African Americans are 12% of the US population but 40% of the prison population according to a Stanford article. The NAACP reports that out of the 2.3 million inmates one million of them are African American. In a time where Police killing young African Americans is being more documented than ever (thanks to cell phone videos) and crime in many cities continues to rise, a different approach to the problem must be considered. The Department of Justice latest research says 56% of state prisoners and 45% of federal prisoners have symptoms of serious mental illnesses.
There are several organizations that attempt to thwart these statistics by attempting to engage the youths. However these interventions still leave some room for improvement in this area. As many as 1.3 million youths were arrested in 2012 and although this number is declining, there is still a lot of progress to be made
Mark Stringfellow and Glen Pair are an unlikely pair, they are neither the PhDs nor are they a brainy lot who profess to have the solution to the problem that plagues so many of our communities. They have however taken a singular approach to finding a solution. They have created a program called, Do It 4 The Hood, which is a kind of “FUBUistic” approach to the problem; that is a For Us By Us solution-they use workers from their target population to engage the youths in that population.
Do It 4 The Hood is a community-centered outreach program dedicated to fostering healthy environments for underprivileged populations throughout the nation. The mission is to uplift disadvantaged youth and their families by combining mental health intervention, mentorship, and life-skill training.
This is a grassroots organization whose mission has been implemented in three states so far; Georgia, Nevada and South Carolina. The company was started in Atlanta, GA ten years ago by Glenn Pair II aka the visionary, implemented by Mark Stringfellow, the Architect and Bree’anna Harris the dedicated administrative glue that keeps them organized. The group’s mission is to uplift disadvantaged youth and their families by promoting positive changes in the homes, schools and communities they serve.
While visiting their office in Columbia, South Carolina the group has about ten core employees that work 12-18 hour day and a rough total of 40 employees to keep an organization that serves over two hundred youth in Columbia, SC alone and still have a commitment to youth in Las Vegas, NV and Atlanta, GA. What makes these grassroots organization unique is the core group lives together, work, and enjoy team building outings together like daily workouts with the organizations’ Coach who works with the youth as well as trains professional boxers. Do It 4 The Hood has come into various cities and has been able to capture masses of youth especially in the African American communities that are less likely to get mental health services and provide change in their communities.
Do It 4 The Hood is also unique because many of their talented employees have been recruited from Historical Black Colleges and Universities from across the country and come together to serve with the mission of creating a better tomorrow for the next generation. The organization even provides housing for many of their paid interns, as well as food, and recreational outings. The group has various methods for reaching the children from going into the schools and community centers to having them come into their own facility. One of the goals of the organization is to have their own building that they can provide services that range from mental health counseling, youth sport activities like boxing, and even a Medical Doctor to be like a one stop shop powerhouse like Wal-mart where you can get various mental health services under one roof.
The organization has learned a lot from its humble beginnings ten years ago. They have traveled to three different states providing services for thousands of youth from various backgrounds. Their long term goal is to expand into more cities to serve more families. While visiting their headquarters in Columbia, SC it was great to see the camaraderie of the group. The group has also hand selected talent who come from different walks of life from Entertainment to the private sector, from cities like Buffalo, NY to to Lagos, Nigeria. While visiting the organization was in pre-production filming for a future television show or documentary that was being filmed for Black Entertainment Television but hired by Do It 4 The Hood so they can control their story.
The group which can be seen at 4TheHood.com. The organization goes out of their way to make sure all their team members are well taken care of and comfortable and any problems that may arise are quickly worked out in a group meeting. This is the present and future of what mental health services looks like people being served by people who can relate to their struggle and look like them.
Access to mental health services is crucial in the African American communities because only one out of three African Americans who need mental services gets them. Many African Americans don’t get mental health services for various reasons from denial, lack of money or insurance, fear, embarrassment and shame.