The Pew Research Center brings to light a sobering trend within the Black community that is no surprise to many. The center’s study found that Black fathers are more than twice as likely as white fathers to live apart from their children. With the intent to explore what appears to be a growing problem, Omega Psi Phi fraternity has decided to make mentorship a focal point during its centennial celebration in Washington D.C.
Fraternity leaders created a mentor program called “Project Aspiration” to help guide a new generation of black men who are coming of age.
“It’s always discouraging when men don’t have fathers.” Andrew Ray, the fraternity’s grand basileus said. “Omega men can be surrogate fathers. They can step in when others won’t and that’s what we are trying to re-energize.”
Friday, more than 150 D.C. area young men came to Howard University to take part in a morning of workshops headed by a host of Omega mentors. They provided kids with guidance about character, manhood, career development and leadership. With the goal of nurturing a new generation of professionals, there’s a heavy focus in peaking young boys’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. These areas, leaders say, are fertile fields that need talented young black men.
Thirteen-year-old Anthony Box was excited to attend the workshops. The studious and shy young man says he wants to be an architect one day. “The most important thing I learned is to keep trying and work hard, and get ready for the future,” he said. “I learned if you pay now, you can play later and have a good life.”
JaSun Frone, one of the organizers of the fraternity’s mentorship program, sees himself in the eyes of the young men that gathered on this summer day. He became a father when he was 15 and said, “Because my father was not in the home when I was growing up, I want to be someone my kids can be proud of. I needed some manhood support and that’s where Omega Psi Phi came in.”
Fatherhood and mentorship have been banner issues for President Obama. That’s why Omega Psi Phi has teamed up with the administration to participate in the White House Fatherhood Initiative. During the convention, President Obama greeted fraternity leaders in a closed-door meeting. Thabiti Boone, the fraternity’s international representative, was encouraged that the president applauded the fraternity’s work in the community. He said, “The president knows what It’s like to be without a dad and for him to recognize what we’re doing in the area of fatherhood and mentoring says a lot about him.”
Leaders say so far they’ve helped submit some 3,500 names to volunteer to be part of the White House Fatherhood Initiative.
The fraternity plans to use the centennial as a launching pad to start new mentorship programs in chapters across the country within the next year. The week of festivities will culminate with a fatherhood forum.