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THE GROUP

- A Youth Program by The Wellness Advocates of Detroit

The Problem:

According to renowned psychologists, educators, scholars, and advocates, the harmful and devastating realities demonstrated in this country’s relationship with men of color, will predictably continue to overwhelm specific U.S. populations, particularly, young men of African American descent, living in America.  We suggest that any program that seeks to address this reality, must seek to transform the lives of the young men most impacted, guiding young men to:

1. Eliminate: The  Acceptance of the Myth: “The Declaration of Black Inferiority”

African American men, women and children, in every generation will face many experiences, of both direct and indirect of racial discrimination, it is the cumulative effect of these experiences, that threatens one’s self concept, or one’s mental and physical health. The sum total of these experiences, if not addressed early in one’s life, can lead individuals to accept the myth of “The Declaration of Black Inferiority.”

2. Eliminate: We Must Reject of the Declaration of Black Inferiority

Dr. Francis Cress Welsing, also known as the Queen Mother of Black Consciousness, afro-centered psychiatrist and author, taught on the subject of black inferiority.   The Los Angeles Times said of Dr. Francis Cress Welsing, “She was the first scientist to psychoanalyze White Racism, in the history of Western psychiatry, rather than focusing on the victims of racism.  In her core work the book The Isis Papers, she postulated, by utilizing Freudian psychoanalysis, that the nature and basis of racism against blacks is actually inferiority complexes among whites. She argues that their numerical minority status, and lack of 'color', or melanin, motivates whites to practice racism against blacks”.

3. Acknowledge: The Systemic Oppression of Boys and Black Men:

Michelle Alexander, law professor, civil rights advocate and author of the book The New Jim Crow, states that today U.S. crime rates have dipped below the international norm, nevertheless, “the United States now boasts an incarceration rate that is six to ten times greater than that of other industrialized nations. The American penal system (she argues) has emerged as a system of social control unparalleled in world history.” African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population. African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population. Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58   % of the youth admitted to state prisons. (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice)

4. Acknowledge: The impact of Institutional powerlessness

Useni Eugene Perkins, author of the book “Harvesting New Generations”, with Leon W. Chestang, explains that, “Three conditions, socially determined and institutionally supported characterize the black experience: 1.) social injustice, 2.) societal inconsistency, and 3.) personal impotence. To function in the face of any one of them does cruel and unusual violence to the personality. To function in the face of all three subjects the personality to severe crippling or even destruction. These three crucial conditions, however, confront the black [male] throughout his life, and they determine his character development.”

5. Acknowledge: The Street Culture or Slave Culture

Dr. Haki Madhabuti, author, educator, poet and publisher, wrote, “Street culture is a culture of containment. Most young people do not realize that it all too often leads to a dead end. Street culture, as I am using the term, is a counterforce to movement culture. Street culture in contemporary urban reality is synonymous with survival at all costs. This world view is “mostly negative”, because it demands constant adjustment to circumstances that are often far beyond young people’s control or understanding, such as economics, education, housing, employment, nutrition, law, and so forth.”  At the core of street culture is self- hatred, and individualism, contrary the “group process” which seeks to destroy the psychology of the Street Culture, by offering young men the opportunity to create and give commitment to a new paradigm of positive culture, which directs youth toward collective work, responsibility, and empowerment. 

The Answer: The Group

The Group’s primary focus, is creating and sustaining a “change process”, that defines for its participants, the importance of accepting responsibility for one’s actions, and emphasizes shared accountability, this allows for the mortification of one’s ego, so that, the process of change for an individual can be implemented and sustained.   Inner-city youth, in this case male youth, when faced with the realistic and often honest experiences created by well-focused group processing, can discover that each can eliminate “self-defeating behaviors”, making it possible to reject the declaration of Black Inferiority.

6. Acceptance: Only Black Men can raise Black boys into Men 

Dr. Juwanza Kunjufu, author, educational consultant, argues in his book, Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys, says, “that a woman cannot raise a man! Of course she can love him, nurture him and bring him into adulthood. He will be an adult male, but he will not have the qualities of a man. There are significant moments between men and boys that help shape the boy into a man. A woman does not have these moments. Someone asked me why are these men leaving their children behind and my answer to them was that no man showed them how to be responsible for their children. These adult males were raised by women.” The book makes this point clear with countless examples and studies. The man does not need to be the parent. He may be an older brother, cousin, neighbor, etc.   Men have a responsibility to boys and they must commit to its fulfillment. We believe that it is essential for African Men to give commitment to group process work, training and group facilitation, in communities across the country. This is crucial and fundamental to sustaining positive change in the lives of young African American boys.

7.  Acceptance: Black Men and the necessity of “Fatherhood”

Dr. Na’im Akbar scholar, psychologist, author, and lecturer; in his book “Visions for Black Men” professes that, “The classroom of fatherhood is a special class, and the learning is specialized, in such a way, that no other experience in life teaches the man but is a necessity on the spiritual journey to become the “complete human beings” we are intended to become.”

8.  Acceptance: Accepting Group Values is Essential to Behavior Change or Modification

The late Rev. Albert Cleage Jr. also known as the master teacher, and author of the dynamic book, Black Christian Nationalism insists that, “The acceptance of group values is the process of rebirth. We must evaluate and criticize each other constantly, but always within the framework of deep love and concern. The individual who does not realize his inner weakness and egocentricity is a constant threat to the security of the group.”

9.  Program Duration

The group process experience will have its greatest impact on participants, who give commitment to the group and its’ process over a period of two to three years.  Anticipated candidates who will be targeted, will attend either    I.) Middle School- ages 12 through 15 years, or   II.)  High School- ages 16 through 19 years.  Our capacity will be determined by funding and community outreach.  We envision impacting 150 male youth in the first year and growing this number each year by 100.

10.Tools & Principles

The process for implementing change in our children, will require the usage of many support tools; understanding the philosophy, and practice of Cooperative Games and Sports, or Non-competitive Sports and Games, and the principles for Life Skills Development. We will solicit volunteer expert guests/mentors, who will encourage career opportunities, and career development, and offer mentorship relationships with our group participants, mentors representing both the public and private sectors of society.

11.Approach

We will take the EBGW (evidence-based group work) approach, the principles and practices of EBGW can be applied to groups whose primary purpose is to meet the socioemotional needs of its members (e.g., group therapy, group counseling). (Toseland & Rivas,2005, p 14)  The term “group work,” means goal-directed activity ….. [involving] task groups aimed at meeting socioemotional needs and accomplishing tasks. (Mark Macgowan, author, A Guide to Evidenced Based Group Work, p 3, 2008)

12. Criteria

Member performance in the group will be based on participant mastery of the following specific objective criteria: regular and consistent school attendance, academic improvement completion of homework, improvement on quiz and test scores, improvement in school and community citizenship, the performance of school 100 hours of “community service”, and written proof provided to the group of their leadership activity at the school each student attends.   It should be noted that a participant’s degree of behavior change will be directly related or indicated by one’s length of participation in the group, which establishes and enforces the groups behavior norms.

13.Benefits derived from Group Participation

Participant youth:

Life changing experiences, give up “self-defeating behaviors”: incorrigible and insubordinate behaviors, substance use and or abuse, criminal behavior, (rejecting the declaration of black inferiority). Participants experience life-style change afforded by their commitment to the group.

Parents of participant youth:

Recognizes that their son has changed in his behavior, he’s accountable and responsible, focused and determined, having taken control of self-defeating choices.   

Sibling (and extended family) of participant youth:

Experiences envy, pride, and a desire to identify with him and who he is becoming.

Community where youth participant resides:

Acknowledges that participant’s behavior is different, positive, focused, determined, and committed to positive activity.

Fellow students of Schools where student-participant attends:

Consciously and unconsciously identify with these young men and their transformation.

Collateral impact of participant youth:

Parents, educators, law enforcement, courts, local businesses and advocates for youth, all will acknowledge this program as one answer to the challenges and expectations that engulf these young men.
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The Wellness Advocates of Detroit	313.862.1938 19467 Livernois Avenue, Detroit, MI 48221
The Wellness Advocates of Detroit was awarded a grant funded by The Pollination Project, Seeding Projects That Change The World for The Male Youth Enhancement Program. April 2015.
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