Michael Baisden is fed up. The popular radio host is exhausted from running to town hall meetings to speak about the steep youth murder rate in his hometown of Chicago. He decided that there are only so many ways to present the sad story on our troubled youth on his four-hour radio show. He figured, what America’s at-risk kids desperately need is simple: a mentor. Baisden recently launched a national 74-city bus tour to find “One Million Mentors” to save our kids and to encourage them to get it together. At each tour stop, the New York Times best-selling author will host mentoring forums in partnership with local mentoring organizations and affiliates of Big Brothers Big Sisters, National CARES Mentoring Movement and 100 Black Men. The journey ends on July 14, in New York City. ESSENCE.com spoke to the proud volunteer about what it takes to be a good mentor, why everyone should make time to help children, and how he spends time with his 11-year-old mentee. ESSENCE.com: What does it take to be a good mentor? MICHAEL BAISDEN: I would say, first and foremost, time, desire, consistency and willingness to share your life experience or talent with a child. Sometimes just being there for them when they have a question is what it takes. ESSENCE.com: What advice do you have for people who may think they are just too busy to mentor a child? BAISDEN: I am sure they have their own children, family, nieces and nephews. If we don’t help out these kids in need, they can be the ones to somehow victimize you and your kids. If you don’t have time for them, then you don’t have time for your own kid’s safety. Think about it, maybe that child that you didn’t take the time to help will be the one to hurt your honor roll student. You have to have time. What are we so busy doing? If you got time to talk on the phone with your friends, which most people do for hours, or sit in front of the television everyday, then you have time to mentor. ESSENCE.com: What qualifies a person to be a good mentor? BAISDEN: They just need to be people who care about kids and want to spend time with a child. You know, a volunteer on the weekend playing basketball is a mentor. The neighbor who takes a time out to show a kid how to fix a bike is a mentor. I mean just spending time with children is what it is all about. Anybody who is working with children, even tutors can be a mentor. ESSENCE.com: Are you mentoring any kids now? BAISDEN: Yes, an eleven-year-old boy. I go to his football and basketball games. I take him shopping when he needs things. If there are questions about girls and about life, I help direct him the best way I can. Just like what a father or a coach would do. ESSENCE.com: It’s great that you are setting out to recruit one million mentors. Do you have any lasting words to say to ESSENCE.com readers? BAISDEN: Get off your butt! Let’s be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. You know, you can’t keep shaking your head watching television on the nightly news saying, ‘What’s wrong with these kids?’ when you are not doing anything about it. It’s time to step up to the plate. We can do it. Read more:
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