As we commemorate Black History month, it is worth noting that many black men, once incarcerated, can turn their lives around, if given a chance.
No doubt, there are unsung programs all across the country dedicated to giving those who have been born into conditions that breed crime or have simply lost their way a second chance, a break, after they have served prison terms. Such programs just do not make the news as often as the crimes that caused the incarceration in the first place.
But one program, "Black Men of Excellence," should be congratulated for working with African-American men for the last twenty years who have been incarcerated, on parole, on probation or residing in community-based correction facilities.
While the program is open to anyone, its primary focus is to empower black men who have lost their way to crime, and giving them the information and tools to help them lead positive and productive lives once they leave the prison system.
One branch of the program, located in Waterloo Iowa, is currently led by David Goodson, a former participant himself when the program was originally offered under a different name. Goodson has been a part of the program for 20 years ago, along William Martinez who was the parole and probation supervisor for Iowa Department of Corrections who started the Black Men of Excellence program in Iowa in 1992.
According to the Associated Press, Goodson has been arrested on drug charges after having served 18 months in prison in Colorado for robbery. Goodson had brushes with the law for years, and was a substance abuser. But he met Martinez who gave him a break and became his mentor.
Of Martinez, Goodman says, "We built a relationship, a rapport, a mentor-mentee relationship back then," Goodson said. "To this very day, we're now friends and associates."
Of Goodman, Martinez says, "He was on probation at the time, and we developed a unique relationship. David is a very unique individual, and the program had an immense impact on him."
The program focuses on black men because they make up a disproportionately high percentage of all males who come in contact with the criminal justice system. The program offers an opportunity for these black men to be exposed to positive African-American traditions and values and to build supportive relationships where common issues and concerns can be shared and discussed.
Wouldn't it be great if programs like, Black Men of Excellence, could be established and supported in communities all across the country where they are so desperately needed to stop the revolving door of crime and incarceration.
No doubt there are many incarcerated black men, who given a chance, can turn their lives around.
Now that would be black history in the making worth commemorating.