African American Male Mentors Needed

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(Memphis) A call is going out for you to step up and make a difference.

The editor emeritus of Essence magazine, Susan Taylor, made the challenge to everyone attending the NAACP Gala last night.

She wants more African-American mentors to help young black children.

The Memphis affiliate of a group Taylor started plans to make a difference.

Harold Rhodes spends two days a week at Shelby County Jail East.

He's not visiting a relative or friend but dozens of teenagers accused of the most serious of crimes, “Some of them murder, aggravated this that and the other but we don't talk about that. What we talk about is a little bit of everything."

Rhodes is a mentor for teens charged as adults.

He's volunteered somewhere for the last 27 years.

Memphis Cares Mentoring Movement believes there are not enough people like Rhodes.

“Brother Nelson over at Keel Avenue Baptist Church was a mentor for me and he's still living. He's about 92-years-old,” said Willie Brooks, Memphis Cares.

Brooks is chair of Memphis Cares.

The group is recruiting mentors in the Black community.

Black children have a long wait list for mentors.

“What the mentor offers is provide direction, guidance and motivation “said Brooks.

The group connects volunteers with various organizations and schools.

A background check and an hour a week is usually all that's required.

Brooks tutors at a local school, “What we do is engage with them one hour a week. Four hours a month, up to a month commitment to make sure we're educating and motivating them and let them know we have an interest in them."

Rhodes doesn’t tutor, he mentors through his conversations, “There are no fathers. There may be one or two. There are always mothers.”

Rhodes said those one on one conversations help him reach some of the most troubled young people, “You ignore them. You say well they're gone for life but I don't think that they're lost for good. They may do 9 to 20 something years but I know that they've got to come back out here. They're going to be my neighbors."

If you'd like to become a mentor, Memphis Cares would like to hear from you.

Call 901-844-3608 to see what role you can play in a young person's life.