Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Developing and Nurturing Excellence in African American Male Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Developing and Nurturing Excellence in African American Male Adolescents

Article excerpt

Across the nation, scores of African American male adolescents can be observed wandering the halls of public schools, alienated from the educational process, searching for the making of their American dream. Their absence is often conspicuous in upper-level academic and gifted classes, while their presence is readily apparent in remedial classes. They outnumber White male adolescents on suspension and expulsion lists (Bailey, 1996; Center for the Study of Social Policy, 1990; "Federal Report," 1999; Ford, Grantham, & Barley, 1999; Lee, 1992; Skiba, Michael, Nardo, & Peterson, 2000; Trescott, 1990). They can be found on street corners and in shopping malls, often the objects of fear and contempt. On any given day, their legal troubles clog the calendars of the juvenile justice system. Many never have the opportunity to celebrate their 18th birthdays because of arguments over material objects, such as athletic shoes, resulting in violent deaths. They often walk away from their education, their hopes, and their dreams because they do not see the educational and social systems as places for them to achieve. Rather, these systems are perceived as institutions that collectively label them without affording them the opportunity to realize their potential as individuals (Narine, 1992).

The poor academic and social performance of African American male adolescents has been linked to the lack of role models, low self-esteem, hopelessness, productivity dysfunction, and low expectations by the school, communities, and society at-large (Gardner, 1985; Kunjufu, 1984; Lee, 1996; Lee & Bailey, 1997; Lee & Lindsey, 1985; Majors, 1986; Majors & Billson, 1992; Morgan, 1980). Many educators, researchers, and community leaders often discuss the poor performance of male African Americans at professional meetings but, with the exception of a few, are at a loss when it comes to assisting them in recognizing and moving toward their optimal potential.

The purpose of this article is twofold. First, it explores the current experience of African American male adolescents while considering those factors that might contribute to different outcomes. Second, a detailed description of one initiative designed to have an impact, Project: Gentlemen on the Move, is also provided. This program was developed in response to the needs of African American male adolescents, yet it has the potential to be used, if adapted appropriately, with a variety of groups from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.


As noted in the introduction, the current experience of African American male adolescents provides numerous areas for concern. This idea seems to be confirmed by the existing educational achievement gap between male African Americans and their White counterparts as well as the continual overrepresentation of male African Americans in the juvenile justice system (Bailey, 1999; The Education Trust, 1996, 1998). As a result, too many African American male adolescents become a part of a growing number of negative social and academic statistics.

Within U.S. Society

Socially, the number of African American male adolescents involved at one level or another in the juvenile justice system remains at a critical level. It has been reported that 1 out of every 4 male African Americans is in jail or under court supervision and that there are more African American men in their 20s under court control than are enrolled in college (Bass & Coleman, 1997; Green & Wright, 1992; Mauer, 1990). Data from the 1995 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report "Crime in the United States" (FBI, 1996; Sickmund, Snyder, & Poe-Yamagata, 1997) indicate that "black adolescents represented 15% of the juvenile population in 1995 yet were involved in 28% of all juvenile arrests" (Sickmund et al., 1997, p. 17). Although they represent only 15% of the juvenile population, African American adolescents constituted 43% of the juvenile populations in public facilities and 34% in private custody facilities (Bailey, 1999; FBI, 1996; Sickmund et al. …

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