A new program for teen boys of color in Dallas aims to bridge the gap from the schools to prison pipelines. Called Boyz ‘N Blue, the free 12-week course is a charitable initiative organized by local nonprofit Keeping Families Connected.
The course will walk young men (ages 12-18) through a curriculum that teaches respect, excellence, attitude and leadership, self-worth and self-respect, being open to the views of others, how to handle and budget money, and more.
"Most importantly, Boyz ‘N Blue will teach young men how to interact with authority figures such as police, teachers, shop owners, and parents and show them respect while still maintaining personal dignity," says a press release.
Each week, guest speakers from the police department, court system, and prison system; probation officers; and representatives from other entities will share their wisdom with participants.
The course was the idea of Letitia Scott Jackson, who founded Keeping Families Connected in 2015 to help people who are incarcerated and the families from whom they are separated.
"I was inspired to start Boyz 'N Blue because I lost my only son at 17 years old and I know first-hand how young Black men are treated," she says. "The lessons they learn when they are young will shape them for the remainder of their lives. I want to bring together speakers from the educational, business, and legal system to educate and advise these boys to help empower them as they move forward."
Each class will be limited to 25 attendees, and each group that graduates will mentor the next group. Jackson says that by keeping the teens engaged in continued conversation, she hopes members will form personal relationships, which ultimately will strengthen communities.
"My vision with this curriculum is to help change the mindset of these young boys by teaching 'Kingdom' principles, social life skills, the importance of money matters, and how to properly interact — not just with people, but most importantly the police," she says.
Jackson herself spent 18 months in prison after being wrongfully convicted of a crime and says she knows the pain incarcerated parents feel being separated from their children. She is now on a personal mission to spread messages of hope, redemption, connection, and making the right choices — especially to youth and young adults.
There is an easy way the community can begin to help, she says.
"The community can support these young men by just listening," she says. "If we can find out what their concerns are, we can start to create a solution. Boyz 'N Blue needs the support of our community leaders, volunteers, and financial support as we move this program forward to help change lives across the board in Dallas-Fort Worth."
The first class will take place from 12-3 pm Saturday, July 11 at Liberty Baptist Church, 219 Ave. A, Dallas. Interested young men of color between the ages of 12 and 18 can register online here.