Rod Haywood hangs up the phone in his office in the United Way Building after listening to a woman explain the effects her recent divorce is having on her young son, who is now acting out in school and becoming quite an emotional handful.
“It breaks my heart how the requests for help out number our ability to serve,” says Haywood, executive director of 100 Black Men of Indianapolis. He reluctantly explains to his caller that she’ll be placed on a waiting list, referring her to other family support groups that may be able to assist with her dilemma to find mentoring and support opportunities for her young manchild.
“It’s my goal that one day we will be in a place to serve every caller, but as things presently stand, we choose to focus on what we can do as an organization as we work hard to reach those youths in our sphere of influence while implementing strategies to bring more resources to the table that will help nurture more young men.”
The 100′s circle of influence includes a network of more than 121 members that include such influential men as Joe Slash, Moses Gray and Lyman Rhodes, in addition to corporate liaisons Bill Mays, Payton Wells, David Kelly and Andrew Crowe Sr.
Through their combined talents, the agency served 1,500 boys from the ages of 9 to 18 last year.
Established in 1984 as an affiliate chapter of 100 Black Men of America, the local group boasts an operating budget of $250,000 – funds used to provide clients with innovative programming, which includes, but is not limited to, a series of mentoring activities, including: Scholastic Basketball Camps, operated within Indianapolis Public Schools; the African-American History Challenge, a historical trivia bowl and the highly popular Beautillion Militaire; a special formal banquet, which culminates a series of rigorous rites of passage activities participating teens undertake as they make the transition from boys to men.
“We try to show our program participants that positive African-American role models are not just athletes, rappers and entertainers – but can also be found in diverse men right here in their own community,” says 100 board member Kevin Davenport, an Eli Lilly & Co. senior technician. “We also challenge them to achieve excellence in their lives by dealing with them on a basis of realism.
“We tell them, if they don’t step up to the plate to get the tools they need in life, they are going to have a hard road to travel.”
It’s that kind of support that attracted 30-year-old, local educator Arnold Mickens Jr. to place his twin boys, Aaron and Allen, into the group’s African-American History Challenge program.
Mickens found himself and his boys adjusting to a blended family structure soon after his marriage to his wife, Lavonnya.
“My wife felt it would be good for the boys to get involved in something like this as a way to help build their self-esteem and self-confidence,” Mickens says. “And what we’ve found is the program has kind of pulled us together as a family.”
To contact 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, call 921-1276.
-Anare V. Holmes