Nationally syndicated radio host Michael Baisden urged a packed audience at Lee Hall Auditorium Tuesday night to step forward and become more involved in mentoring children as an investment in future generations.
Baisden stopped on the Florida A&M campus to hold a town hall meeting as part of his 73-city national tour to encourage 1 million people to become mentors. Local residents, students and government officials showed up to hear Baisden, who earlier in the day broadcast his show from FAMU’s WANM 90.5 studios.
“You and I could have stayed home for this,” Baisden said. “I didn’t call this the $1 million campaign; I called it the 1 million mentor campaign.”
The goal of the night was to encourage mentorship with exactly one million mentors. Those who spoke shared personal stories and grim statistics to motivate the community to become involved in a child’s life. Baisden is focusing on minority children because of the absence of community leaders and the effect of broken homes on young people of color.
Baisden said people should get involved no matter how much time they could give or even if they felt they had nothing to offer a child. He also touched on the large number of single women forced to raise boys without a father.
“Women have no choice but to raise a man when they are on their own,” said Baisden, who also stressed the need for boys to have male authority figures in their lives, even if they are not their biological fathers.
Baisden donated $5,000 towards the mentoring effort. But for some in the audience, his presence was enough.
“I am here with my three sons; I am a single parent, events like these always help to reinforce what I teach them at home,” said Shannon Williams of Tallahassee.
Baisden, along with other panelists, including FAMU retention director William E. Hudson and Chriss Walker, president of 100 Black Men of Tallahassee, encouraged students and parents to be a positive influence in the community and in the lives of children. They called on people to be hands-on in helping children instead of just giving monetary donations.
Panelists also asked parents to be more proactive in their children’s lives and to set higher standards for the new generation.
The panel discussed the need for parents to pay attention and to check on their children. This means checking homework, taking notice to who their friends are, and spending quality time with them, panelists said. Students were also encouraged to be mentors in the community.
Baisden said that adult mentors are great, but he also believes that sometimes it takes the effort of a peer to really connect or make a difference to a child.
James Willis, 21, nursing senior, said Baisden’s message struck a chord.
“I was moved tonight. I feel like I can actually make a difference in my hometown community, as well as right here in Tallahassee,” said Willis, an Atlanta native. “My contribution may be small, but it’s still something that was not there before.”