Dudes, Dads and Donuts coming to McCluer High School this weekend, aims to empower young Black men

Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 5:22 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- A local nonprofit designed to empower Black youth and connect them with role models and mentors will host its Dudes, Dads and Donuts event this Saturday.

Arneil Brooks started Project Lyf3 Plus with the purpose of providing young men with examples of strong, successful Black men in their lives. Events like Dudes, Dads and Donuts bring fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins and mentors together to discuss common issues faced in the African American community.

“We want to get our men back engaged in schools, in their children’s lives and I want to be the connection between the hard questions and hard conversations that many African American men don’t want to have,” Brooks said.

Saturday’s event begins at 9 a.m. and will take place at McCluer High School. The main topic being discussed by the panel will be mental health, with a variety of topics discussed in smaller groups, including: How to communicate with your bonus son; Understanding your GPA and resume; Manners! What are those; Keeping it 100! Talk with Law Enforcement; Why mentoring matters; Dress for success; My moral code; the strength in vulnerability; financial literacy; how to handle trauma in youth.

“We have a cycle that goes down to our children, and so our young men grow up being exactly what they see because no one actually reached out for help,” he said. “I’m giving them the opportunity to speak with gentlemen who may have gone through the same thing as them.”

Brooks said the stigma around mental health in the Black community is significant, deterring many people from seeking out resources. He’s hopeful Saturday’s event will help foster conversations between some of the young men and those who are older, offering a listening ear and support.

“So often, their feelings get brushed aside,” said Brooks. “We need to help them work through this, to try our best to avoid behaviors that we see when they get older that are destructive and not productive.”

Brooks is working closely with his friend Albert Harrold, director of Family and Community Engagement in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Harrold sees some of the struggles many of the district’s students face, in large part due to factors at home. He said some men are hesitant to get involved with mentoring programs out of fear.

“They may get cussed out, they may get looked at like they’re crazy, they may get disrespected, but that’s a natural defense to a lot of these young folks,” said Harrold. “So a lot of times we just have to give them space to talk.”

Harrold is also the executive director of Strength and Honor Mentoring and Tutoring, focusing primarily on redirecting young people’s way of thinking in hopes of giving them a fair shot at life.

“You have to prime them well, to where they’re going to have that conversation with them that you want to have,” he said. “Leave them with something to think about.”

Some of the panelists for Saturday’s event include Brandon Williams, vice president of Business for the Battlehawks, Marcus Creighton, founder and CEO of the Creighton Institute and Carey Davis, co-host of “The Opening Drive” on 101 ESPN. More than 400 people are expected to attend.