MIDTOWN – A keynote speaker at the Save Our Sons town hall meeting against violence Saturday used the childhood game “rock, paper, scissors” to give three keys to his success to impressionable youths.
Harris-Stowe State University’s Emerson Performance Theatre, 3031 Laclede Ave., served as the perfect venue for life coach and motivational speaker Koran Bolden. A self-made entrepreneur, he is also author of the book “Rock, Paper, Scissors: 3 Secrets to How Your Failure Can Make you Famous.”
Bolden began his motivational spiel by betting that he could beat any of the youths at a game of “rock, paper, scissors.” He then called a challenging youth up to the stage and did just that.
His point was that he wins with his rock, paper, scissors method, telling the youths how they too could win at life by applying the three items.
The rock, he said, is faith and believing, which is the foundation.
The paper is what you write your goals on.
The scissors is what one uses to cut off people – including friends and family – who are a hinderance.
While he had faith, wrote his plan down and cut out of his life people and things that obstructed his success, he still encountered other obstacles and setbacks but didn’t give up on his dream.
“Young fellas in the room, the minute that you feel like giving up, that day you feel like dropping out of school, that day you feel you want to go grab a gun, that day you feel like doing drugs … That’s the moment that, if you make it to the other side, there will be a breakthrough coming to you,” he said.
“We give up because we’re tired and miss our breakthrough,” he explained, “but I wasn’t missing my breakthrough.”
He then told the youths to focus on – and be thankful for – what they have and to take care of their mental health.
“That little that you do have will become a lot when you stay in the game,” he said.
The town hall, the brainchild of state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-Mo., 5th Dist.), also had resource vendors on hand.Some were Justine Petersen and 1st Financial Federal Credit Union, which offers financial literacy and products; Father’s Support Center; and All the King’s Men Restorative Justice Services, which offers criminal record expungement.
Utility assistance was also available and offered by The Urban League, which presented the town hall through its Save Our Sons program.
“A conversation needed to be had among black men, and we wanted them to talk directly to black boys; but we didn’t want brothers just talking at them, we wanted to offer them resources,” Nasheed said.
Men on the panel pointed to women such as Nasheed as movement-makers and change agents that continue to be necessary for the advancement of black males.
Panelist Dennis Haymon, a former drug dealer who spent 25 years in prison for second-degree murder, applauded Nasheed for sponsoring a bill that offered a second chance and expungement to felons.
Answering a question from moderator and radio personality BJ the DJ about how to uplift black boys, Haymon said it was important to let them know they are valuable regardless of their mistakes.
“We have to assert and instill in them that no matter what they have done, they’re not throw-aways, they’re not a lost generation; and the reason I say that is because of my own life,” said Haymon, now a minister, mentor and author of the book “From Guns to Redemption.”
Other panelists were Darrin Seals of Sankofa; James Clark of Better Family Life; former city detective and author Roland Page, owner of Black Pearl Tattoo Shop; lawyer and former city counselor Rodney Boyd; Third Ward Alderman Brandon Bosley; and 21st Ward Alderman John Collins Muhammad.
Newly elected state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge (D-Mo., 78th Dist.), 25, sporting braids, popped in. He noted the significance of black women, and he used his young age to engage and inspire the youths.
“Dream big like Koran said,” Aldridge told them. “Never give up. Believe in yourself. No matter what hood, what set, what gang, what neighborhood you come from, you can be anything you want.” Aldridge is the youngest black Missouri state representative, relaying street credibility with his former Carr Square Village address.
Not to be all talk, the call to action at the meeting amongst embattled black men was for each one in attendance to go home and work to heal their community, on their respective block.
For Bosley, cleaning up the community and uplifting black boys means shaking things up, doing things differently and keeping negative messages out of youths’ minds.
“These kids need they ass whupped,” he said, excusing his passionate language about physical discipline, a common practice among blacks since slavery to compel offspring to stay safely out of harm’s way.
Noting the importance and impact of messages, he lambasted gansta-style rap music and flirting with death and jail.
“We allow any messages to come to our community,” Bosley said. “We accept those messages, and we don’t do what’s necessary to ensure that the right messages are coming into the minds of our youths.”
Driving his message home, he said, “Yo homie getting in a casket alone. These rappers ain’t coming to your funeral. But you spend $100 to go to a concert to let them tell you to kill the brother next to you.”
Seals pointed to the positive messaging in teaching black history to change the mindset of at-risk youths.
“So many people died for us,” he said, adding that learning about the various chains of slavery had enlightened him.
“Why y’all steady trying to get back in chains?” he asked.
Clark reminded the audience about ancient African rites of passage, noting that black boys today aren’t formally guided into manhood.
“Right now, when a young man turns 17 or 18 years old or sometimes before that, he’s given the title of a man, and I think we really need to begin to come up with rules of what makes you a man and teach them to our young boys,” Clark said.