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The Manhood Academy for Boys: "Part of the solution" part 1

RITES OF PASSAGE: Three young members of the Manhood Academy

'IT TAKES a village to raise a child.’ So goes the age-old African proverb. In 21st century Britain, it can
teach us a lot about how to help young black boys develop into great young men.

In the pre-Windrush era boys in Caribbean and African communities grew into adulthood in close proximity to the male adults in their lives, who would provide guidance on things such as responsibility to one’s family, staying in good health, working towards goals and managing money.

RELATIONSHIPS

However for a multitude of reasons these relationships are not as strong as they once were.

A seemingly endless barrage of negative media headlines has made our community well aware of the challenges our young men face in successfully reaching adulthood. This has prompted a debate about how best to support boys in what can be a difficult journey from adolescence to adulthood.

Among the organisations leading the debate on the issue are Origin, the Reach Society and north London’s Manhood Academy for Boys.


GUIDANCE: Co-founder Aundrieux Sankofa speaks with some young members of the Manhood Academy

COACHING

Run by a group of black male professional volunteers the Manhood Academy has developed a unique African-focused rites of passage programme that provides specialist coaching such as resolving conflict, developing social and emotional intelligence, perseverance in the face of disappointment and prostate health awareness.

Anthony Smith is a teenager living in a council estate in Tottenham, north London. He has never been involved in crime, gangs or drug use. Instead, he has displayed enormous academic potential; but from the age of 14, arguments between Anthony and his mother escalated, often stemming from mundane matters such as carrying out chores, being well-mannered and maintaining a focus at school.

To cope with his frustration and anger, Anthony would occasionally leave home and stay at the homes of friends for up to a week.

The turbulence at home has adversely affected Anthony’s academic performance and the benefits of his private education have been squandered during a critical time in his schooling.


PROUD PRINCES: The Manhood Academy works with children and teens alike

GOALS

During the last four months, however, the teenager has felt calmer and more equipped to refocus on his future goals. The youngster’s behavioural development followed his mother’s decision to enrol him on a specialised coaching programme run by the Manhood Academy in his local Tottenham.

Anthony’s mother Sonia believes her son’s anger stems from the emotional pain of not enjoying a stable relationship with his father. She said:

"Anthony would randomly see his father every five or six years, and now no longer views him as a dad.

"The impression I get at times is that Anthony is upset because he believes, ‘my father doesn’t care for me, so why should I care?’- It is a phase he went through.”

Sonia says her son has benefited significantly from the Manhood Academy’s rites of passage programme which involves a range of transformative workshops, intensive one-to-one life coaching and a Coming of Age rites of passage ceremony. She says she has noticed tangible changes in her oldest son during the last four months.


LEARNING: Coaches address young men during sessions

“Whenever I have a disagreement with Anthony I can see him take a deep breath and he goes into the garden for a period of quiet introspection and later apologises. He is learning to deal with problems maturely. His ability to communicate has improved, which he can use to diffuse potentially explosive situations, engage with productive dialogue at work and nurture relationships with his future family.”

Anthony adds:

“I feel I’m not judged or looked down on while I’m at the Academy, which makes me feel safe and motivated to become more responsible now and in the future.”

Anthony Smith is one of 40 youngsters between the ages of eight and 19 who have undergone specialised coaching from the Manhood Academy during the past 12 months.

The organisation’s ethos is based on helping young black boys make the challenging transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Aundrieux Sankofa, a co-founder of the Manhood Academy, recalls the motivation behind the charity’s launch in October 2016. Speaking to The Voice, the lecturer and author of Sacred Man: From Boyhood to Manhood to Divine Masculine, recalls:


STANDING TALL: Five of the eight co-founders

“Myself and the seven other co-founders were tired of seeing the mugshots and constant media sound bites portraying young black men in a negative light. As youth educators, we also coach high achievers and the gifted and talented. There is a wider spectrum to our black boys than the stereotypes portrayed. After discussions we decided to be part of the solution. The eight founders as a collective have worked in prisons, specialised education units, schools, colleges, in senior education, and on the streets with gangs and so we decided to use our experience as a united collective to benefit our community.”

Another Manhood Academy mother has three children from the ages of 11 to 17, who are currently attending the academy. She recalls that for years she searched for an African rites of passage programme for her children and was overjoyed when the Manhood Academy was launched in January.

“For many teenagers in London their rites of passage are carried out unconsciously and often in an unhealthy manner,” she says.

POWERFUL

“I have always wanted my children to benefit from powerful and positive African male role models, who demonstrate what it is to be a strong positive man in the diaspora, with all the challenges this entails.

“I have never seen anything like the Manhood Academy in helping black teenagers enter maturity prepared.”

Part 2 of this feature will be published tomorrow at 6am GMT.

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