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Silverback Society News

Leading A Nation to Improve The Lives of Boys of Color

Leading A Nation to Improve The Lives of Boys of Color
My Brother's Keeper
click on the photo to view the address

The men of the Silverback Society are encouraged by and grateful to President Obama for his “Our Brother's Keeper” initiative and we join the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, our major funder, in applauding President Obama for this sorely needed young men of color initiative; a joint effort with 10 leading foundations that will address barriers to their success. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation's president and CEO, La June Montgomery Tabron, issued the following statement of support and we concur:

We applaud President Obama for elevating the obstacles faced by young men and boys of color to a national priority. Boys and men of color must overcome barriers that are rooted in historic patterns of racial bias, segregation and poverty, from stop-and-frisk policies and street sweeps by police in New York, Chicago and elsewhere, to media portrayals that too often stereotype and criminalize, and overexposure to weapons, illegal drugs and alcohol. Such patterns and obstacles are deeply embedded in America’s education, juvenile justice, foster care, criminal justice and health care systems - resulting in higher unemployment, over representation in prisons, poorer health and far fewer opportunities for these young men and boys to succeed.

For more than 20 years, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) has funded initiatives to improve the plight of young men and boys of color. Eight years ago, a group of public officials, scholars and
(click here to read more) 

It should be noted that a full year before the President's call to duty, Kellogg began investing significantly in growing and sustaining our work to influence boys of color to become men with the capacity to make life better for their children, and we were extremely honored that Silverback Society's profile was featured on the W. K. Kellogg Foundation's website as the President announced his “My Brother's Keeper” initiative. Click here to view .

The Glow in That Young Man's Face
While the Presidents address was powerful in reminding the nation about the value of our children and the need to invest time and resources in embracing them and showing them how to have better lives, the young man who introduced him was the keynote for me, as he showed in his face the hope and youthful joy that happens when a kid sees the light, that glow the men of the Silverback Society see every year, once believing in us turns into boys beginning to believe in themselves, that glow which brings us back year after year. We also know that it is a process and takes time, consistency and patience.

Progressive Men of New Orleans – First Club to Lead a Silverback Troupe
PMONDavid Durand, Ken Frick, Pete Peterson and Kevin Ealy, members of the Progressive Men of New Orleans Social & Pleasure Club were already volunteering at times in the community, but as David Durand said, “Man. Y'all have a system that works and y'all make it so easy.” One member Pete Peterson drives in from Biloxi each week for the Tuesday sessions at Dibert. With him showing that kind of commitment, perhaps our first out of city expansion may be to Biloxi. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has encouraged us with some funding to begin planning such a step.


We Know it Works... for Most
Last Friday I visited with six Silverback Scholars who are graduating from Landry – Walker High School this year. These boys were our second group of kids at Murray Henderson, a group of fifteen. The visit was prompted by a call I received from one of them who was eager to be part of the Honore Center for Undergraduate Student Achievement's scholarship program run by Warren Bell at SUNO. The program provides a full scholarship with housing and special services for boys who are willing to be teachers for at least two years after graduation.

Lawrence proudly made the point that his group was Pastor Wardsworth's last, “We were the last Silverbacks to have the originals, you and Pastor”. Due to its proximity to Murray Henderson and Fischer, there are probably more Silverback Scholars at Landry – Walker than any other high school, so this bit of one oneupmanship was both hilarious and a poignant reminder of my friend and his contribution to this work.

Out of the seven boys who went to Landry Walker, six are graduating on time and with good grades, looking forward to post secondary education or training. Two took advantage of the Process Technology curriculum at Landry – Walker and will attend either Nunez College or Delgado for one year to complete a certification that will allow them to work in industry at a significant pay grade. One kid got involved in family related violence and is now incarcerated. Lawrence told me almost the other boys are at Edna Carr and I plan to visit them next week, as I plan to visit all the High Schools and perhaps share a pizza at lunch with all the Silverback Scholars on campus hand out membership cards, wristbands and encourage them to continue our winning ways, register on the website and ask them to greet and look out for the 200 boys we are sending to high school next year.

2013-2014 Is Proving Our Saturation Model
Saturation is no longer a theoretical concept and dream. Now it is an executable plan. After Pastor Wardsworth's passing, D'Juan Hernandez, Dwayne Steele, Al Miller, Chris Williams, Keith Pittman and Mtumishi St. Julien came aboard at Murray Henderson to fill the gap and the work continued, as impactful and effective as ever. That is when we began to consider that it wasn't about the personalities, but the message and the methodology, an idea that if true would allow us to scale up our effort, limited only by the number of men who answered the call and our ability to train, coordinate and support them in the work. Our board, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation then came through with the resources to create the infrastructure and we are now in seven schools.

This year proves the feasibility of our plan to be in every elementary school in a couple of years because for the first time, I was not able to participate in sessions at three schools and those troupes are doing as well as or better than the schools where I participate on a weekly basis, proof positive that we can grow with other trained committed caring men executing the curriculum and training the next group of men in the process. Al we need is men who are happy with their lives to come share their positivity and personal stories with our boys. There is a link on our website that you can use to apply to be a mentor. Click Here

Appreciated Help
We would like to offer our sincere thanks for the confidence and support for our work that has been expressed by the following grants we have recently received. These funds will allow us to continue, enhance and expand our effort.

Entergy Corporation - $5000.00

Edgar “Dooky” & Leah Chase Education Foundation – 800.00

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – 7000.00

Bob & Margaret Reily Fund – 14,000.00

Mr. & Mrs. Stephen R. Rosenthal (a second) $5000.00

Maintaining Our Unity in This Effort

When we come together as Silverbacks there are three rules:

  1. We do not discuss politics

  2. We do not discuss religion

  3. We do not sell

We do make sure everyone knows what one another does, so if we need a Silverback's goods or services we can seek them out and since we all are working with this singular pure purpose we know high character is in the house. We do pray to God and we encourage political and civic participation. Actually, We now have four elected officials as Mentors and Role Models and we encourage any man to tout his work with the Silverback Society if it can help him in any way and we would certainly verify his participation, but will never endorse anyone. If anyone should ever falsely claim participation, we would certainly also verify that as well.

So we are careful to not bring things into the room that would cause us to focus on our very human differences or raise our defenses to one another. The one thing we agree upon is what we do, how we do it and the opportunity of learning from our shared experiences working with our boys, knowledge that many men say has also enhanced their family and business lives.


Steve Clint
Judge Steven Jupiter and Clint Smith,  once political opponents, now on the same team for our boys.

A great example of the nature of this unified effort comes from the fact that both newly elected Traffic Court Judge Steven Jupiter and Clint Smith his opponent in a close and hard fought political campaign have both joined the Silverback Society as Role Models, both accepting a schedule to tell their stories to our boys. I must acknowledge that while their contest was hard fought, it was one of the most positive, issues based political contests of recent history in New Orleans.

Judge Steven Jupiter and also newly elected State Democratic Committeeman Reuben DeTiege are our third and fourth elected officials to join the effort. (We do not accept political candidates before or during elections. To insure that a man's motivation is pure we will accept elected officials or candidates after elections and appreciate their commitment to bring their standing back into the community to inspire our boys.)