Week 5

Legacy Transforming Summer Program

By Lawrence FunderburkeJuly 25, 20239 Minutes

Week Five might have well been a paradigm shift or pivotal moment for the young men. Why? I invited more than a dozen friends across racial backgrounds and occupational paths to share their story with the group on topics ranging from marriage (and unfortunately divorce) to fatherhood to lessons learned while being incarcerated. Thanks in large part to The Law of Authenticity, pastors, pro athletes, and professors shared engaging insights that resonated with the young men. Transparency is the key to helping people break free from what’s holding them back. Men who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable have the opportunity (but not the guarantee) of becoming relatable, reliable, and recognizable mentors. Imposter syndrome is a real phenomenon that engulfs far too many of our privileged and underprivileged males. So many men reach adulthood but fail miserably in their transition from adolescence. I speak from personal experience. Whether in inner-city or suburban communities, without a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood, we all pay a heavy price when this is noticeably or inconspicuously absent. Yes, Week Five had a lot of fireworks; no topic was off limits. Too much is at stake to skate around hot-button issues. Don’t worry. Guidelines and guardrails are always taken into consideration when I, or any invitee for that matter, address young people.

You’ve probably heard of The Kia Boys, young males, African American in most instances, who steal Hyundai vehicles for the dopamine-, adrenaline-, and endorphin-driven thrill ride. Perhaps a bit controversial, here are three observations to explain their behavior pattern. First, in the majority of cases, these youngsters are (or were) reared in fatherless homes. Without a paternal tour guide in close proximity, it shouldn’t come as a surprise for these teens and tweens to take the wheel of aspiration themselves. To be seen and to see what that “success ride” feels and looks like is their modus operandi. Please note: Fathers are hardwired to provide children with drive, determination, and discipline. Anecdotally this is known by most of us, but biochemically I can prove it while working with more than 30,000 youth over the past two decades. In general, when a fatherless teen living in a feast-or-famine environment reaches puberty, testosterone surges need to be carefully modulated in a maturing body. If dad or a surrogate father-figure is not present, who steps in to monitor the androgen GPS system? Most of the time, negative influences enter the picture to play Big Brother, Big Baller, or Big Brawler roles in the ’hood. They may not be ideal, but drug dealers, gang bangers, and hook-and-crook cliques do provide an outlet for “ghetto-life vents.” Second, The Kia Boys are often deprived of positive, peer-to-peer relationships and adult role models. They aren’t typically connected with a sport’s team, after-school program, or structured setting at home. An idle mind is the devil’s playground. Thus, stealing cars is The Kia Boys’ de facto, extracurricular activity. This initiation, really, a rite of passage by default, allows first-time or even seasoned offenders to earn their street cred. Approval — in the form of eyeball hugs, signature hand daps, and bonding feedback loops — is what they crave. The source of affirmation doesn’t matter; it just needs to be given in adequate doses by willing participants. Third, each Kia Boy is searching for a customized identity or personal brand. Of course, fathers should play the lead role in helping children know who they are, how they’re gifted, and what their contributions will be to the world. Interestingly enough, the word kia means “to rise up” in Korean. Is it a coincidence that this phrase, or similar ones, has served as the inner-city anthem to escape that lowly place of _______________? I’ll let you decide and fill in the blank also. One thing you and I can agree on is this: our most vulnerable males need vision. Without it, the Good Book states, “the people perish” or cast off restraint. And drive, determination, and discipline are held in check by vision. Western cultures, notably America, are digging their own legacy grave by neglecting the father’s blessing. The carnage is everywhere. I don’t want anyone’s blood on my hands. How about you?

Wanna be pro athlete or want to be a pro athlete? No, this isn’t a trick question. Spotlight careers (really high-profile jobs) such as pro sports are attractive to at-risk males. The fame. The fortune. The fanfare. However, very few of them understand what it takes to make it, let alone play, at the highest level. So, I provided them with a taste of a condensed workout — without any weights. ESPN highlights are a mirage; the best clips are edited for maximum audience enjoyment. The behind-the-scenes workouts and grueling practices of big-time, competitive sports rarely make the cut. And during the off-season, most pro athletes spend a significant amount of time on athletic development rather than sport-specific improvement. Here’s a secret I share with parents and their children who train with me: If you’re a better athlete, then you’ll become a better player. No doubt, active bodies with purposeful intentions can deactivate reactive minds. Consistent exercise with weight training can reset an out-of-whack circadian rhythm, boost a depleted neurotransmitter system, and fuel happy hormones in our vulnerable males. Yes, there’s a method to my madness.

When a young man’s internal biochemistry is jacked up, he will go on a campaign to get his fix by any means necessary. Through a drug, drink, drift, drive, or drill (as in music). Chef Jim Warner, who has prepared meals for Kirk Herbstreit, Joey Galloway, Michael Redd, “Beanie” Wells, and yours truly, presented an amazing cooking demo for the group. He discussed the important role nutrition can play in their lives. Chef Warner highlighted, “Real food helps you think better, feel better, and do better.” He added, “Pay the price now so that you can reap the rewards later.” Every food item prepared by Chef Warner was gluten free, GMO free, additive free, soy free, and pork free (but not taste free). Organic foods may cost more, but the benefits far exceed conventional alternatives. Even on a limited budget, quantity and quality of life for disadvantaged populations can be achieved when healthy lifestyles are prioritized. Stay tuned for Week Six!

“If it wasn’t for their tombstones, we wouldn’t know that some people were ever alive. Truly great people don’t need monuments because we will always remember them.”

— Dr. Myles Munroe