- Faith & Family
Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated a little bit early for some boys at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center in Liberty City. On Wednesday, Nov. 16th, the children, all members of a local mentoring program and their siblings, were served dinner and a whole lot more.
The program, which has been dubbed the ‘Bring them from being boys to young men,’ was created by Rev. Marvin Woods, an associate minister at First Baptist Church of Bunche Park over a year ago.
Inspired by a young boy he met at the center who was undergoing family difficulties, Woods said he created the program “to say, ‘hey, you’re my little brother, I’m here for you, I’ll look out for you,” he explained. “I want them to understand that they are somebody in the sight of God and in the sight of man so I call them little brothers.”
Now every Wednesday afternoon for three hours, approximately 12 boys from the center’s after-school program meet with Woods at the center for informal sessions where topics include exhibiting positive behavior and anger management, making right choices, and the importance of giving back to one’s community.
The program is for boys between the ages of eight and 15, a time during a young man’s life which Woods refers to as “troubling.”
The idea is to try to reach a boy when he is still young and prevent him from getting a police record, Woods explained.
For nine-year-old Johnnie Dixson the lessons about anger management have been most useful.
“I used to have a really bad attitude and when someone hit me or did something to me I would hit them back, but I learned that I shouldn’t do that, but tell some [adult] who is around and count to 10,” he said.
Meanwhile, 12-year-old Rashard Marshall has learned the importance of speaking using appropriate language.
“I used to use the word nigger — I didn’t know it was hurtful,” he said.
According to Carol Ridgeway, the financial assistant at the center, Woods mentoring sessions are a bonus program for the boys who attend the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, whose core curriculum centers around teaching about the performance and visual arts.
She also noted how important it was for children to have role models.
“It’s important to see that there is more to life and to them help them realize that there is a difference in definite areas beyond what they see in the streets,” she explained.
By Kaila Heard