We all know that February is that time of the year when Americans give special attention to the contributions and sacrifices of and untold tales of heroism performed by African Americans, past and present — Black History Month. But did you know that February is also designated as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month?
Consider that one-in-three teens in the U.S. are victims of sexual, physical, emotional or verbal abuse — only 1/3 of whom will confide in someone about the violence. This behavior often begins between 6th and 12th grade during which 25 percent of high school girls will be physically or sexually abused. Most alarming, 1.5 million high school girls and boys admit to being hit or harmed within the last year by someone they’re romantically involved while 50 percent of those who are raped or physically or sexually abused will attempt suicide.
Given these disconcerting and deadly statistics, we must applaud the work that’s being done by young men at Ballou Senior High School. Under the guidance of the coach of the football team, Minoso Rodgers, youth have participated in The Men of Code program which teaches them alternative ways to engage in relationships, shows them healthier examples that they can then follow and helps them learn and develop more effectively means of communication as they grow from boys to men — minus dangerous behavior patterns that far too often encompass definitions of manhood that have previously dominated their young lives: hypermasculinity, violence, dominance and entitlement.
Rodgers, along with one of his players, Tarajah Ruffin, a senior who will attend Winston-Salem State University in the fall, appeared with ABC7 reporter Veronica Johnson earlier this week to share the lessons that have been taught and learned. The two men represented the District, Ballou and their Southeast community impressive and admirable form.
Even more and as Tarajah indicated, when the goal is to become a better person, a better man, it often becomes necessary to remove some people from your life and out of your space, allowing room for others who bring more positive ways of thinking, behaving and living to become new fixtures and friends in your daily world.
We salute the young men of Ballou and the fine work they’re doing, along with the efforts of their coach and his staff and the program’s developers, beckysfund.org.