We talk a lot about the importance of male role models. But the rhetoric often stops at young men simply needing to see and examples of older men. However, the power isn’t just in seeing but feeling and building meaningful relationships. So many young girls have a village of caring women to embrace them, and show usher them on the path to womanhood. But far too many young men are often left to fend for themselves. But as Adam shares, having those male role models can make all the difference, changing the way a young man not only sees himself, but the world around him.

The summer between freshman and sophomore year when I went to UJEEMA was where I got my first girlfriend. As a part of the program, they had us go on tons of trips to better learn and understand  learn our heritage and culture. I loved it because it was very interesting to me, partly because my father would drill into us how important American history was to us, specifically. He would say that without our heritage, we wouldn’t have some of the things we have today. Understanding how much of a fight it really was to get to where we are made me love the program. And the mentors were there with me through so many different things.

The positive male role models I had were the first men that stood out to me. They really helped me out during some really dark times with my family. For example, during my sophomore year, my parents got into a really bad fight. They were living together, but separately. One day, my dad got fed up, took all my mom’s stuff and put it in the garage. And he put all his stuff in the bedroom. When we got home, she moved her stuff back in, but still left his stuff in the bedroom. When my father got home, he threw the exercise machine down the stairs while they were arguing, but it accidentally hit my older brother.

After that, I heard a big commotion, and saw my father about to raise his hand to her but she started swinging on him first. I tried to get between them and push them apart, but there was nothing I could do. And that kept going on. Despite all of the commotion and the punches she landed on my dad, she never hit me once.  My dad called the cops and filed a domestic dispute. But my mom didn’t really remember much. All she recalled was saying that she wasn’t afraid of him anymore. The police told her that she was lucky because in most cases like that the man ended up dead.

I went up to [them] and immediately started bawling my eyes out… They told me that no matter what happens they’d always be there for me–that they’d always have my back. [That’s when] I realized they were two truly incredible people.

They took my mom to jail because my dad had a busted lip. That night, I took off to go to a wrestling match I was supposed to be a part of. From that point, I was distraught, frustrated, and didn’t know what to feel. I felt betrayed, angry, hurt, and it was extremely overwhelming. My parents had fought before when I wasn’t home, and I remember being pissed, but this was different because I was there for the whole thing. Witnessing it made me feel so hurt.

When I got to the school after biking for three miles, as I was going to the gym, I noticed one of the mentors of the program was there. I went up to him and immediately started bawling my eyes out. He was the only person I knew to go to. I just remember crying and him and another mentor trying to calm me down so I could at least get the story out.

They told me that no matter what happens they’d always be there for me. They said they didn’t care how far we had to move or what might have happen as a result of the fight, but that they would always have my back. Going through that, I realized they were two truly incredible people–the role models I always wanted and had.