Men Empowering Nations continuing to assist area youth in various ways
Men Empowering Nations, a Sicklerville-based organization that strives to positively impact the lives of local male youth between the ages of 7 and 18, held its Black History Celebration Saturday, March 16.
Members of the organization researched and presented information on famous African Americans throughout history, from Michael Jordan to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and more to a room full of family, friends, mentors and supporters.
Additionally, throughout the evening’s events, the organization played games, danced and learned more about black history.
The program is in its 12th year and meets at the Star Center building along Erial Road every Tuesday to mentor those in the program through the word of God, educational help and cultural enrichment.
President and founder Virgil Carman Jr. set up the organization to assist young men who are in need of a father figure, or in some cases, a parent in general.
“We have close to, right now, about 26 young boys, and 98 percent of them do not have fathers,” Carman said. “We assist them with making the right decisions in life. What it’s all based upon, and what I constantly dwell on, is choices, decisions and consequences.”
“I let them know that their decisions will determine their future, so make correct decisions,” Carman added.
The organization has a group of mentors who watch over a group over the years, organizing multiple events throughout the year, from athletic events to group field trips. Recently, the organization took the young men to Adelphia’s in Deptford to teach proper meal etiquette and manners.
With the organization’s annual Black History Celebration, Carman aims to help the boys work on their public speaking skills for the future.
“We wanted to give them some more exposure and to be in front of people,” Carman said. “Because some days I know I’m talking to some lawyers, some judges, some congressmen, some teachers [in these young men]. I don’t want them to get that street mentality, but get some things that God has called them to be, because this is a faith-based organization.”
Chris Smiley, who has been in the organization for three years, has enjoyed his time and the help from mentors.
“It’s taught me a lot of life lessons. Prior to the program, I didn’t know how to really be a man. For example, I didn’t know how to tie a tie. Not too long ago we learned proper etiquette with fine dining,” Smiley said.
As for events, such as the Black History Celebration, he says he feels he and others in the program are being prepared for higher education and to succeed once becoming adults. Additionally, the assistance of the mentors sharing experiences and providing guidance to those in the organization is something Smiley finds worthwhile.
“Most of it is about brothership, us coming together as a family,” Smiley said.
Through the organization and mentor program, the young men are able to come to their mentors and receive advice about anything in their lives, as well as hear about past experiences to help their decision-making.
Zyion Artis, who has been in the organization for the past two years, said the Black History Celebration is a fun way to be with the group and enjoyed watching the group’s members recite the high points of influential African Americans lives.
Despite Black History Month being largely celebrated in February, members of the group thought it was important to celebrate and honor important historical and sports figures year-round.
“Even though it’s March, we feel that black history should be celebrated every day,” said Justus Redding, another member in the program.
At the program, Winslow Township Mayor Barry Wright spoke on the importance of Men Empowering Nations in its community.
“Men Empowering Nations is a diamond to the youth and the families of Winslow Township, and I thank all the mentors for the wonderful job they do,” Wright said. “I’m so proud to say you’re part of Winslow Township.”
Men Empowering Nations meets every Tuesday in the Star Building located at 100 Erial Road in Sicklerville. Contact Rob Walden for more information at (856) 318–4606 or visit http://www.menempoweringnations.org/.