Susan L. Taylor, editorial director of Essence magazine, met student leaders Tuesday to issue a call to action to secure our youth. She has a goal to register 2.5 million students to join the mentoring organization Essence Cares. Taylor, along with representatives from MAD DADS Inc, Men Against Destruction-Defending Against Drugs and Social-Disorder, came to Perry Paige auditorium at 3:30 p.m. and announced they were launching an initiative to save today’s youth. “How many students are on campus?” asked Eddie Staton, national president of MAD DADS. “If it’s 11,000 students, we need 10,000 to be mentors.” Essence Cares has partnered with MAD DADS, 100 Black Men, The Boys and Girls Club of America and other organizations to reach citizens in “every city and hamlet.” “We’re going to get our brothers and sisters,” Taylor said. She said there are a lot of mentoring programs, but the pipeline of good mentors is empty. During the gathering Taylor aired a PSA for Essence Cares that featured the star power of such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Terrance Howard, Diddy, Danny Glover, Spike Lee and Harry Belafonte. The stars shared startling statistics of the state of black youth in America. “One-third of all black children live under the poverty line,” the PSA said. “The leading cause of death for black men is homicide.” In response to those figures, Taylor said, “We have a mandate to save the lives of our children.” And she wants the college students of America to fill in the gap. Taylor called for the black community to “link arms and aims” to reach our children. She suggested the biggest factors for the declination of blacks included a lack of education and irresponsible parenting. “Some of us were raised by parents who shouldn’t have been anybody’s parents,” she said. “But we made it; we’re here.” In addition, she mentioned that 2.4 million children have a parent in prison, and that 58 percent of black fourth graders are functionally illiterate. At the end of the presentation, Robbyn Mitchell, president of the FAMU Association of Black Journalists, honored Taylor with a plaque and flowers. Mitchell said it was important to have a journalism role model, and Taylor showed journalists they can not only report the story, but impact their communities. Essence Cares has launched the Florida subset of the program, called Florida Cares. Birdette Hughey is a member of the Florida Cares steering committee and 2005 FAMU graduate. She helped organize the event that brought Taylor to campus. Hughey said she just found out about the event last Wednesday, and contacted the campus toward the end of the week. She was thankful to Dean Henry Kirby, Dean James Hawkins, LaNedra Carroll of public relations, the student government association and other students who worked quickly to make the event a success. Before the meeting with the general student body, Hughey invited representatives from certain student organizations to the dean’s conference room in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication to speak with Taylor, Staton and other leaders of MAD DADS. “I reached out to SGA, the Campus Activities Board, the journalism school, faith-based organizations and the Pan-Hellenic council president, since the Greek community usually makes a big impact as well,” Hughey said. About 22 students had the opportunity to introduce themselves and engage in dialogue with Taylor in an intimate setting. She also fielded questions from the students and offered them advice. “The wisest thing I’ve ever written is this: You have to give yourself to yourself before you give yourself away,” said Taylor, who was a single mother for most of her career. She advised students to ask God for guidance each day and make sure their passions and goals are motivated by unselfish reasons. Taylor praised the efforts of the organization MAD DADS and their display of what she called “black love.” Patrick Headley is the national MAD DADS vice president and president of the Florida chapter of the organization. He once walked from Ocala to Tallahassee to meet state leaders on behalf of the children his organization mentors.
The trip took nine days. Moreover, when Headley wanted to build a youth center in Ocala, he sat on the roof of a building and refused to come down until he raised $50,000. It took eight days and two and a half hours.
Taylor left FAMU to make a presentation to black state legislators at the state capitol. She and Staton said they plan to visit all the HBCUs in Florida. She parted by asking students if they would form FAMU Cares and mentor students in their community.