boys2MEN engages with black sons, men and fathers

1 April 2005

Boys2MEN is designed to assist boys – particularly young black and ethnic minority boys and young men – in their transitions from boyhood to adulthood and on to fatherhood. A short eye-catching homily is printed in purple on boys2MEN brochures: “A boy…a male…and a Man are not the same…A male is a biological term, a boy is in a state of transition and a Man is defined as someone who has a purpose and a greater sense of responsibility… We need to teach our children the difference…”

Melvyn Davis, project manager, says the key to engaging with the often deeply disaffected young men from this sector is to make them think about their identity as emerging adults. “That’s why we use the slogan”.

Many of the boys do not know who their fathers are, have nothing but a negative experience of male role models and may have been in care. “They were so disaffected that our early plans to bring undiluted groups together for sessions were dropped as “too toxic”, says Melvyn. Now groups are mixed, youngsters are encouraged to bring along friends, to lighten up the experience.

Melvyn goes on to say that the group’s identity work is concentrated on “experiencing new behaviour…by becoming more self aware they realise they can make things happen and take more control of their lives…This is something different for them, something new. Our biggest success is to give these young men positive experiences to counter the negative traumas they have been through in their early lives”.

"What we are saying in boys2MEN is that regrettably you can still be a boy at 35 or 45 years old – you don’t have to leave that behind. There are no formal qualifications attached to being a man. In early years, all children and boys are selfish – they expect things to be done for them. That can become a permanent way of life. When you become a father the expectation is that you must stop living and thinking about your own needs, something many young fathers are not yet ready for or lack the capacity to do.

"It’s a rite of passage, moving from immaturity and childhood and aspiring to be a man. Most of them can relate to that. When you peel back the layers of these vulnerable young men, a lot of their extreme and risk-taking behaviour is really a way of saying ‘I am somebody, I am a Man’. We have now broadened our remit from young fathers to all young black men, who are all potential fathers. When you become a dad it’s too late – because you’re often in crisis then."

The boys2MEN Project, has won support and funding from many different funding streams and runs seven projects and family support initiatives. A mixture of community and school based projects; boys2MEN provides parenting support, young father’s programmes, personal and social education, crime prevention, young offenders and father inclusion programmes, utilising music and the expressive arts.

Contact:
Melvyn Davis 07905 101084 or email clcsmaygrove@ukonline.co.uk
boys2MEN Project is part of Coram Family: www.coram.org

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