of homes across the state headed by a single mom.
“Men have relinquished their responsibility to be the leader and the head of their family in the African American community,” said Mabry. “Let me assure you the real men in this world are the ones who lead, sacrifice and do those things necessary to keep their home together and raise children they are proud of.”
Mabry was the keynote speaker at the Young Men Of Color (YMOC) seminar sponsored one Saturday each month by Baby Steps of Okolona.
Mabry said statistic show that when there is a man in the home, children – both boys and girls – are less likely to get involved in drugs, less likely to drop out of school, less likely to commit a crime and less likely to become a teen parent.
“There are a lot of strong women in this world – I had them in my life,” said Mabry. “But there are some jobs that a man is supposed to do.
“One of them is to show their children what being a man is all about,” he added. “That shows our daughters what kind of man they need to be looking for. It teaches our sons what it really is to say you are a man.”
Mabry pointed to Baby Steps program for boys 3-4 years old that prompts men to read to their children. He pointed to Fishing With Fathers, where Baby Steps carries boys and their fathers to a local lake for a morning of catfishing.
Mabry also pointed to Baby Steps’ “Cold Cuts,” where men carry boys to the barbershop for a haircut.
“People talk about sagging pants and poor grooming,” said Mabry. “Where do kids learn that it is important to groom themselves, keep their hair neat and take pride in their appearance? For those who don’t get it at home Baby Steps does it.”
Mabry, a teacher at Okolona High School, said Okolona Schools do not allow sagging pants, foul language, violence or drug abuse at their schools.
“So where are our children learning to do these things?” Mabry asked. “They are learning them at home.
“That’s why it is so important for real men to step up and take charge,” Mabry added. “You are seeing more interest in this and we need to support programs in our churches, our schools and in our community that teach men how to be men.”
Carla James with Baby Steps pointed out President Barack Obama launched a major program aimed at men of color this week.
“The President reiterated his belief in the core American value that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed — regardless of the circumstances of your birth,” said James. “The President thanked the business and foundation leaders for their important work and commitment to make this vision a reality and ensure that more boys and young men of color have the opportunity to get ahead.”
James said the foundations supporting Obama’s call to action have already made extensive investments, including $150 million in current spending. She pointed out the President announced that over the next five years they seek to invest at least $200 million, alongside additional investments from their peers in philanthropy and the business community.
“The goal is to find and rapidly spread solutions that have the highest potential to expand opportunity for these boys and young men of color,” said James. “The President, foundation and business leaders, as well as elected officials and public figures who have come together around this important initiative are resolved to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color – something that will benefit all Americans.”
James pointed out the Kellogg Foundation – a major supporter of Baby Steps – is one of the foundations that supported Obama’s initiative.
For more information about any Baby Steps program call their office at 447-5040 or stop by location at 506 West Monroe Street, Okolona during regular business hours.