Effective Mentoring Necessitates Activism

Obama Honors Bush

(Photo Credit: U.S. News)

When one is seriously committed to providing effective mentoring, activism has to be central to how he or she mentors.  Although things you do for your mentee on a one-on-one level is essential, you fail to maximize the outcomes of your mentoring when you don’t become an activist for your mentee.  Don’t simply localize your mentoring efforts; make your efforts as global as possible.  When you passionately advocate for mentoring at the local, state and national level, you can have an impact on public policy, and you can build a larger community of mentors and activists who support your cause(s).

After the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, we should understand how vital it is to take genuine steps toward protecting our children from those who wish to do them harm.  In no way am I suggesting that Trayvon Martin is dead today because he didn’t have a mentor.  He has excellent and educated parents who love him.  He died because a man desired to kill him.  George Zimmerman and many others perceive the Black male body—no matter the age of that Black body—as a threat.

Our children need to be educated about how racists and others stigmatize and profile them as threats and problems and how they should respond to these realities.  In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), W.E.B. Du Bois asked a powerful question: “How does it feel to be a problem?”  Many Americans see Black boys as not “a problem” but as the “problem.”  Although every child needs to have a mentor in his or her life, it’s not optional for a Black boy to have a mentor in his life—it’s a matter of survival.  For those of us who mentor young children and/or adults, we have to wake this nation up to the importance of mentoring.  We have to bring enough attention at the state and national level so that investing money and resources in support of mentoring efforts becomes a national priority.

On July 16, 2013, at an event honoring former President George H.W. Bush and the 5,000th  recipient of the Daily Points of Light Award, President Obama announced he created a new task force to resolve how federal agencies and private companies could use members of AmeriCorps and similar programs “on some of our most important national priorities: improving schools, recovering from disasters, and mentoring our kids.”  This is certainly positive news.  We cannot, however, let the potential of increasing funding and resources for mentoring stop at the level of a White House task force.  Without public input and activism, especially from those currently involved in mentoring, nothing fruitful may emerge from the work of this task force.  This task force needs to hear from us, and it’s crucial that this task force benefits from our knowledge, ideas, experience and research about mentoring.  When the President of United States is willing to construct a task force dedicating critical attention to mentoring, we cannot squander this valuable opportunity to make supporting mentoring a national priority.

Contact your congressional representatives and share your ideas, knowledge, experiences and research with them about mentoring, and let them know specifically what you want communicated to this newly created White House task force.  Additionally, let your congressional and state representatives know that you desire for them to invest funding in local, state and national programs, organizations, and initiatives committed to mentoring.  If the American people make mentoring a true priority, then their elected official will have no choice but to make it a priority.

Don’t simply continue to mentor the two or three individuals you’re mentoring and never take the crucial step of becoming an activist for them.  Mobilize your community to get involved in mentoring and to demand that local, state and federal policymakers invest in mentoring.  Making substantive investments in mentoring will be one of the best uses of taxpayers’ dollars in American history.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison


  1. “In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), W.E.B. Du Bois asked a powerful question: “How does it feel to be a problem?” Many Americans see Black boys as not “a problem” but as the “problem.””

    And THAT right there was endgame for me. GREAT write up.

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