HOT TOPIC: A Way Up for African-American Boys Part 3


We have: Part 1 – Identified the Issues, and discussed the importance of Part 2 – Making an Impact & Sharing Jesus.  Now we are taking a look at how men can be part of the solution as mentors.

LT Marlon Terrell, U.S. Navy

Marlon Terrell is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy (USNA).  We attended the preparatory school together in 1997, and I’m honored to have him as a classmate, brother, and friend.  He graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Systems Engineering, and has a Masters of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) in Leadership Education & Development from the University of Maryland College Park.  He currently serves as an Active Duty Reservist Submariner and a Nuclear Officer Programs Recruiter.  Marlon has a passion for mentoring young men.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this interview are those of Marlon Terrell as a private citizen and do not reflect the views of the United States Navy or military service at large.

1. What is mentoring?  Why is it important to address mentoring in this series?
Mentoring is taking someone under your wing and providing them with guidance that will help them succeed in a specific area.  It is clear that basic life skills guidance is missing in the lives of our young Black boys.

2. How long have you been mentoring? And in what capacities? 
I have been mentoring young boys since I was approximately 15yrs old.  I was the oldest male figure in my family, so it was natural that all the boys in my family would call me and ask for advice.  I figured out early that there is a great need for mentors due to the absence of fathers in so many young Black males’ lives.  Since then I have mentored through non-profit organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, coaching little league football, and advising young Sailors in the U.S. Navy.

3. I believe that it is important for these young men to have male mentors, especially if the father is not present in the home.  Do you believe that only African-American males can be effective mentors to African-American boys?  Why or why not?

I whole heartedly agree that they need male mentors, and beyond that, they need young adult (20 – 35) male mentors.  Being Black helps for the initial physical connection, but the connection has to be beyond the physical in order for it to last.  A person of any race that genuinely cares about helping a young Black male will do a good job if they are willing to sacrifice the time it takes to develop a genuine connection.

4. What is the key to mentoring?

There are 3 keys to mentoring:

1. A willingness to sacrifice your time to consistently visit with a “complete stranger”.  3-5 hrs/month is not enough to make the necessary change.  Sometimes 3-5 hrs/week is not even enough, but holding them accountable on a weekly basis makes a grave difference.

2. A genuine desire to make a difference in someone’s life.

3.  The willingness to connect with someone that looks nothing like you and/or may come from an environment that is completely different from the one you grew up in.

5. From the comments in Part I, I am reminded that this series is indeed expanding people’s worldview.  For example, some of my readers may not directly “see” the affects of children attending poor quality public schools, children who do not have computers let alone internet access in their homes, or parents who cannot read or help them with their homework.  That indeed is the reality for many of the young boys that we are discussing in this series.  How can we make the connection between someone who genuinely wants to address this issue, but simply does not understand the various dynamics affecting these children’s dilemma?   
Men should be prepared accept the realities they will face.  Don’t get bogged down by what the boys don’t have, for there is a temptation to pass off their failures as acceptable because of their environment.  The goal is to help them overcome their situation not use their situation as an excuse.  If they don’t have a computer, take them to the library and show them how to get there with public transportation. If their parents can’t help them study, volunteer to meet with their teacher and arrange additional help.

It is also important to note that it takes young boys almost two years to get paired with a mentor in a traditional program like “Big Brothers and Big Sisters.”  A young boy’s life can change drastically from the age of 12 to 14, so when they finally get a mentor it is often too lateIt takes so long because there is a long list of young boys that need a mentor, but a very short list of men willing to do it.

Natasha’s Comments: For those interested in initiating a mentoring program, I highly recommend reading Regi Campbell’s book entitled, “Mentor Like Jesus.”  In it he states, “Mentoring is not about coming to know something; that would be education.  Mentoring isn’t about learning to do something; that would be training.  Mentoring is about showing someone how to be something.”

Will you accept this challenge of showing boys how to become men?

Published by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

Servant of Jesus. Truth-teller. Leader. Mentor. Author of Books.

9 thoughts on “HOT TOPIC: A Way Up for African-American Boys Part 3

  1. Denzel Washington is the National Spokesperson for the “Boys & Girls Clubs of America,” another great traditional mentoring program.

    The official site is:

    He talks about mentoring in his New York Times Best Seller, “A Hand To Guide Me: Legends and Leaders Celebrate The People Who Shaped Their Lives.” It is a great coffee table book and 100% of the proceeds go to the “Boys & Girls Clubs of America.”

    In it he states, “We’re all destined to leave some kind of mark. I really believe that. We’re all meant to walk a certain path at a certain time in a certain direction for a certain purpose. I believe that too. But I also believe we miss our marks from time to time, and without a certain push in the right direction we might never find the path we were meant to follow.”

    We can be that push that these young men need to head in the right direction. – Blessings, Natasha

  2. I have never thought about the “how-to’s” of mentoring. . . this is good stuff on how to actual do it. I think maybe teaching “mentors how to mentor” is quite important. Perhaps that is why so many people, like myself, think they’d like to be involved but just don’t quite know how to get started or be persistent. The mentor-wannabes need the training and advice.

  3. I believe mentoring is essential to helping African American Males, as well as any boys or girls. Especially ones that live in poverty, without a father. They usually do not have the proper guidance or someone to look up to, other than what they see in the streets, on tv or hear in the music. They have no positive reinforcement, or examples of other young men who are successful in other areas besides entertainment, sports, or drugs. Most black boys want young black men as a mentor, because it is someone they can more easily identify with. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be a great mentor to someone of another race. Unfortunately, young black men aren’t stepping up to the plate to be mentors. I work with the Goodwill GoodGuides programs ( , they called me a few days ago asking if I had any black males that could serves as mentors. They had a young teen who requested a black male to mentor him to teach him to grow up to be a black man.

    So no matter whats your race, gender, or background, you need to “get up get out and do something” to help our future.

  4. It’s great to see a positive image of an African-American male making a difference with our youth! If you listen to the mainstream media, a story like this would never be told. I also appreciate the resources that were highlighted in the article.

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