Last fall marked the start of our third year running the African American Male Initiative (AAMI). African American males face significant challenges in society, with only 10% of 8th grade males reading at their grade level in comparison to 40% of white males of the same age. In math, 10% of 8th grade African American males perform at grade level in comparison to 49% of white males*. Through AAMI, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco (BGCSF) has set out to reverse negative trends like these by surrounding youth with positive African American male role models, building boys’ self-esteem while showing them that their dreams are within reach.
Recently, we caught up with Harold Love, BGCSF’s Vice President of Club Services, to speak with him about the role of AAMI at BGCSF. Harold, who holds a Master of Science degree in Human Services Administration from Springfield University, has worked in human services for more than 25 years, with 15 years dedicated to BGCSF.
Speaking on AAMI’s importance, Harold said, “AAMI’s aim is to build a foundation for participating youth and connect them with people and experiences that help them as they grow into young adults. We’ve implemented two programs that help us achieve the goals of AAMI: Passport to Manhood, whose members are in grades 3-6, and Athletes to Young Men, which is made up of members of our SF Rebels basketball team ages 10-13.” Touching on the scope of these programs, Harold said “A major focus is to build solidarity between our boys and provide them with role models and mentorship that makes them feel like they can succeed in school and life. Passport to Manhood and Athletes to Young Men feed into the Club’s overall youth development strategy and our goals for all young people. By placing a specific emphasis on our African American boys, we seek to erase some of the academic and economic differences we see between African American youth and those of different backgrounds.”
Currently, Passport to Manhood operates out of five BGCSF Clubhouses: Visitacion Valley, Excelsior, Willie Mays, Columbia Park and Don Fisher. Once a week, these Clubhouses host their Passport to Manhood program, with members taking part in activities that instill brotherhood, teach ethnic pride, and establish mentorship and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. One Saturday of each month, the boys participate in a weekend activity that aims to grow the bonds between participants and reinforce the lessons of the program.
The Athletes to Young Men program currently has 25 members, with 20 of those members continuing from last year. This program focuses on members of the SF Rebels basketball team, helping players develop strategies for succeeding in the next phases of their life. Athletes to Young Men connects participating youth with coaches in the program (almost all African American males), who help them set goals and hold them accountable for achieving those goals. As these young athletes schedules become more hectic, the skills they learn through the Athletes to Young Men program will help them balance academic and athletic demands.
Passport to Manhood and Athletes to Young Men are just two of the ways AAMI impacts Club youth. Asked about the possibilities of these programs and AAMI at large, Harold noted the central role of peer-to-peer relationships in the initiative’s goals. “A lot of the time, boys from one neighborhood won’t get along with boys from another nearby neighborhood,” Harold said. “We see this in a very strong way in SF neighborhoods like Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, Sunnydale, and the Fillmore. We want the programs we’ve started under AAMI to change that dynamic and build solidarity between African American boys in these different communities. We want the boys to look at their common circumstances and recognize they’re not different from one another. From there, we want them to truly care about each other.”
Speaking on next steps, Harold said “Using measurable outcomes, we can strengthen the impact of the initiative to make an even bigger difference in the lives of African American males. As the program moves into the future, we hope that mentors from outside the Club will share their experience and inspire the program participants through a speaker series.”
This fall, BGCSF’s third Passport to Manhood class will take part in a graduation, with some moving on to Athletes to Young Men. As BGCSF continues to build AAMI, we plan to add new opportunities and develop additional programs.
For more information on the African American Male Initiative, contact Harold Love, Vice President of Club Services, at email@example.com. If you or your organization are interested in volunteering to assist with components of AAMI, details on how you can contribute are available on our Volunteers page.