For the first time, ESSENCE Festival of Culture held spaces for Black men and boys, offering thought-provoking conversations about them. Wellness House drew several men to the “Joy Sanctuary” on Friday afternoon for a panel discussion on raising Black males, loving them and what it can be like to grieve them.

The moderator was radio personality Maria More, the host of the Wellness House conversations and a mother to sons. Panelists included Rev. Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed while unarmed in 2009 by a transportation officer in Oakland’s Fruitvale Station. There was also Arnold James, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist in New Orleans, and Brandy Stinson, a licensed Clinical Social Worker out of Atlanta.

Based on the compelling dialogue from the panel, we’ve listed nine tips from the experts on how to approach present-day parenting dilemmas while remaining hopeful about raising Black boys.

  1. Start early with positive affirmations. It builds self-esteem in what can be a competitive society.
  2. Celebrate their accomplishments and successes with them. This helps their motivation and strength to go further in being an asset to the community.
  3. Also celebrate their efforts and attempts at reaching goals. Positively reinforcement goes a long way in applauding their efforts to reach a goal.
  4. Reject negative labels that may be placed on your child. Take the time to address areas where they need guidance. If a school leader labels your child as being inattentive, guide them on what attentiveness looks like.
  5. Understand developmental differences. Young boys typically develop behind the pace of young girls, which is usually okay.
  6. Be attentive to their unique experiences. Listen and show creativity in addressing the real and complex needs of your individual child.
  7. Embrace a multi-faceted toolkit, which may include therapy. Children/teens often open up to professionals in ways they won’t open up to their parents. It’s easier to be vulnerable when you perceive there are no consequences.
  8. Toss out old myths regarding Black boys and their emotions. Let go of “boys don’t cry.” Allow your child a safe space to express their emotions and teach them how to perceive what is a safe space.
  9. Meet them where they are. This is especially important in relation to the social climate of today.

Other highlights from the conversation include Johnson talking proudly about her late son.

“We have to continually remind them that they have been created for a purpose,” she said. “I’m so proud because Oscar did everything that I instructed him to do that night and even though he didn’t come home, he still helped to allow his friends to come home.”

Stinson also noted how important it is to feel like you can do things differently when it comes to the way you parent your sons.

“We parent based on how we were taught, but it’s okay to go back and revisit what about the way that you were parented did not work for you,” she said.

As for James, he hoped the conversation will be of great help to mothers seeking to rear healthy, happy young men. “This is a conversation about what we can do to launch Black boys into becoming successful whole men.”

The conversation, which also highlights how beneficial showing love is to Black boys, will soon be available to watch in full. In the meantime, we hope the actionable items shared will be of help to you and the young men in your life.

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