By Joel Hall
A recent partnership between 100 Black Men of South Metro and the Tara Council of Knights of Columbus (KOC) will soon allow 100 Black Men's mentoring programs to reach more young men throughout the Southern Crescent.
On Saturday evening, a ceremony took place at the KOC Tara Council Home on 481 Flint River Road in Jonesboro to commemorate the partnership. The evening featured commentary from interim superintendent Gloria Duncan, eight-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney, and Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner.
Founded in the 1960s, 100 Black Men has a history of molding and shaping young men, particularly African Americans, into better citizens. KOC, founded in 1882, is the largest Roman Catholic fraternity with its own history of providing food and financial support to needy children and families.
The partnership, which will include allowing 100 Black Men to use KOC's spacious Council Home to host fund-raisers and other programs, will serve as a shot in the arm to 100 Black Men's already successful mentoring program.
"The biggest thing for this particular effort was to raise awareness of what these men are doing in their mentoring program," said Kelvin Macdonald, past Grand Knight of the Tara Council of KOC. He said that many children have "responded tremendously" to 100 Black Men's youth mentoring program, which pairs young men with adult leaders for 20 Sundays a year. Students are enrolled from the 8th grade until they graduate from high school.
Macdonald said the program has turned around the lives of many young men, "taking some from a troubled background and putting them in college," with scholarships.
James Stewart, president of the Riverdale-based 100 Black Men of South Metro, said that about 50 students from the Southern Crescent are currently enrolled. This year, another 75 children had to be put on a waiting list, but Stewart hopes the recent partnership with the KOC will allow 100 Black Men to serve more children.
"The KOC will offer support to us as we try to expand our efforts in the community," said Stewart. He said that with the space provided by the KOC, 100 Black Men may be able to expand its education and SAT programs, as well as host health fairs and other events.
"It's going to be a concerted effort from both organizations ... that won't be limited to African Americans," said Stewart.
"We have problems in our community that both groups can address," said Turner. "With them developing that partnership ... the needy families and children will be able to get those services at the same time."
KOC was founded during America's industrialization -- a time in which many fathers were dying or being severely injured in factory accidents. The organization became a partnership between fathers to protect and look after the families of those killed in accidents.
Macdonald said that there were many parallels between the goals of 100 Black Men and the KOC.
"We're all aware that there is no magic bullet to solving our problems," said Macdonald. "It's going to take a long-term program like the one 100 Black Men has set up. We just want to support them."