"I grew up in Los Angeles, and I would have loved to have been able, when I was young, to speak to middle aged black guys about what I should do, and the avenues I should go down," said Jason McCuller, president of Concerned Black Men of Los Angeles (CBMLA).
While he did not get the opportunity himself, McCuller and the group of professional and semi-professional men (and some women) in his organization are giving back to their community in a way designed to combat some of the negative images about black youth and some of the not-necessarily-positive images these youngsters are confronted with in the media.
"Concerned Black Men is a national organization that has been around since 1987. It was started by five black police officers . . . There are 23 chapters around the nation; mostly on the east coast," explained McCuller, adding that the Los Angeles group began in 2003 and was the first one in the state.
Their goal, said McCuller, of the local organization is to help combat the negative, stereotypical portrayals of African American youth and to help with the social, emotional and academic development of these same young people. The group also wants to help the students wade through the misleading images often seen in the media.
Currently CBMLA operates a computer training program for people age 17 and older who want to become Microsoft Word and Excel certified. The members also help participants with resume and cover letter writing.
"One of the biggest problems is that the adults don't have a job, and without them working, it's difficult for the younger children," said McCuller about why they focused on offering this six-week training program to the primarily African American apartment complex in the city of Paramount.
Funding to conduct their programs currently comes from the Wells Fargo Foundation, and during the fall the group is planning a golf tournament at the Industry Hills Golf Course to raise revenue for the organization.
The next projects on the CBMLA agenda are to get mentoring programs started at Dorsey High School and Baldwin Hills Elementary School. McCuller said they are currently working with administrators and teachers at each school to finalize these efforts.