Asia Womack & Tamara Sawyer ~ As you may know, last week I announced that I was temporarily suspending programs, services, and general operations at The Odyssey Project. You probably don’t know how difficult it was to make that decision. Well, I am happy to announce that I have lifted the suspension, not because we received the support we needed, but because we cannot leave the gap that will be left if we are not there.
We will find a way to fund programs like Black Men Lead, Restoring Ghettos Forgotten Daughters, Music is Life, mental health & domestic violence services, and more. Honestly, we are hoping you will be a part of the short-term solution by donating.
The programs offered through The Odyssey Project are built on the foundation of empirical and pragmatic data, meaning they are proven to work. The problem is that we aren’t reaching enough children, and many fall through the cracks. I have a three-year plan that can this problem if enough people get behind it. If Blacks learn to unite, we are more than capable of funding our own socioeconomic revolution.
Part of the reason for the quick lifting of the suspension of the programs was two cases that landed on my desk for commentary. The first was a sad story of Asia Womack (21), a Black female being shot and killed by a family friend (a Black 31-yr-old male) because she beat him in a basketball game. The easy thing to do is to get lost in the postulation of what could have led to such a catastrophic outcome outside of a basketball game. Everyone should be focusing on the fact another Black female has died at the hands of a young Black male.
The second case was equally devastating. Tamara Sawyer, a young Black female, 22, was killed inside her parent’s home by her Black boyfriend (23). These types of cases have become far too common, and the general response is to make social media comments like smh, OMG, horrible, and the like. None of these comments will create the type of shift we need to reduce violence. Nearly 15 years ago, I introduced my findings on African American adolescent and young adult male violence. I shared the five most powerful forces that influence violence among young Black males
In order of influence:
1. The Feeling Of Being Disrespected
2. The Lack Of Proper Racial Socialization
3. Being a Victim of Violence
4. Witnessing Violence
5. Urban Hassle (The frantic reality and nature of inner-city life)
Among the five influencers, socialization had the greatest promise to change outcomes. Young Black males who are properly socialized, especially racially socialized, have reduced dropout rates (meaning they are less likely to become incarcerated). These young boys are less likely to commit acts of violence against one another and definitely not against females. I also discovered that Black males who are racially socialized are less likely to suffer from any form of drug addiction.
It would be disingenuous to suggest that programs like Black Men Lead could have, with certainty, saved Asia or Tamara. However, we know that these programs can save countless other lives. We know that without programs like these on a national level, we will only see the problem exacerbated.
I am asking for you to contribute to the work we are doing to empower and elevate our communities. We often talk about children being the future. At the rate we are going, we won’t have much of a future. The time for change is now.
Support the Black Men Lead rite of passage initiative!
All the best,
Rick Wallace, Ph.D., Psy.D.
Founder & Executive Director
The Odyssey Project