Event aims to put kids on right track

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Kenneth Morris, center, speaks with area youth, from left clockwise, Davon Harris, 12; Myles Gordon, 12; Conner Sorrell, 11; Brandon Carter, 14; Kemonta Williams, 11; and Kenneth Morris, 15, during Saturday's 'What They See is What They Will Be' father and son vs. anti-violence breakfast in the Martin Luther King Community Center. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Kenneth Morris, center, speaks with area youth, from left clockwise, Davon Harris, 12; Myles Gordon, 12; Conner Sorrell, 11; Brandon Carter, 14; Kemonta Williams, 11; and Kenneth Morris, 15, during Saturday's 'What They See is What They Will Be' father and son vs. anti-violence breakfast in the Martin Luther King Community Center.

“There are many sayings that say how you get stuff done is by breaking bread with each other. That’s why we center it around a meal.” jOHN SMITH, vice president of programs for 100 Black Men

Gordon Bell wanted to show his son Grant, 8, and Grant’s friends the importance of having a positive male role model in their lives.

So Bell brought the boys to the “What They See is What They Will Be” father-son breakfast Saturday morning at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center on Gus Young Avenue to make use of an opportunity to speak openly and honestly about growing up.

“I just want to get a chance to talk to them and show them that there are other ways to succeed,” Wilson said. “They don’t always have to be a professional athlete or a rap star.”

Bell said his own dad brought him to similar events when he was a child.

“It had a huge impact because typically at these events, you learn things that you don’t always learn in school,” Bell said.

The breakfast, which served as a forum for fathers to discuss violence and build relationships with their sons, was organized by, among others, 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission and the East Baton Rouge Department of Juvenile Services.

John Smith, vice president of programs for 100 Black Men, said the organization hosted a similar event in September.

Smith said the breakfast sessions give boys a chance to sit down one-on-one with adult men, as opposed to hearing a lecture from a guest speaker.

Smith said the dialogue also lets adults hear the kids’ problems and get their input on solutions to what might be of concern to them.

“There are many sayings that say how you get stuff done is by breaking bread with each other,” Smith said. “That’s why we center it around a meal.”

The crowd of about 60 people gathered at tables in one of the center’s conference rooms. Edward Smith, senior juvenile probation officer for of Juvenile Services, told the boys the event would help them find ways to stay away from gun violence, bullying and truancy.

“And who is going to come up with those solutions? It’s going to be you,” he said to the boys.

After opening comments from Smith and other organizers, each adult in the room took turns standing up and introducing themselves.

Then came the meal, which included grits, eggs and sausage, among other breakfast treats.

Freddie Wilson enjoyed a discussion with his two sons, Joshua, 12, and Jacob, 8, during breakfast.

Wilson said he brought his sons to the event to have an open and honest dialogue with them about maturity and staying away from violence.

“There’s so much that kids deal with in the community that are not really being brought to the forefront, and this is a good opportunity to express your concerns,” he said.

Herbert “Tweety” Anny, director of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, or BRAVE, said he stopped by the gathering because BRAVE focuses on at-risk youth 14 to 17 years of age.

“If we can touch the youth at an early age, give them some not only discipline,” Anny said, “but direction and insight to the consequences if they continue with bad behavior, then we figure we can intervene at the appropriate time so that the violence can be reduced in the future.”

Anny also emphasized the role of parents in helping children realize their full potential, especially fathers.

“A lot of these young people, they don’t know their dad,” Anny said. “Some others have parents that just don’t look out for them like they need to.”