These are tough times for black youth across the U.S. They are more likely than other racial groups to live in poverty, be a murder victim, drop out of high school, be jobless and enter prison .
Locally, there are people working on solutions to this social crisis. For example, the Sacramento chapter (Zeta Beta Lambda) of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. has launched the Alpha Academy, a partnership with Consumnes River College and the March of Dimes in Sacramento.
In a recent Alpha Academy meeting, local African American men mentored black youngsters, ages 12 to 18, to lead more positive and productive lives. The adults emphasized to them the Alpha attitude chain: “We have power; we will excel and we are in control.”
This approach “helps us to make better decisions,” said Bernard Watts, age 12. Ashanti Jackson, age 13, agreed, appreciating newfound knowledge on “how to overcome everyday obstacles.”
In all, 32 local youth participated with eight mentors, one of whom is Christopher Hicks, Alpha Academy co-director. He and the other mentors worked with the youngsters in small groups, discussing present and past conditions of African Americans.
“We learned about African builders in the 1600s,” said Myles Taylor, age 12. Mike William, age 13, enjoyed “learning history about our ancestors.”
Toward the end of the day, the youth tackled a hypothetical dilemma involving ethics and morals titled “found money.” Later, these middle and high school students presented their findings and the reasons for them.
Travis Parker, CRC professor and track coach, dialogued with the youngsters during their presentations. He queried them on their opinions, and urged soft-spoken students to speak up.
“We try to focus the youth on the consequences of their choices,” added John Taylor, Alpha Academy chapter president.
To conclude the day’s activities, he led a lesson which involved the students listening to musician Kool Moe Dee. As his music played, Taylor questioned the youngsters on the content of the lyrics. Then he assigned the youth to produce answers due back to him, in writing, in a month.
The intergenerational union of Sacramento‘s Alpha Academy has its roots a century ago at Cornell University in upstate New York. In December 1906, seven students organized Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first intercollegiate fraternity among African American men.
Alumni of Alpha Phi Alpha include the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and author and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois. The Sacramento chapter of the national fraternity began in 1954 under the leadership of Dr. George Stewart, a Sacramento dentist.
Currently, the Alpha Academy meetings are held one Saturday a month during a four-hour workshop in the Learning Resources Center at CRC. Scholarships are available to high school students based on community service, academic excellence and financial need, according to Taylor.
For more information, contact (916) 691-7636 or
Seth Sandronsky is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because People Matter, Sacramento‘s progressive paper http://www.bpmnews.org/. He can be reached at: [email protected]