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Friday, November 30, 2007

It's Going Down......Introducing MAD DADS

Jon M. Fletcher/The Times-Union
MAD DADS national President Eddie Staton (left) and Patrick Hadley, founder of the Florida chapter of MAD DADS, laugh during a news conference Thursday to announce the organization's sponsorship of the Florida Cares Initiative to recruit 100,000 black mentors for youths.

Courtesy of Jacksonville.com:

Black men's group seeks to save a generation

MAD DADS is working with Essence magazine to register 100,000 mentors for African-American youths in Florida.

By Charlie Patton, The Times-Union

Saying it's time to act or risk losing the next generation of African-America boys to drugs, crime and violence, a group of Jacksonville leaders announced a new Web site Thursday where people in Florida can sign up to become mentors.

People who sign up via www.floridacares.info will receive e-mail responses telling them how to find local organizations that will train and match them with mentees, Eddie Staton, the Jacksonville-based national president of MAD DADS, said during a news conference at Eugene Butler Middle School.

MAD DADS stands for Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder.

Those signing up will be referred to the Kesler Mentoring Connection for training and then matched with a mentee through organizations such as Project Reach and Big Brothers Big Sisters, Staton said.

MAD DADS is a partner in a national initiative launch called Essence Cares, which was launched last year by Essence magazine. The national goal is to sign up 1.2 million African-American males by 2010 to serve as mentors. The goal of the Florida Cares Initiative is to sign up 100,000 new mentors, Staton said.

Staton said there's a great need for "strong, drug-free, God-loving" black men to serve as role models to black boys, offering an alternative to "pimps and hustlers and gang-bangers."

In calling specifically for African-American men to sign up as mentors, Staton said "we're not shunning anyone."

"But we need to take responsibility for our own," he said.

"If we want change, we have to make that change happen ourselves," said state Sen. Tony Hill, who said he has gotten his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, to agree to make the mentoring initiative a national project.

Roy Mitchell, a Jacksonville native and retired educator who once served as principal at Butler, will be one of the co-chairman of the Florida Cares Initiative.

"I am a product of what we are talking about," Mitchell said. "Community-minded adults put their hands on my shoulders."

Raised by a single parent, Mitchell said he was guided by a couple of key mentors, one of them Earl Kitchens, a legendary high school football coach in Jacksonville for whom Mitchell played when Northwestern, now a middle school, was a high school.

Claudette Williams, president of Edward Waters College, said her students have a role to play, both as mentors and mentees.

"We have already lost a generation, I'm sure," she said. "We can't afford to lose another."

Staton said Thursday's news conference was called to bring attention to the new Web site. Sometime in early 2008, he said, he expects Susan Taylor, the editor-in-chief of Essence, to come to Jacksonville for a formal kickoff of the Florida Cares campaign.

While there have been a number of recent efforts to recruit more mentors, this campaign will benefit from the involvement of Essence, which is extremely popular among blacks, Hill said.

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