On what could have been just another ordinary Saturday in March in Pittsburgh, young African American teens decided to flip the script.
Roughly 100 teens descended on Urban Academy in Larimer for the annual “Streets and Suits” event, where the teens learned everything from how to get jobs to the proper way of becoming a man.
But for Darnell “Pepsi” Farrow with the African American Leadership Association, this event isn’t about some lecture given to students by someone they can’t identify with. The speakers at this event, such as African Americans Ayodeji Young know what it’s like to grow up in Pittsburgh’s Black communities. They, along with other speakers like Vernard Alexander, spoke freely and without fear on what they felt the young people needed to hear.
“We have men that want to help, we have kids that need the help. We’re bridging that gap,” Farrow told the New Pittsburgh Courier during the March 24 event. “Help with jobs, mentorship, life in general. Job opportunities and masculinity go hand-in-hand because these young boys need to understand what it is to be a man, from a man.”
Young, or “Coach Blue” as he’s known, pulled no punches during his speeches. He talked about “Toxic Masculinity,” or ways that it’s perceived one should be a man, but in reality, it’s not. Certain ways of treating women that seem to be “acceptable,” Young told the teens that it’s not acceptable. Certain ways of handling disputes that seem to be “acceptable,” Young said there are other ways.
“Some of them don’t have that positive figure,” Farrow told the Courier. “We’re trying to change that. Some of us are from the streets, but we made a choice, a decision, and we’re trying to share that with them.”
Farrow is also the defensive coordinator at Perry Traditional Academy.
“There’s been a disconnect between us and them; sometimes we tell them what they’re supposed to do instead of listening (to Black teens). When we start listening, then we start hearing what their issues are. That’s what we’re into.”
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