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A life history analysis of protective factors and resilient characteristics of successful African American males

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Title:
A life history analysis of protective factors and resilient characteristics of successful African American males
Creator:
Batey, Barbara L
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English
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xii, 154 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
African Americans -- Biography -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Resilience (Personality trait) ( lcsh )
Success -- Psychological aspects ( lcsh )
African Americans -- Psychology ( lcsh )
African Americans ( fast )
African Americans -- Psychology ( fast )
Resilience (Personality trait) ( fast )
Success -- Psychological aspects ( fast )
Colorado -- Denver ( fast )
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Biography. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Biography ( fast )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 144-154).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Barbara L. Batey.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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Resource Identifier:
42614053 ( OCLC )
ocm42614053
Classification:
LD1190.E3 1999d .B37 ( lcc )

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Full Text
A LIFE HISTORY ANALYSIS OF
PROTECTIVE FACTORS AND RESILIENT CHARACTERISTICS
OF SUCCESSFUL
AFRICAN AMERICAN MALES
by
Barbara L. Batey
B.A. Metropolitan State College of Denver, 1971
M.A University of Northern Colorado at Greeley, 1976
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
1999


[
This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Barbara L. Batey
has been approved by
Michael Martin
Â¥-&- ? ?
Date
I
I


Batey, Barbara Lynn (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
A Life History Analysis of Protective Factors and Resilient Characteristics of
Successful African American males.
Thesis directed by Professor Michael Martin
ABSTRACT
The primary purpose of this study was to identify the protective factors and resilient
characteristics that encouraged and supported the successful life values of African
American males who grew up in an inner-city neighborhood of Denver, under
adverse circumstances. It is apparent that the only viable approach to understanding
such success is to recognize the complex nature of the issue. The complexities of
African American males homes, educational experiences and community
environment were explored. Those factors and influences that have enabled or
allowed some African American males to be successful were investigated, utilizing a
life history methodology.
Life history methodology was employed through observations and interviews with
each participant and cross-case analysis of the interview data were employed in this
qualitative study to determine the protective factors and resiliency characteristics that
were structures for adaptive and coping strategies, practiced by the young men to
overcome adverse environmental circumstances.
Key findings of protective factors and resilient characteristics of these successful
African American males are strong support systems from the family, school and
community. Additionally, these young men showed they had the power to construct
meaning with a sense of purpose with personal strength in creating inside-out social
change; they believed in themselves.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.
Signed
Michael Martin
m


DEDICATION
This dissertation is dedicated to the African American men in my family, in memory
of my father, Joseph Landry Jackson. To my son, my grandson, my brothers, my
nephews, and most importantly, my
loving husband
Samuel Richard
You have filled my life with joy and peace.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
There are many people I would like to thank for the support and
encouragement they have given over the years. Without their help, this study would
still be just another one of my good ideas.
I especially thank my committee. Each of you have played a very special role
in my development as an adult educator. I want to thank you, Dr. Michael Martin,
who directed this dissertation, and Dr. Alan Davis, Dr. Joe Lasky, Dr. Lerita
Coleman, Dr. Lyn Taylor for the advice and support you provided through the
dissertation process, and I also want to thank each of you for those special little
things that you have done along the way.
I also thank the five participants interviewed during this research for their time
and their willingness to share.
To all my friends thanks for giving me my space, and for always
encouraging and pushing me on.
To my families the Jacksons and the Bateys -thanks for understanding and
being patient.
Finally, I thank my husband, Samuel, for his encouragement and support -
always being there.


CONTENTS
Figures
2.3............................................................xi
3.2............................................................xi
Tables
2.1 ..........................................................xii
3.1 ..........................................................xii
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION................................................1
Background of the Problem..............................3
The Purpose of the Study...............................6
Research Questions.....................................8
The Research Design....................................8
Life Histories.........................................9
Definition of Terms...................................11
Structure of the Dissertation.........................12
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE...................................13
Environmental Issues..................................17
Gangs, Drugs, and Violence............................18
Educational Issues....................................19
Race and Racism.................................19
Employment Opportunities: Job Ceiling...........21


i Psychosocial Issues......................................22
j Achievement Ideology...............................22
I
' Minority Classifications...........................23
Fictive Kinship..........................................25
Urban Schools.......................................26
Resiliency..........................................27
Coping Strategies...................................30
Protective Factors Within the Family.....................35
Caring and Support..................................35
High Expectations...................................35
Protective Factors Within the School.....................37
Caring and Support..................................37
High Expectations...................................38
Protective Factors Within the Community..................40
Caring and Support..................................40
High Expectations...................................41
3. THE RESEARCH METHOD............................................43
Methodological Assumptions...............................43
Life Histories......................................44
Criterion-based Selection of Participants...........46
Demographic Information.............................47
Data Collection.....................................51
Participant Interviews..............................51
The Research Questions...................................52
Family/Peer-Community
Members/School Officials Interviews............53
Data Analysis.......................................53
Limitations of the Study............................54
1
vii
i


i
Delimitations of the Study.......................54
Summary.................................................55
4. LIFE HISTORIES OF WILLIE, RICHARD
SAM, RON, AND SONNY.....................................56
Research Questions......................................57
Willie..................................................57
Willie Presents His Family........................58
Willie Presents His Educational Experiences.......59
Willies View of His Peers and the Community......61
Willie Reflects on His Life.......................62
Summary of Protective Factors from
Interviews and Observations of Others.........65
Richard.................................................68
Richard Presents His Family.......................68
Richard Presents His Educational Experiences......70
Richards Views of His Peers and the Community....73
Richard Reflects on His Life......................74
Summary of Protective Factors from
Interviews and Observations of Others.........74
Sam.....................................................77
Sam Presents His Family...........................77
Sam Presents His Educational Experiences..........79
Sams Views of His Peers and the Community........81
Sam Reflects on His Life..........................83
Summary of Protective Factors from
Interviews and Observations of Others.........84
Ron.....................................................87
Ron Presents His Family...........................87
!
i
I
j
j
VU1


Ron Presents His Educational Experiences......89
Rons Views of His Peers and the Community....90
Ron Reflects on His Life......................92
Summary of Protective Factors from
Interviews and Observations of Others.......93
Sonny................................................95
Sonny Presents His Family......................96
Sonnys Views of His Educational Experiences...97
Sonnys Views of His Peers and the Community..99
Sonny Reflects on His Life....................100
Summary of Protective Factors from
Interviews and Observations of Others......102
5. ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS ACROSS CASES OF
SUCCESSFUL AFRICAN AMERICAN MALES........................106
Findings in the Protective Factor of the Family.....107
Findings of the Protective Factors in
Educational Experiences..........................112
Post-Secondary Education............................114
Findings of Protective Factors in the Community
Fictive KinshipHomies and the Hood..............116
Findings of Protective Factors with Mentors
and Role Models..................................118
Findings of Resiliency CharacteristicsSocial Competence,
Problem Solving, Autonomy, and Sense of Purpose.....120
6. SUMMARY OF THE STUDY, FINDINGS, DISCUSSION
BASED ON THE LITERATURE AND CONCLUSIONS,
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH................124
The Family..........................................125
Educational Experiences.............................128
Fictive KinshipHomies and the Hood.................139
ix


i
I
Mentors and Role Models..............................131
Resiliency CharacteristicsSocial Competence, Problem
Solving, Autonomy, and Sense of Purpose...........132
Social Competence..............................132
Problem Solving Skills.........................133
Autonomy.......................................134
Sense of Purpose...............................134
Conclusion...........................................136
Recommendations for Further Research.................137
Questions for Further Research.......................138
APPENDIX
A. LIFE HISTORY INTERVIEW QUESTION GUIDE......140
B. QUESTIONS FOR FAMILY/PEER, COMMUNITY
MEMBERS/SCHOOL OFFICIALS INTERVIEWS.....142
REFERENCES...........................................144
x
1


Figures
2.3 Profile of the Resilient Child................................32
3.3 Participants Nominated Information...........................50
xi


Tables
3.1 Community Ethnic Population Makeup.......................47
3.2 Crime Rates (Crimes per 1,000 persons),
by Crime 1988-1995...................................48


t
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
For generations, social scientists and educators have focused on the lack of
success of African American children in schools. Ongoing research focuses on
academic achievement and underachievement within the African American
population. The purpose of this study was to collect information from African
American males on what influences of the family, the school, their peers and the
community may have had on their successful life pathways.
Boykin (1986) suggests that the academic achievement of African American
children and adolescents is influenced by mainstream experiences, minority
experiences, and African American cultural experiences. Each experience has its
own unique socialization pattern. Success in each requires mastering three
distinctive patterns of behaviors. Boykin concludes that African American children
face a triple quandary: they are incompletely socialized into mainstream society,
they develop a behavioral style that stems from their African heritage, and they
experience racial and economic oppression. Academic and social competence,
according to Boykin, depend on ones ability to adapt to all three arenas of
socialization.
Growing up in a hostile world and being bombarded with negative images and
stereotypes of self many young African American males find themselves trapped in a
cycle of despair. Many succumb to the unrelenting pressures of their external
environment, and as such, many young African American men are not successful in
the public schools today (Haynes, 1993). Fordham and Ogbu (1986), however,
suggest that African American male students are showing increasing rates of
1


academic success. Nevertheless, negative images projected of them and oppositional
cultural identification continue to lead to school failure and school disengagement for
some African American male students.
The relationship between Black students cultural characteristics and their
achievement in school indicates that some of the characteristics and behavior of Black
students are often in opposition to school and even the students own expressed
desires to achieve (Irvin, 1990). Weis (1985) noted that students in her study wanted
to go to college and escape poverty but were often absent from school and neglected
their work. She referred to this situation in terms of oppositional cultural forms and
believed that these students resisted school because of their perception of educations
limited value in their lives. Howard and Hammond (1985) found that Black
underachievement and lack of achievement motivation could be attributed to Black
students acceptance and internalization of societys view that they are unlikely to
succeed. In other words, many Black students distrust school and view achievement
negatively, greatly deterring their achievement.
A concerted effort must be made to develop positive and responsible African
American males. Statistical data abounds as to why this is a population at risk,
including contributing factors such as life expectancy, physical health and illness,
unemployment, incarcerations, alcohol and drug abuse, education, suspensions from
school, and psychological and mental factors. Could the use of role models of
persons who have overcome hardships in order to achieve a degree of success be an
influence? This does not always mean the successful middle class or professional,
but many times it could include persons who are living responsible lives and working
in vocational and technically-skilled jobs.
Werner and Smith (1982) describe the rationale for mentoring from the
longitudinal research as others who have found that adult relationships, i.e., natural
mentoring, not only provided by parents and grandparents, but neighbors, teachers
2


and other concerned adults are protective factors for young men growing up m
stressful family and community environments.
Additionally, fraternity alumni groups could be brought in as individual role
models while serving as examples of positive group behavior. However, many young
men find role models among their peers and from among those who accumulated
financial assets by selling drugs and engaging in other questionable activities. Black
males are particularly vulnerable in this setting of the urban inner-city neighborhoods
(Gibbs, 1988). Through such interaction with positive role models, career
possibilities and their requisites could be discussed and explored. Hopefully, young
men would be able to develop an understanding of personal characteristics necessary
for upward social, educational, and career mobility. Every young man must be
encouraged to believe that he has the power to become the next great scientist,
attorney, astronaut, educator, musician, historian, or whatever he aspires to become.
Wynn (1992) states African American men will raise their achievement level if they
believe that someone believes in and encourages and supports them. They will gain
confidence in themselves if they know others have confidence in them.
Background of the Problem
As an administrator in the pubic schools at the middle school and high school
levels, I have observed African American male students academic performances in
schools. In the middle school, I have observed Black male students who are
academically successful and who demonstrate a complete change in their attitude
about academics when they are in high school. On the other hand, my observations
indicate that students who have been highly successful at the middle level and
continue to do well academically in high school have done so while displaying a
strong drive for success. I continually do follow-up contacts with the high schools on
some of these students. The coping skills and academic achievements of these


students are challenged at the high school level although not at the middle level. I
have observed that many African American males decisions, choices, and behaviors
in schools are internally and externally attributed to their social influences. I believe
that some of these students have attitudes that were fostered by family and peers.
These students have not acquired the skills or fortitude to move up and oil
There are no signs that this dismal picture of the African American males
failure is improving. Researchers and motivational psychologists are concerned with
other achievement-related variables, including self-esteem and negative emotions
(e.g., anxiety, depression), as factors accounting for academic performance. A
theoretical framework for the study of motivation in Blacks must therefore be
particularly capable of addressing how individuals think, feel, and act in response to
non-attainment of goals (Graham, 1994). How do they beat the odds in the
attainment of goals? The importance of this information is obvious. If we can find
out what successful African American males do and have in common, then we may
have some idea of what can be done to intervene into the circumstances of the
majority who are not succeeding (Ogbu, 1987).
Two of the most pressing concerns and ever present problems are the number
of African American males dropping out of school and in prison. The 1990 U.S.
Census Bureau figures show the African American males have higher unemployment
rates, lower labor force participation rates, lower high school graduation and college
enrollment rates, while ranking first in incarceration and homicide as a percentage of
the population. This issue becomes particularly important when a significant number
of males are academically successful and productive citizens.
In the landmark equality of educational opportunity study, Coleman and his
colleagues reported that perceived control accounted for more of the variance in
Black school achievement than any variable studied, including school, teacher, and
background characteristics (Coleman, et al., 1966). One factor accounting for the
4


importance influence of this construct among African Americans was its conceptual
similarity to other factors known to be related to social class and racial group status.
African American males must develop strategies for handling a subordinate
racial or class status. Some students may be oblivious to racism and discrimination as
barriers to their success. They may develop a raceless identity that includes a
denial of institutional racism, a lack of closeness to other African Americans, and an
endorsement of mainstream values (Boykin, 1986; Fordham, 1988). Fordham (1988)
found that high-achieving African American students attending an inner-city Black
school endorsed mainstream White values and behaviors. The students were often
accused of acting White by their peers. The high-achieving students tried to
minimize their academic abilities to avoid being labeled brainiacs by their peers.
These students were estranged from other African American students in their school
and community. These findings suggest that racelessness, a lack of closeness to other
African American students, and an endorsement of mainstream values may be
protective mechanisms to facilitate the academic success of some African American
students (Clark, 1991).
Clark (1991) describes African American adolescents who experience racism
and learn effective ways of coping and thus develop a bicultural identity. She
explains they are socialized into mainstream society, do well academically, and
maintain a strong identification with their ethnic group. Valentine (1971) described
biculturality as the ability to draw simultaneously on standardized African American
group behavior and on behaviors accepted by mainstream cultural system. Bicultural
people actively participate in both cultures, have extensive interactions within each
environment, and adopt behaviors that allow them to adjust to a variety of different
environmental demands. Most African American adolescents with raceless and
bicultural social identities are not at risk for academic failure. Developing these
identities is considered a form of resiliency.
i
5


While there are many aspects of a young persons life which are judged as
successful or less successful, their educational achievement is decisive. Success in
school is a prerequisite for maximizing life chances and for taking advantage of new
opportunities (Bowser & Perkins, 1991). Large numbers of African American males
are making positive gains in education attainment and careers. However, observers
generally tend to ignore this evidence of progress, as well as the potential for even
greater progress in the future. Rather than stimulating action to help young Black
males from high-risk backgrounds, research and advocacy that focus on the negative
may encourage public and private apathy or, worse, increase the pressure for criminal
justice solutions to the public safety concerns created by Black males (Mincy, 1994).
The Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to examine the protective factors that encourage
and support the successful life pathways of the African American male. It is apparent
that the only viable approach to enhancing the successful pathways of African
American males is to recognize the multivariate nature of the issue. No one variable
can be identified as the single cause of why some males are successful academically
or in careers. Gibbs (1988) found that the attitude of significant others (parents,
peers, and teachers) toward the student was a source of African American youths
success in school and the community. Other key findings in Ramesuers (1989)
review of this literature are that the Black family and community can act as mediators
or filters of negative racist images and messages for the Black youth.
This study examined the family, the school and the community environment
of African American males with particular emphasis on identifying protective factors
that contribute to their success. This study investigated those protective factors and
resilient characteristics of these young men using a life history methodological
6


approach. It is assumed that these males personal experiences will provide important
insights leading to the development of future frameworks for intervention.
This qualitative study focused on the developmental assets of African
American males, the major environmental risks that confront them, evidence of
resilience in light of the risk they faced and explanations for the observed adaptation,
and the implications for their education.
The study also explored why some African American males are more resilient
than others, and attempt to identify so-called protective factors, or those conditions
that foster resiliency in the Black male despite the negative odds they free. Benard
(1992) describes a resilient person as one who is socially competent, self-efficacious,
and an effective problem-solver who is able to negotiate through a web of adversity.
Benard (1992) indicates that the following protective factors present in the family,
school, and community serve as a buffer against those variables that put one at risk of
unhealthy behavior such as violence: a positive, caring relationship with an adult,
high expectations for behavior and abilities, and opportunities for meaningful
participation and involvement.
A phrase occurring often in the literature sums up the resilient child as one
who works well, plays well, loves well, and expects well (Garmezy, 1974; Werner
& Smith, 1982).
There is continuous research underway by Bowser and Peridns (1991) that
looks directly at the lives of academically successful African American males. Their
study specifically addressed high school students using focus groups. The primary
focus of this study is on the success of African American adult males who are
presently in the work force. Using a life history methodology, factors were identified
which indicate these pathways of successful African American males. A life
history/life story is one that is dialogically created rather than a history that is
discovered and transcribed (McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993).
7


Research Questions
The following questions guided this study:
1. What protective factors in the lives of urban African American males
guided their successful life pathways despite adverse social circumstances?
2. What are the characteristics that foster resiliency in the lives of African
American males growing up in the inner city?
The Research Design
This study was designed as a qualitative, interpretive study which focused on
African American males who have been in the work force for five to ten years. Data
was collected from five African American males. Additional data was collected from
families, school officials, peers, community members. Informal observations also
yielded additional information. Reflections on their life experiences and social
cultural factors were examined. Life histories of the subjects were obtained through
personal interviews and validated by the significant others in their lives.
The data were drawn from the personal experiences of African American
males who have had unique and distinctive educational and career pathways. The
inquiry relies on a series of individual, open-ended interviews over a short period of
time. In reflections of their experiences, subjects were asked to identify critical
influences, and particular individuals or circumstances that were milestones in their
lives. According to Lightfoot (1988), life histories have been used to document the
experiences of minorities or exceptional individuals. She believes the use of personal
narrative and life histories help to illuminate how people, particularly those from
oppressed groups, pattern their identities over a period of time.
J
l
8


Biographical sketches of each of the subjects were written in the form of
individual case studies. Major themes, recurring patterns and dominate categories
were extracted and coded (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993).
In this study the researcher focused attention and insight on Ain can American
males, a population of this nation that remains feared, loathed, and obscured (Gibbs,
198S). She continues to express that Black males are portrayed... in a limited
number of roles, most of them deviant, dangerous, and dysfunctional.... This
constant barrage of predominately disturbing images inevitably contributes to the
publics negative stereotypes of Black men, particularly of those who are perceived as
young, hostile and impulsive. However, this study examined the life pathways of
successful young men and asked: What were the protective mechanisms that fostered
healthy development in their life journeys? This study has recognized and
documented the successes that these young men have experienced in both mass and
individual spaces.
Life Histories
A life history/life story is one that is dialogically created rather than a history
that is discovered and transcribed (McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993). Life histories in
the social sciences have been used to understand the relationships between the
individual, culture, and society to view the general process of socialization, and to
describe peoples lives in relation to the social groups in which they grew up (Galindo
& Escamilla, 1995).
The telling of a tale of life is not new; it dates at least as far back as the
ancient tomb inscriptions (Misch, 1951, cited in Plummer, 1983). However, the use
of life histories in the educational setting has only recently become an accepted
practice (Graham, 1991; McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993).
9


This study inquired about the beliefs that individuals considered as the source
of the outcome and reinforcement of African American males attitude toward their
academics attainment and careers. However, many times they had to face problems
often manifested in gang environments, negative peer pressure, anti-school attitudes,
and drug trafficking. Polite & Davis (1995) state that the unheralded lives and daily
experiences of Black men contradict the widely held notion that a viable and adaptive
population of African American men failed to develop and flourish in Black
communities across the U.S.
Inquiry about the family environment is crucial. It is this environment that
shields adolescents from the often hostile, external environment and prepares them to
function within their own and the wider environments. This environment often
enables children to function effectively within conflicting demands, lifestyles and
value systems. Too often, the parental role is considered to be non-existent or, at
best, ineffectual within Black family environments (McAdoo, 1985).
To attempt to offset the prevailing images in the literature on African
American males, as noted by Gordon (1995), which he states have been too limited in
its scope, this study presented the experiences of a small group of African American
males who provided real life data based on analysis of their lives. Life histories of
those males who overcame adverse circumstances to beat the odds were the focus of
this study.
Polite & Davis (1995) believe at the core of the African American males
experience in school and society is a record of persistence and triumph that has been
overshadowed by the literature discourse focusing primarily on the social pathology
of African American men. While many African American males are achieving at
commendable levels and are navigating the academic and social currents of their
lives, African American males as a group remain at risk for numerous social,
10


economic, and educational ills. Within that context, however, many have survived
and progressed successfully.
Definition of Terms
Key terms that clarify the research questions are to follow.
Academic Success For the purpose of this study is completion of high school and
continued post-secondary education.
African American Used interchangeably with Black American, refers to those
persons bom in the United States and having at least one African American parent.
Adverse Circumstances Refer to those correlates that have repeatedly been
associated with school failure. They include membership in an ethnic minority group,
specifically, African American, who have experienced legally and socially sanctioned
oppression and discrimination, having few adult role models for academic success,
and living in negative environmental conditions.
Influence For the purpose of this study, something or someone that had an impact
on another. An influence can confirm, enhance, or provide value, or inhibit, or
distract. Particularly, this study will focus on the influences that encouraged and
supported these men.
Educationally Successful For the purpose of this study, refers to those African
American males who have received at minimum a bachelors degree, indicating
successful completion of education, of at least two levels: high school and
undergraduate study.
Successful Career Attainment For the purpose of this study, refers to those
African American males who have chosen career paths that moved them successfully
into the 21st century.
11


Urban In this study will focus on the individuals who have spent their early
adolescence through adult life in the inner-city.
Structure of the Dissertation
Chapter 1 of this dissertation introduces the problem; Chapter 2 presents a
review of the literature related to African American males7 school success and
failure. Chapter 3 describes the selected life history design. In Chapter 4, a
biographical sketch of each of the participants is presented in response to the research
questions Chapter 5 presents the findings across cases as a response to both research
questions. A summary of the findings of the study, conclusions and
recommendations for educators, and questions for further research are found in
Chapter 6.
12


1
I
CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
To be African American and male in school and society places one at risk for
a variety of negative consequences. Although a number of African American males
have made it into the mainstream of society and contributed significantly to the
national labor force, the residual effects of200 years of enslavement and another 100
years of legal discrimination cannot be denied (Polite & Davis, 1995). The
unheralded lives and daily experiences contradict the widely held contemporary
notion that a viable and adaptive population of African American men failed to
develop and flourish in Black communities across the U.S.
While many of African American male students do poorly in schools, many
others have performed adequately and excelled in school. A major barrier to the
identification of successful Black learners, as well as to providing assistance to
marginal students, has been identified as cultural differences in cognitive style. Black
researchers and theorists have highlighted this concept as one which offers
exceptional promise for understanding and changing racial disparities in academic
performances (Washington & LaPoint, 1988).
To create a comprehensive framework for understanding African American
child development, it is critical that an examination of this development be mediated
by gender. National attention has been focused on the plight of the African American
male by intellectual leaders like Vernon Polite, Jewel Gibbs, Ronald Mincy and Linda
Windfield, to name a few. Once there is an understanding of how the development of
I
I


this group proceeds through various developmental milestones, an impact upon the
challenges they face will provide guidance for support
One explanation for the difficulty of the African American male student is
they have a culture distinct not only from the White male culture but from the African
American female culture as well. This African American male culture is not
recognized and may even be condemned by the school because it is not understood
(Hale, 1994).
Hopkins (1997) charges that while African American males are misinterpreted
and misunderstood, they nevertheless have managed to survive in American public
schools. Solomon (1988) points out that student groups with distinctive cultures
have simulated various associations within school structures, ranging from those who
fully integrate into social system to those who vehemently reject it. He argues that
this is the case with African American males and their highly distinctive culture.
He states that African American males have two ways they manage to struggle to
survive in the public school. Some Black males obey and manage to survive the
authority structure of the school (p. 1). Other Black males are extremely resistant to
the school and mainstream authority. The latter, as Solomon analyzed, often
represent lived experiences, systems of practices, and ways of life [different] from
those students of the dominant culture.
Although considerable research has been placed on gender and ethnic
differences in educational achievement, most of this research has not been concerned
with in-depth exploration of the intersection of race and gender. The exclusive study
of African American males successful school experiences and their related
achievement and social outcomes has had a very limited place in the academic
literature. Negative school and societal experiences of the African American males
have been viewed and researched in varying degrees, as products of structural factors,
14


cultural adaptations to systemic pressures, and maladaptive definitions of masculinity
(Polite & Davis, 1995).
Although many African American males are achieving at commendable levels
and are navigating the academic and social currents of their lives, African American
males as a group remain at risk for numerous social, economic, and educational ills.
However, within that context, many have survived and progressed successfully.
Additionally, many African American men have gone unrecognized for their efforts
to improve the educational and social development of other African American males
(Polite & Davis, 1995).
Hale (1982) compiled an array of data to support the view that Black children
have distinct ways of perceiving, organizing, processing, and using information. This
Afrocentric learning style is a reflection of the retention of elements from the African
experiences in the context of Black American history environments. Mincy (1994)
explains Afrocentric experiences affirm the need to be both African and American
without shame, doubt, or feelings of inferiority vis-a-vis other cultures in the United
States. He continues Afrocentrism is based on the belief that it is proper and good to
reconnect with the best aspects of ones historical, cultural, and social identity. As
applied to current social problems, Afrocentrism refers to internalizing structures,
values, and practices that are African derived, and applying the best of them to
present-day situations.
Recently, motivation researchers have been accumulating a strong empirical
body of literature documenting the role of causal cognition as a guide to achievement
strivings (Graham, 1991; Weiner, 1986). For example, when Black children do well
or poorly on a test, what are their beliefs about the causes of these outcomes? Are
there different motivational consequences for the student who attributes failure in
math to lack of aptitude versus poor instruction? As intimated in these examples, the
particular cognition outcomes occur. Causal attributions are central to a theory of
15


cognitive motivation that have proved to be exceedingly rich and applicable to a wide
range of phenomena relevant to Blacks (Graham, 1991). It has been documented that
success and failure typically are attributed to some ability factor that includes both
aptitude and acquired skills; an exertion factor that includes both immediate and
sustained effort; and luck, task difficulty (ease), mood, and help or hindrance from
others. Among these dominant causes, ability and effort are the most salient. That is,
when explaining achievement outcomes, individuals attach the most important to
their perceived competencies and how hard they try (Graham, 1994).
Academic and personal successes and failures of inner-city African American
males invariably are linked to the dynamics of family life, societal acceptance,
economics, and political opportunities. Besides these impacting factors, many more
internalized factors such as personal meaning, present and projected insecurities,
differing values and hope (which these youngsters perceive as their chances of
succeeding in the larger society), affect academic and personal success. The
implication here is that academic success and failure are not only dependent on
individual responsibility and commitment, but also on the supportive commitment
and consistency of influential others. This suggests that a connection may exist
between achievement, specifically academic achievement, and perceived anticipation
of self and other support (Jackson, 1993).
The academic achievement of African American adolescents depends not only
on their individual attributes (i.e., intellectual abilities, aspirations, achievement
motivation, and personal and social identity) but also on the social environment of the
school and available support networks. The school as a social institution reflects and
transmits mainstream culture and its prevailing world view (Minuchin & Shapiro,
1983). For example, African American children who enter school with some
orientation to mainstream culture are likely to possess the skills necessary to develop
academic and social competence in the school setting (Taylor, 1991). Those whose
16


family values and attitudes are incongruent with the values, attitudes, and behaviors
reinforced at school may enter school with inadequate exposure to mainstream culture
and become at risk for academic failure. These students may be required to Ieam a
new repertoire of social behaviors before they can reach their academic potential
(Clark, 1991).
The problems facing young African American males today are both external
and internal. Internally, many have low self-esteem and lack the vision for a hopeful
future. Externally, poverty and negative environmental conditions deprive many
African American children of wholesome development (Jones, Bibbins, &
Henderson, 1994).
Although the focus of this study is on African American males' educational
and career attainment, the history of academic performances, of these students is
framed within literature on failure and success. To account for the variability in the
academic and career success of African American males, it is necessary to go beyond
the school doors. Several explanations have been proposed. Of these, the following
will be discussed in the review of literature: environmental issues, educational issues,
and psychosocial issues.
Research studies highlight the plight of the African male in terms of statistical
findings that have led many to suggest that Black men are an endangered species
(Gibbs, 1988).
Environmental Issues
Ecological psychology is the area of qualitative research which emphasizes
the interaction of the person and environment in shaping behavior. Ecological theory,
a relatively recent educational paradigm, views student development, learning, and
behavior as manifestations of child-environment interaction (Johnson, Johnson, &
DeMatta, 1991). In order to begin to understand the issues that surround patterns of
17


achievement and development among African American males in this study, it is
necessary to address environmental issues which may have (an impact) on these
students. Demographic information of the area in which this research will take place
will be provided; in addition, a brief description will be given of drug use, gangs and
violence; race and racism; employment opportunities and job ceilings in the lives of
African American males. Other topics related to school and life success which will
be considered include achievement ideology, cultural differences, fictive kinship, and
urban schools. Areas associated with the underachievement of African American
male students include: the general concept of underachievement, the concept of
acting White, resiliency, and coping strategies. The current state of successful
academic attainment of African American males will be covered through a
presentation of the literature on barriers and significant promises.
Gangs. Drugs and Violence
Youth gangs, clubs or posses can currently be found in most societies and
throughout history. Of particular concern are urban youth gangs heavily involved
with drugs, crime and violence. Spergel (1990) defines a gang as juvenile and
young adults associating together for serious, especially violent, criminal behavior
with special concerns for turf (which) can signify the control of a physical territory,
a criminal enterprise, or both. Poor, inner-city youth with limited options for
employment are often drawn to gang involvement for the sense of belonging it
provides the economic resources available through drug sales or extortion (Spergel,
1995; Hagerdom, 1992). With the deindustrialization of urban areas and the resulting
loss of available jobs for unskilled or low-skilled workers, it seems as though young
men, and to a lesser extent, young women, are considering involvement in a gang as
viable economic and social option Gang membership seems to provide status, self-
esteem, and acceptance.
18


I
Research on personality characteristics of gang members has found that
youths who join gangs are often defiant individualists who are intensely competitive,
self-reliant, socially isolated, have a strong survivalist instinct, and are dealing with
the effects of poverty (Spergel, 1990). Gang members may be more willing to take
dangerous risks because of having futures with limited options. Three types of gangs
are described by Huff (1988). The first is the informal, hedonistic gangs whose main
goal is to consume alcohol, marijuana and/or other drugs together. They are usually
not violent, but may be involved with petty crime. The second type, instrumental
gangs, commit more property crimes to support drug habits. Individuals in the gang
may sell drugs, but it is not an organized activity of the gang. The third type,
predatory gangs, commit more serious crimes, use highly addictive drugs, and are
more likely to be involved in the illegal drug economy. More educational and
employment opportunities, neighborhood, school and family social services support,
and housing desegregation rather than only increased police activity, are
recommended solutions to the influence and impact of gangs in urban areas (Spergel,
1990; Huf^ 1988; Hagerdom, 1992; Hayes, 1993).
Educational Issues
Race and Racism
Discrimination because of race is prevalent in the United States today despite
efforts and accomplishments made in the 1960s which resulted in legislation
concerning segregation in schools and discrimination in housing and employment.
Residential discrimination, resulting in predominately African American inhabitancy
of inner-city districts, is occurring in most of the major cities in the country, such as
the city in this study. In these urban areas, some schools have populations of nearly
100 percent African American, and these schools are qualitatively different from
predominantly White schools (Haberman, 1992). A major concern is disciplinary
19


discrimination in many racially-mixed schools with the large number of African
American, specifically males, suspended and expelled. Employment opportunities for
African Americans are fewer than for Whites, both initial job options and in
advancement opportunities for upper level management positions (Ogbu, 1987;
Steinberg, Dombush & Brown, 1992; Spencer, Kim & Marshall, 1987; Wilson, 1996;
Fine, 1983; Gage, 1990; Reed & Sautter, 1990; Ingrassia, 1993).
The movement of resources, jobs, and people from the central city to suburbs
has created a hostile environment for children and families and institutions embedded
in the cities, including schools (Wang & Kovach, 1995).
Gill (1995) writes that African American males are in a war and that war is
becoming a nightmare for the general society. As a group, these men are lowering
their efforts to grow and survive in this society. In urban America this group has
taken the brunt of the blows if statistics are the measure. The disparities between
African American males and other males in the population is appalling in
employment, real income, and those living at or near the poverty level (National
Urban League, 1994).
Black teenagers face an unemployment rate of 57 percent and unprecedented
levels of poverty, while impoverishment and hunger become the rule of the day. But
what sets Black youth off from their White counterparts is that the preferred method
of containing White teenagers is through constitutional controls exercised through
schooling where working-class youth suffer the effects of choice programs, tracking,
and vocationalization. On the other hand, Black youth are increasingly subjected to
the draconian strategies of tagging, surveillance or more overt harassment and
imprisonment through the criminal justice system (Parenti, 1994). Recent statistics
based on 1995 Justice Department data reveal the full scope of this policy by
indicating that one in three Black men in their twenties are either imprisoned, on
20


probation, or under the supervision of the criminal justice system on any given day in
America (Butterfield, 1996).
Employment Opportunities- Job Ceiling
Changes have occurred in employment opportunities in most inner-cities.
Many of the factories which provided manufacturing jobs to inner-city residents and
traditionally provided economic opportunities that elevated them out of poverty have
moved to suburban or ex-urban areas (Wilson, 1996). This exodus, called
deindustrialization (Hagerdom, 1991), has resulted in a shift in the kinds of jobs
available to inner-city residents from manufacturing to service. These new jobs are
usually low paying, low tech and have no benefits (Reed & Sautter, 1990).
According to statistics from the Digest of Educational Statistics cited by Gage
(1990), African American high school graduates still experience an unemployment
rate over 50 percent. The unemployment rate for African American high school
dropouts, according to 1979 data cited by Fine (1983), is only 5 percent higher than it
is for graduates. Clearly, the conventional wisdom of staying in school to get a
better job is of questionable applicability fi>r African American youths. Ingrassia
(1993) quoted Eugene Rivers sentiment regarding prospects for African American
males, stating that America has less use for Black men today than it did during
slavery.
For African Americans who are employed in stable jobs, prospects for
advancement are often limited by what has been termed the glass ceiling or job
ceiling (Steinberg, Dombush & Brown, 1992; Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Ogbu 1987).
Ogbu defines the job ceiling as:
The result of consistent pressures and obstacles that selectively assign Blacks
and similar minorities to jobs which occupy the lower status for power,
dignity, and income. Whites compete freely for desirable jobs above the
21


ceiling on the basis of the individual's training and ability or educational
credentials (Ogbu, 1987).
When students in high school or college observe others in the African
American community who have been passed over for advancement in their careers,
it can cause disillusionment about the value of schooling that engenders a feeling of
impotence and a lack of self-confidence regarding competing successfully with
Whites in traditionally White peoples domains, (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986).
The effects of the job ceiling have probably been cumulative and relatively
enduring (Ogbu, 1987) and discourage students from putting full efforts into their
school work (Steinberg, Dombush & Brown, 1992). In an interview in Newsweek, a
senior vice president at Equitable Life Assurance Society, recounted conversations
with younger Black managers in his organization:
Theres an air of frustration thats just as high now as it was 30 years ago ....
They have an even worse problem (than I did) because theyve got MBAs
from Harvard. They did all the things that youre supposed to do ... and
things are supposed to happen (in Cose, p. 76,1993).
Psychosocial Issues
Achievement Ideology
Every population or society has developed an approved strategy for getting
ahead, which may be called a folk theory of making it (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986),
achievement ideology, or status mobility system. This strategy generates its own ideal
personality types, characterized by those dispositions, qualities and skills which one
needs to get ahead in that particular population.
The White middle-class folk theory of upward mobility is that success comes
through education; one gets a good job that pays well by getting a good education
22


(Ogbu, 1987). To most African Americans, education remains to be the symbolic
key to advancement (Hare, 1987). Education may be no more than a symbol,
because minority community members perceptions of dismal future opportunities
influence their perceptions of and responses to schooling (Ogbu, 1987). William
Julius Wilson, professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, stated:
(This) lack of association between education and post-school employment has
discouraged a lot of young people. They see that whether you graduate from
high school or you (hop out, youre still going to be hanging around a comer
or the best job youre going to find is working at a McDonalds. After a time
they develop a view that you are a chump if you study hard (cited in Gregory,
1992).
The lack of connection between the amount of effort applied in school
and future success causes many African American young people to turn their
attention to nonacademic activities. They become aware of their limited
future opportunities for employment above the minimum wage level and see
how others in the community make it without a high school diploma or
mainstream employment (Ogbu, 1987). Hunt (1976) believes that many
African Americans question the concept of education as the ladder to upward
mobility for Blacks. In a break from previous generations, African Americans
are now more likely to view the success of one of the members of the group as
an individual attainment, not as evidence of collective advancement
(Fordham, 1988). Ford (1990) refers to an ambivalence among African
Americans who support the achievement ideology but question the
relationship of support to success in later life. Hare (1987) refers to the Myth
of Equal Opportunity as a situation in which the losers blame themselves for
their lack of achievement and others see that because the losers did not
apply themselves, they are getting what they deserve. These conditions
contribute to why many young male African Americans live non-productive
as underachievers, drug users, and one with crime as a way of life.
Minority Classifications
In order to understand the complex relationship between the issues concerning
the academic achievement or underachievement in African Americans, particularly
African American males, it is helpful to examine the work of John Ogbu who
developed a unifying theory to explain variations of achievement/productivity
23


between various minority groups. According to theories set forth by Ogbu. members
of minority populations may be considered in three ways. Autonomous minorities are
those who possess a distinct ethnic, religious, linguistic, or cultural identity. They are
not free from prejudice or discrimination, but are not socially, economically, and
politically subordinated (Ogbu, 1987). They include the Jews, Mormons, and the
Amish in the United States. Ogbu believes the second type of minority in the United
States are the immigrant or voluntary minorities: people who have voluntarily moved
to this country to seek improved economic and educational opportunities, and/or
political freedom. Historically in the United States, for instance, this group includes
the millions of European immigrants from the 17th through 20th centuries and.
contemporary the immigrants from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The third
type of minority are the involuntary or castelike minorities who were originally
brought to a country through slavery, conquest, colonization, or forced labor. African
Americans whose forebearers were slaves, Native Americans, Mexican-Americans in
the Southwest, and Native Hawaiians are examples of this type of castelike minority
in the United States. It is often the involuntary minorities who are denied true
assimilation into mainstream society and who experience more difficulties with social
adjustment and school performance (Ogbu, 1987).
Ogbu (1987) states that voluntary minorities tend to accept the dominant
groups folk theory that the way to get ahead is through hard work, school success
and individual ability. Thus, the voluntary minorities are willing to adapt their
cultural styles, if necessary, in order to succeed in school. This adaptation is viewed
as an additive process, as persons who do adapt do not have to compromise their
cultural identities to achieve in school.
For the involuntary minorities, particularly African American, school is seen
as an agent of the dominant society (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986). African American
children may have the skills needed to achieve in school, but that skill may be
24


manifested in a way that is different than is expressed by the White mainline culture.
The students may resist changing their style, be it dialect or personal interactions with
others, because their cultural style symbolizes their identity. To change their style to
the style of the dominant culture may be harmful to their social identity, sense of
security, and self-worth (Ogbu, 1992). Dealing with this phenomena may have an
impact on all students, but may intensely affect the African American males who may
question their right to achieve.
Fictive Kinship
Ogbu uses the term fictive kinship to describe the bonds between people in
the ethnic/cultural/religious/social group beyond those people in ones family and
extended family. Fictive kinship is the cultural symbol of collective identity of Black
Americans (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986): a kinship-like connection between and among
persons in a society, not by blood or marriage, who have maintained essential
reciprocal social, economic or political relationships (Fordham, 1988).
Fordham and Ogbu (1986) speculate that the fictive kinship system developed
as a response to treatment from White Americans during and after slavery. White
Americans historically treated African Americans as an undifferentiated mass of
people, and Fordham and Ogbu believe that Blacks may have transformed White
assumptions of Black homogeneity into a collective identity system and a coping
strategy. Fordham (1988) states that membership in the system is not automatic. If
an African American portrays an attitude, behaves or participates in activities
perceived to be counter with those thought to be appropriate, culturally patterned, and
serve to delineate the group from the dominate group, membership is denied. This
sense of belonging or wanting or needing to belong to the larger group explains some
of the choices a student may make to ignore their individual abilities and talents for
the greater importance of staying loyal to the group or to the community values which
25


are derived from a sense of opposition to the mainline dominate culture. The
transmission of the fictive kinship occurs in the family setting and from peers when a
child is growing up (Fordham, 1988; Fordham & Ogbu, 1986). Distrust of the
educational system begins when a child hears his parents discuss their perceptions of
discrepancies in the educational system among themselves and in the presence of
their children.
Minority children learn from older members of the community their shared
antagonism toward Whites and their institutions like the schools, as well as
White culture and language. Children who have internalized this cultural
antagonism may have difficulty performing according to school norms even if
they possess the cognitive and language skills (Ogbu, 1985, p. 866).
Accordingly, Ogbu believes that students may have to consciously choose
whether to be loyal to their community or to the mainline White culture that
represents the system. He summarized theory of differences in achievement
between minority groups stating:
The main factor differentiating the more successful from the less successful
minorities appears to be the nature of history, subordination, and exploitation
of the minorities and the nature of the minorities own instrumental and
expressive responses to their treatment, which enter into the process of their
schooling (Ogbu 1987, p. 317).
School may be viewed as an instrument of the society to instill values and
ways of the White mainline culture, which is not desired, and/or as the vehicle
through which social mobility may be possible.
Urban Schools
In urban settings, the school is often the primary representative of society at
large and is where urban children often face their first experience with mainline
26


culture. It is also here that parents of these children are reminded of the frustrations
they experienced in school and the promises and hopes for a better life through
education which proved empty in many cases.
Working with children who face poverty, violence, drugs and major
home instability every day creates a unique climate in the school and classroom
environments. Haberman (1992) described the common features of classrooms and
teaching styles in schools located in urban areas with high concentrations of poverty:
The teaching acts that constitute the core functions of urban teaching are:
giving information, asking questions, giving directions, making assignments,
monitoring seat work, reviewing assignments, giving tests, assigning
homework, reviewing homework, settling disputes, punishing noncompiiance,
marking papers, and giving grades. There are occasions when any one of the
fourteen acts might have a beneficial effect. Taken together and performed to
the systematic exclusion of other acts, they have become the pedagogical coin
of the realm in urban schools. They constitute the pedagogy of poverty
(P-291).
Resiliency
Research about the personal characteristics of children who are able to survive
and succeed in school and life endeavors despite singular or multiple life crises is
pertinent to the study of achievement and underachievement for its emphasis on
nurturing this characteristic in children. Resiliency has been defined as the ability to
recover successfully from change or severe risks (Benard, 1992). Benard lists four
attributes of resilient children:
1. Social competence The qualities of responsiveness, flexibility,
empathy and caring, sense of humor. Resilient children tend to
establish more positive relationships with other people.
2. Problem solving skills The ability to think abstractly, reflectively and
flexibly. Children who exhibit these qualities are able to pose
alternative solutions for both cognitive and social problems.
27


3. Autonomy Children who exhibit autonomy have a strong sense of
independence, internal focus of control, self-efficacy, and are able to
exert some control over their environment.
4. Sense of purpose of future. These include the qualities of healthy
expectancies, goal directness, success orientation, achievement
motivation, educational aspirations, persistence, hopefulness,
hardiness, belief in a bright future, and sense of coherence (p.5).
Benard (1992) states that the risk factors children may encounter (death,
illness, violence, poverty, drugs) need to be balanced with sufficient protective factors
in order for a child to overcome their effects. These protective factors are the
enabling facilitators which nurture the development of resiliency in a child. The
protective factors mentioned include care and support, high expectations, and the
participation of the child in program planning. These protective factors can center in
the family, school and/or community. If a child has sufficient support, he can
weather difficult situations. If, however, the protective factors are absent, even a
child who has other characteristics of resiliency may have problems.
Understanding resilience requires that obstacles to adaptation be understood
and that the standard for, or definition of adaptive behavior be delineated.
Adaptation in the study of resilience, as in the study of developmental
psychopathology, is defined in terms of the attainment of psychosocial milestones
called developmental tasks (Masten & Braswell, 1991). Developmental tasks
represent broadly defined standards or expectations for behavior at various points in
the life span. Resilience in an individual refers to successful adaptation despite risk
and adversity.
This study review and design is to broaden the basis of our understanding of
African American males, the major environmental risks that confront them, to
discover what effect different educational, interpersonal and community experiences
28


had on their professional and career choices and evidence of resilience in light of the
risks faced.
A major study of resiliency was conducted during the 1970s and 1980s. This
study (Garmezy & Rutter, 1983; Murphy & Moriarity, 1976; Werner & Smith, 1982)
examined several personal variables in relation to resilience. In general, the results
indicated that a number of personal variables were related to resilience. These
variables included sensitivity, sociability, inner control, cooperativeness, and
cognitive superiority. However, these findings were based mostly on clinical
observations and anecdotes, with some of the findings based on data from surveys
and standardized instruments.
In considering resilience, it is useful to remember a few key concepts: risk
and protective factors; stress, coping and adaptation; and prevention. Studies of
resilience focused originally on childrens experiences with particular kinds of
stresses: natural disasters; wars, concentration camps; divorce; living with a parent
with severe psychiatric disorder; severe adjustment difficulties that can manifest
themselves in alternative engagement and disruption in schools; chronic illness; and
maternal deprivation. The literature suggests that there are two different kinds of
variables that contribute to resilience. One has to do with individual dispositions.
The other category of variables reflects our social environment, the families into
which we are bom, and the social setting in which we live.
However, Werner and Smith (1992) explain the growing body of
international, cross-cultural, longitudinal studies that provide scientific evidence that
many youth, even those with multiple and severe risks in their lives, can develop into
confident, competent, and caring adults. They also discuss the critical role schools
can play in this process.
I
!
29
i


Coping Strategies
African American males who have performed well in school must overcome
multiple cognitive, cultural and altitudinal barriers regarding the value of academic
success. These African American males face anti-academic sentiments in the larger
culture through anti-intellectual dispositions. Also, the culture of male gender usually
does not promote scholastic endeavors, nor does the general African American
culture through oppositional reactions to the White achievement ideology. The
adolescent culture may provide problems with hedonistic priorities, peer pressure and
a general anti-school penchant (Edwards, 1976). These avenues of anti-
academic/anti-intellectualism intersect in the lives of African American male youth.
Students have developed strategies to cope with the aspects of this inner and outer
conflict.
Ogbu (1992) reported nine strategies used by African American students to
deal with the cultural differences faced while dealing with achievement in school.
1. Emulating Whites or adopting White academic attitudes and
behaviors which extract a high psychological cost.
2. Accommodating without assimilation, which is an alternative strategy.
One school counselor said about this approach, The students seem to
have the motto ofDo your Black thing (in the community), but know
the White-man thing (at school) (p. 11).
3. Acting, or camouflaging, a scheme which may take on a variety of
techniques, such as becoming the class clown, being an athlete, or
participating in other activities, which are acceptably African
American.
4. Involvement in church activities creates a peer group apart from
school, often with others who are empathetic.
5. Attending a private school is a way to avoid peers.
6. Having a mentor who serves as a role model enhances academic
success.
30


7. Some students align themselves with students who can protect them
physically. Often this is done in exchange for help with homework.
8. Intervention and remedial programs provide opportunities and
encouragement for students to succeed.
9. Encapsulation is the term to describe the action of academic successful
youth succumbing to the pressures of the peer group, their way of
thinking about activities. These students dont want to accommodate
the system or take advantage of the other techniques for survival in
school (p.ll).
In recent decades, researchers trying to leam why some young people are
more resilient than others have studied numerous charts of young people in an
attempt to identify so-called protective factors, or those conditions that foster
resiliency in young people despite the negative odds they face (Benard, 1992). This
research examined protective factors that contributed to the development of young
Black males who were exposed to factors that put them at risk for a number of
problems, including delinquency, clrngs and gangs, and school failure, who
nonetheless, avoided these problems and developed into healthy and successful young
adults.
Benard (1991) describes a resilient person as one who is socially competent,
self-efficacious and an effective problem solver who is able to negotiate through a
web of adversity (see Figure 2.3).
Bowser and Perkins (1991), with a team of investigators, interviewed a group
of academically successful young Black and Hispanic students. One of the single
most difficult pieces of information to find is what goes on in the lives of
31


Figure 2.3
PROFILE OF THE RESILIENT CHILD
Social Competence Problem Solving Autonomy Sense of Purpose
Responsiveness Critical Thinking Self-Esteem Sense of Meaning
Flexibility Planning Skills Self-Efficacy Special Interests
Empathy and Caring Help Seeking Control Over Environment Coherence/ Meaningfulness
Communication Skills Creative Thinking Self Awareness Educational Aspirations
Sense of Humor Imagination Independence Achievement Motivations
Resourcefulness Adaptive Distancing Persistence
Hopefulness
Optimism
Compelling Future
Faith/Spirituality
Goal Directedness
Adapted from: Benard, B. (1991). Fostering Resiliency in Kids: Protective Factors
in the Family, Schools, and Community, San Francisco: Western Regional Center for
Drug-Free Schools and Communities.
32


academically successful Black and Hispanic adolescents? How do they beat the
odds? If we can find out what successful Black and Hispanic students do have in
common, then we will have some idea of what can be done to intervene into the
circumstances of the majority who are not succeeding (Ogbu, 1987).
There is some research underway that looks directly at the lives of successful
Black students. The primary focus of this study is the community, peers and parents
in academic attainment and career success of the African American males.
Bowser and Perkins developed a series of questions to be used with the
students to probe their relations with parents, relatives, teachers, peers, other people
and organizations within their community. These students were questioned on what
they did to perform well in school, who played important roles in their lives and what
were the barriers.
In this focus group a number of students expressed the importance of both
family and school as a motivation to succeed and a supportive and involved family
along with extended family members. Schools that had teachers and counselors that
took a personal interest in the students work provided support. Public
acknowledgment and identification of an achievement were essential to the students
realization that they are indeed doing exceptional work and can qualify for
opportunities in the larger society outside of their community. Specific study
techniques and the number of hours spent studying was of secondary importance to
the students.
Most of these young people shared that they disassociated themselves from
their peers and normal friendships in order to maintain their motivation to
academically succeed. It is very clear that if motivational influences at home or at
school had not taken special interest and given attention to these students, they would
not have and any Black and Hispanic high achievers to interview. These young



people would be indistinguishable from their peers, many of whom are just as
talented (Bowser & Perkins, 1991).
The idea that peers can influence the attitudes, ambitions and academic
achievement of adolescents was supported in a study by Schmuck (1963) who
indicated that relationships exist between self-perceived peer liking status and
academic performance. Muma (1965) indicated that relationships exist between
extremes in peer choice and academic performance; and Damico (1975) indicated that
relationships exist between peer group membership and academic performance.
Research has indicated that adolescent males are more susceptible to peer pressure
than females, and that Black adolescents are more susceptible to peer pressure than
White adolescents (Carter, et al., 1975).
The results of a study by Trotter (1981) indicate that academically able Black
male adolescents perceive themselves in a peer environment which values academic
learning less than they do. The results demonstrated that academically able Black
male adolescents who achieve at relatively low levels perceive a peer environment
that is more hostile to academic learning than that perceived by relatively high
achievers. Although this study did not specifically investigate peer acceptance, the
findings do suggest that peer acceptance probably would not enhance academic
achievement among academically able Black male adolescents.
Current research suggests that Black student academic achievement is largely
due to family influences, in which case declining achievement is due to declining
family support. What researchers might be really looking at is declining community
morale and declining social resources mediated through the family (Bowser &
Perkins, 1991). When asked what the students thought could be done to increase the
numbers of academically successful students like themselves, they responded, Get
rid of drugs and get more jobs.
34


Protective Factors Within the Family
Caring and Support
What is evident from nearly all the research into the family environments of
resilient people is that, despite the burden of parental psychopathology, family
discord, or chronic poverty, most young people identified as resilient have had the
opportunity to establish a close bond with at least one person (not necessarily the
mother or father) who provided them with stable care and from whom they received
adequate and appropriate attention during the first year of life (Werner, 1991).
According to Feldman, Stiffman, and Jung (1987), The social relationships
among family members are by far the best predictors of childrens behavioral
outcomes. Furthermore, Rutters research found that even in cases of extremely
troubled home environments, a good relationship with one parent (defined in terms
of the presence of high warmth and absence of severe criticism) provides a
substantial protective effect. Only one-fourth of the children in the troubled families
studied by Rutter (1979) showed signs of conduct disorder if they had a single good
relationship with a parent, compared to three-fourths of the children who lacked such
a relationship.
High Expectations
Research into why some children growing up in poverty and still manage to
be successful in school and in young adulthood has consistently identified high
parental expectations as the contributing factor (Williams & Komblum, 1985; Clark,
1983).
35


A number of investigations, including Clark, 1983; Greenberg & Davidson,
1972, examined high- and low-achieving economically disadvantaged African
American pre-adolescents and adolescents. The high-achieving subsamples in this
work consisted of individuals who, despite living in poor, inner-city neighborhoods,
managed to do well in school. Several factors appeared to separate high-achieving
from low-achieving students, including the organization of their homes and the nature
of their parenting experiences.
Interpreting these findings, Clark (1983) suggested that the parents of high-
achieving adolescents appear more likely to employ authoritarian parenting practices
in the home than the parents of low-achieving adolescents. Authoritative parenting
involves a constellation of behavior. Similarly, in a sample of younger children,
Scheinfield (1983) found that parents of high achievers encouraged self-motivation,
autonomy, and engagement of the environment. The processes underlying these
differences in parental behavior, such as parent personality differences or differences
attributing to the social environment experienced by the family, deserve further
attention.
Similarly, the work of Mills (1990) with parents living in an impoverished
housing project in Miami demonstrated the power of a parental attitude that sees
clearly the potential for maturity, common sense, for learning and well-being in their
children. According to Mills, an attitude expressed to a youth, You have
everything you need to be successful, and you can do it, played a major role in the
reduction of several problem behaviors, including substance abuse, in this
disadvantaged community.
Furthermore, families that establish high expectations for their childrens
behavior from an early age play a role in developing resiliency in their children. Haan
(1989), whose research on the development of morality in young children clearly
challenges prior assumptions of Freud, Piaget, and Kohlberg that young children are
36


morally deficient; i.e., self-serving, writes, Young children have the same basic
moral understandings and concerns as adolescents and young adults.
A natural outgrowth of having high expectations for children is that they are
acknowledged as valued participants in the life and work of their family. Research
has borne out that the family background of resilient children is usually characterized
by many opportunities for the children to participate and contribute in meaningful
ways. For example, Werner and Smith (1982) found that assigned chores, domestic
responsibilities (including care of siblings), and even part-time work to help support
the family proved to be sources of strength and competence for resilient children.
When children are given responsibilities, the message is clearly communicated that
they are worthy and capable of being contributing members of the family.
In addition to holding high expectations of children (i.e., that they will
succeed in school and become good citizens in their community), households that are
structured and employ consistent discipline, rules, and regulations produce better
outcomes among children from at-risk families (Bennett, Wolin, & Reiss, 1988).
Protective Factors Within the School
Caring and Support
Just as in the family arena, the level of caring and support within the school is
also a powerful predictor of positive outcome for youth. While according to Werner
(1991), only a few studies have explored the role of the teachers as a protective buffer
in the lives of children who overcome great adversity, these few do provide moving
evidence of this phenomenon.
While the importance of the teacher as caregiver cannot be overemphasized, a
factor often overlooked that has definitely emerged for protective factor research is
the role of caring peers and friends in the school and community environments.
37


Research into resiliency of street gamins clearly identifies peer support as critical to
the survival of these youth (Feldman, Stifiman & Jung. 1987). The academic
achievement of at-risk students is the product not only of a childs intellectual ability,
but also the schools climate and social support networks available from families.
Clark (1991) stated that after family, peers are the most important source of support.
Social support networks from peers provide children and adolescents with a sense of
being valued, cared for, and loved. These support networks not only facilitate the
development of an individual, but serve as a protective shield against stress.
Obviously, resilient youth are those youth who have and took the opportunity
to fulfill the basic human need for social support, caring, and living. If this is
unavailable to them in their immediate family environments, it is imperative that the
school provide the opportunities to develop caring relationships with both adults and
other youth.
High Expectations
As with the family environment, research has identified that schools that
established high expectation for all children and given them the support necessary to
achieve them, have incredibly high rates of academic success (Rutter, 1979; Brook, et
al., 1989; Edmonds, 1986; ONeil, 1991; Levin, 1988; Slavin, Kanweit, & Maden,
1989). Probably the most powerful research supporting a school of ethos of high
expectations as a protective shield was reported by Michael Rutter (1979). In his
compelling book, Fifteen Thousand Hours, psychiatrist Michael Rutter found that
even within the same poverty-stricken areas of London, some schools showed
considerable differences in rates of delinquency, behavioral disturbance, attendance
and academic attainment (even after controlling for family risk factors). The
successful schools, moreover, appeared to share certain characteristics: academic
emphasis, teachers clear expectations and regulations, high level of student
38


participation, and many, varied alternative resources/library facilities, vocational
work opportunities, art, music, and extracurricular activities. A major critical finding
was that the relationships between a schools characteristics and student behavior
increased over time; that is, the number of problem behaviors experienced by a youth
decreased over time in the successful schools and increased in the unsuccessful
schools. Rutter (1979) concluded that schools that foster high self-esteem and that
promote social and scholastic success reduce the likelihood of emotional and
behavioral disturbance.
Studies have also shown that the differences between schools account for less
of the variance of scholastic attainment than did features of the family or home
(Rutter & Madge, 1976). However, this may result from the fact that there is a bigger
difference between the "best and worst home than between the best and worst
school. If schools vary in quality less than do homes, as probably the case, then their
statistical effect on childrens attainment will also appear less.
Discussions of the risk factors for school failure focus on two sets of variables. One
is individual student behaviors and characteristics, such as lack of engagement in
instructional and co-curricular activities, poor performance on classroom tasks and
achievement tests, poor attendance, using alcohol and drugs, and having a child. The
second set embraces environmental characteristics. Family indicators, including
family poverty and marital status of parents, are cited frequently, as well as school
policies and practices, such as tracking, retention in the early grades, and low teacher
expectations of African American students. How these factors contribute to school
failure has been the subject of numerous research and policy reports (Fine, 1988;
Nartriello, McDill & Pallas, 1990; Scott-Jones, 1991).
39


Protective Factors Within the Community
Caring and Support
As with the other two arenas in which young people are socialized, the family
and the school, the community which supports the positive development of youth is
promoting the building of the traits of resiliency-social competence, problem-solving
skills, autonomy, and a sense of purpose and future. Community psychologists refer
to the capacity of a community to build resiliency as community competence
(Iscoe, 1974), and once again, as with the family and the school systems, competent
communities are characterized by the triad of protective factors that Benard (1991)
speaks to as: caring and support, high expectations, and participation. Benard also
identified three characteristics of communities that foster resilience. These
characteristics are: availability of social organizations that provide an array of
resources to residents; consistent expression of social norms so that community
members understand what constitutes desirable behavior, and opportunities for young
people to participate in the life of the community as valued members. Hill, Wise and
Shapiro (1989) emphasized the role of communities as key contributors in the
revitalization of failing urban school systems. They believe that troubled urban
school systems can only recover when the communities that they serve unite in
decisive efforts to improve their performance.
A competent community, therefore, must support its families and schools,
have high expectations and clear norms for its families and schools, and encourage
the active participation and collaboration of its families and schools in the life and
work of the community. According to Kelly (1988), The long-term development of
the competent community depends upon the availability of social networks within
40


the community that can promote and sustain social cohesion within the community. .
that is, the formal and informal networks in which individuals develop their
competencies and which provide links within the community are a source of strength
(i.e., health and resiliency) for the community and the individuals comprising it.
Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of caring and support at the
community level is the availability of resources necessary for healthy human
development: health care, child care, housing, education, job training, employment,
and recreation. According to most researchers, the greatest protection we could give
children and youth is ensuring them and their families access to these basic
necessities (Garmezy, 1991; Sameroff 1984; Long & Vaillant, 1989; Wilson, 1987;
Coleman, 1987; Hodgkinson, 1987). Conversely, the greatest risk factor for the
development of nearly all problem behaviors is poverty, a condition characterized by
the lack of these resources.
High Expectations
Nettles (1991) found that the word community invoked images as different
as the cohesive, village-like neighborhoods that many African American Southerners
recall nostalgically, and the faceless mass known in the media as The Black
Community. She says that these and other diverse pictures capture the two most
common notions of community, those of place and social relationships that transcend
locales. However, communities are also characterized by the structures rules, norms,
and processes that serve to maintain the community and support its constant
individuals and organizations.
The role of community involvement will be important for this study just as
schools and families are factors that may contribute to the resiliency of African
American males; a community can either contribute to adverse outcomes in school, or
serve as a protective factor for the young Black male to be successful in school.
41


This approach of studying African American males who have had academic
and career success is especially appealing to the researcher because it provides an
opportunity for the participants themselves to give their own interpretations of their
life experiences, particularly as they pertain to their educational and career success.
Like Bowser and Perkins, the researcher believes that the lives of
academically and career successful African American males can serve as case studies
to reveal important themes in minority educational and career success. Like Jackson,
the researcher believes that the contributions of the family, in the educational success
of African American, cannot be ignored.
The life history approach (McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993) used in this study
was to examine the interacting factors of home, school, community socioeconomic
influences, environmental conditions, general societal influences, individual
characteristics, culture and resiliency that could provide researchers and educators
with the much needed personal perspective of the minorities themselves.
42


CHAPTERS
THE RESEARCH METHOD
This study was designed to be both qualitative and interpretive as it focuses
on the life pathways of successful African American males. The researcher
examined the protective factors of the family, the school, the community along with
the resilient characteristics that the participants identified as having impacted their
past, including their personal reflections on their life journeys. A set of common
elements for this five participant group is: ethnicity, gender, and the common
environment where they spent most of their youth and young adult experiences.
Multiple perspectives of each participant were sought throughout the study.
Qualitative research has its origin in anthropology and sociology (Krathwohl,
1993). For each, the goal is to understand culture through the careful observation of
that culture. In other words, it is a contextual analysis of the culture through an
exploration of the meanings for that group. Educational researchers have frequently
made use of the principles of qualitative research because of its value in describing
the subjective phenomena intrinsic to situations.
Methodological Assumptions
Both quantitative and qualitative inquiries are vital to the endeavors of
researchers because each offer possibilities for discovery that do not exist in the other.
The appropriate choice of research depends on the goal of the study, the types of
questions the researcher is attempting to answer, and the philosophical underpinnings
of the study itself. This study is qualitative in design, using a life history approach
43


(McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993). From the qualitative research tradition, this study
has some of the same objectives as ecological psychology: the study of naturally
occurring human behavior and the relationships between human behavior and its
environment. What follows is an explanation of the life history approach to
qualitative research, and an explanation of the procedures utilized to collect, present,
and analyze data from a wide variety of sources.
Life Histories
Life histories are basically an account of an individual of his or her life that
is recorded in some taping, or writing, for another person who edits and presents the
account, (Yow, 1994 p. 168). They differ from biographies and personal narratives,
in that they are told to another person, the researcher. Life histories incorporate the
very roots of generations before birth to stories being told across generations.
According to Plummer (1983), life histories have been used to convey ones
own experience with all the ambiguity, variability, and even uniqueness that such
experience usually implies (p. 65). Life histories include ways in which individuals
interpret their own lives and the world around them. They can be used as a tool of
history, defining the past and reflecting on ones own socio-economic and cultural
diversity with a particular period of time.
McLaughlin and Tierney (1993) suggest that life histories give voices to
people who have traditionally been silenced. They also claim that these histories give
us a glimpse of the past history, give us a look at how society impacts individuals, as
well as the masses help explain deviance, problem-solving, solutions and diversity
amongst peoples.
Life histories have been used to document the experience of minorities or
exceptional individuals (Lightfoot, 1988). The use of personal narrative and life
histories help illuminate how people, particularly those from oppressed groups,
44


pattern their identities over a period of time. Oftentimes a culture or minority will
incorporate into their identity, incidents that they have discarded or have found to be
difficult or painful to accept.
In educational contexts, oral histories have been used to highlight educators
points-of-view and interpretations of their experiences. These histories are viewed
not only as stories, but as proposed interpretations of life experiences (Plummer,
1983; Langness & Frank, 1981).
The unique responses of the individuals experiences also allows the
researcher, to understand another way of life from the native point of
view . learning from people (Spradley, 1979). According to Page and Valli
(1990), this phenomenon is central to the potential of interpretive studies. Critical to
the purpose of this study is to get actual responses from the subjects regarding their
educational experiences and career success.
This study could draw upon several theoretical perspectives in the social
sciences. However, the Psychodynamic theory will be used for this study. LeCompte
and Preissle (1993) describe this theory as human personality development and its
psychological and cultural determinants. The assumptions that relate to this theory
are: (1) human behavior and personality relationships with parents and siblings; (2)
certain constellations of these traits are recognizable as ideal types or labels which
characterize individuals or cultures; (3) identification of the personality type which
characterizes an individual or culture facilitates prediction of future behavior, and (4)
overt behavior is manifestation of specific personality characteristics or traits.
This research will examine protective factors that contributed to the
development of young Black males who were exposed to factors that put them at risk
for a number of problems, including delinquency, drugs and gangs, and school
failure, who nonetheless, avoided these
45


Criterion-based Selection of Participants
Permission to conduct the research was obtained from the Human Research
Committee at the University of Colorado. Each of the participants was asked to sign
an informed consent at the beginning of the study.
The research was designed as a qualitative, interpretive study which focused
on African American males who have been in the work force from five to twelve
years. Reflections on their life experiences and social cultural factors which they
identify as impacting experiences was critical in understanding how and why some
African American males experienced, life and educational success when so many do
not.
This study was conceptualized as an extensive case study analysis of
protective factors and resiliency characteristics of African American males as
presented by the subjects themselves. Data were triangulated by observations and
interviews with significant others including the participants. It is hoped that the data
will be useful for a thorough understanding of African American males school and
career success, using a case study approach.
The participants were African American males, who graduated from high
school within the last ten years, who lived and grew up in Northeast Denver, and are
currently employed. The participants had attended public schools in the inner city.
They were all working in a profession or a career which may or may not have
required a college degree. All the participants became successful against all odds,
poverty, gangs, crime in their community. They have represented a variety of family
compositions, two with both parents, three with other structures. All were nominated
by a variety of sources.
46


Demographic Information
Demographic reports indicate that many inner-city neighborhoods have
become increasingly poor, minority, and non-English speaking. The school system of
this study has been under court-ordered busing for 25 years. Recently the court order
was lifted, and the schools are neighborhood schools. This community has over 93
percent of its residents being of Hispanic (56 percent) or African American (37
percent) ethnicity according to 1990 U.S. Census figures (see Table 3.1). Estimates
for 1995 reveal that the racial composition remained relatively unchanged, with
African American and Hispanic residents making up 94 percent of the population.
This is in stark contrast to the ethnic composition of the overall Denver population
where only 38 percent of the residents are ethnic minorities. The community is
identified as a lower socio-economic status with high crime and gang activity in the
area. This community is very old and rich with tradition, history and culture. This
neighborhood was the center of Black and Brown civil rights movement of the 60s
and 70s. Many fourth and fifth generation Denverites have their roots in this
community.
Table 3.1 Community Ethnic Population Makeup
1990 1996 estimate
African American 37% 36%
Hispanic 56% 60%
Anglos 7% 4%
Source: 1990 U.S. Census of Population and Housing and Denver
Community Development Agency for 1996 Estimate
47


The literature suggests that the Black community is now reaping the bitter
harvest of decades of neglect of the plight of its young people by national policies
that have failed to eradicate poverty, failed to equip them with education for an
information society, and failed to replace discriminatory barriers with equal
opportunity. The result is that young Black males, as Gibbs (1988) suggests, have
become an endangered species, with more young Black men added each year to the
ranks of the poor, the jobless, and the homeless. The impact on the Black family, the
Black economy, and on individual lives has been devastating.
The young men in this study attended the same local high school in the
community, providing them an opportunity to be in a racially diverse setting because
of court-ordered busing. Representation of African American males has declined
drastically in the graduating classes over the past five years at the high school in this
community. However, many of those who have graduated have gone on to college or
pursued successful career opportunities.
The community where this study was conducted is one in which poverty and
unemployment rates are high; drugs and violent crimes are commonplace; and high
stress affects both home and school environment. It is an environment that could
manifest serious behavioral and educational problems. (Table 3 .2)
Table 3.2
Crime Rates (Crimes per 1.000 persons), bv crime. 1988-1995
Tvoe of Crime 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995
Homicide 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.8 0.3 0.8 0.6 0.8
Sexual Assault 2.9 2.8 2.4 3.7 2.6 4.7 3.7 3.2
Robbery 7.2 3.1 4.6 4.6 6.2 5.4 7.0 1.9
Burglary 113.4 73.2 61.6 74.8 53.5 84.9 76.5 82.2
Source: Department of Safety, City and County of Denver, 1998.
48
Is) VO Is) 00


I
t
I
A list of candidates was obtained by making contacts with local chapters of
African American fraternities, community agencies, such as Urban League of
Colorado and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP) for a pool of candidates who are thought to meet the criteria stated earlier.
After the nominations were received of perspective candidates, this researcher began
to examine each nominee in relation to the criteria. The goal was to have six to ten
candidates for this study. An attempt to achieve a balance in career and professions
was made (Figure 3.3). The data were drawn from three semi-structured interviews
(Appendix A), and many telephone conversations over a period of six months.
Participants were asked to reflect on critical influences of their educational and career
successes. In addition to interviewing the participants there were observations made
on some of the young men, additional information about the participants social,
career and educational aspirations was collected from their families, peers, school
officials, and in some cases, community representatives.
The participants were interviewed on their recollections of personal motives
for academic and career success. The researcher investigated both what they
identified as key, and what is believed, based on previous theory and research, to be
significant factors. This researcher obtained information from the participants on
what internal and external assets supported, encouraged and promoted their dreams
for academic achievement by recalling their life-learning pathways.
Krathwohl (1993) states that qualitative methods are inductive: they let the
problem emerge from the data or remain open to interpretations of the problem
different from those held initially. The data gathered from the interviews were
'categorized by themes or meanings, finding commonalties in the data leading first to
a description and then to an explanation of the regularity.
49
j
!
i


Figure 3.3 Participants Nominated Information
Participants Nominated Education Profession/Career
Willie Participated BA/MA V.P. of a National Organization
Ron Participated BA Sales
Richard Participated In progress Will graduate Spring 1999 Barber
Sam Participated BA Professional architect/Barber
Sonny Participated 1 yr. College Account Manager
Jamal Could not make time commitment H.S. diploma Electrician
Tyrone Could not make time commitment BA Mortician
Buster Could not make time commitment BA Manger of retail store
Patrick Did not meet criteria BA Sales
Fred Did not meet criteria BA/MA Banker
Chuck Did not meet criteria H.S. Musician
Malik Did not meet criteria BA Computer Programmer
Malcolm Unable to Contact BA Communications
Vernon Unable to Contact 2 yrs. College Policeman
Edgar Unable to Contact 3 yrs. College Sheriffs Department
Ethnicity: African American
Gender Males
50


Data Collection
According to Miles and Huberman (1984) and Yow (1994), strategies which
strengthen validity of a qualitative study such as this include: building trusting
relationships and participants; collecting data in repeated contacts; seeking data from
a primary source and a variety of sources utilizing data that is volunteered; and using
skill in posing probing questions to the participants.
Three semi-structured interviews were conducted with all participants to
collect data for this study. According to (Yow, 1994), The in-depth interview
enables the researcher to give the subject leeway to answer as he chooses, to attribute
meaning to the experiences under discussion, and to address the topic. Other data
collected included informal observations, interviews with family/peers, community
members and/or school officials. A total of 200 hours was spent in collecting,
transcribing and analyzing and data on each subject during a nine month period in
1997 and 1998.
Participant Interviews
The participant interviews were designed to elicit information about the
participants childhood, family, school and community experiences. Based on the
preliminary review of the literature, the interviews were scheduled at a variety of
times in order to obtain as much information as possible on significant events and
experiences, or turning points as perceived by the participants. In preparation for the
interviews steps were taken to establish a rapport as stated by (Yow, 1994; LeCompte
& Preissle, 1993). Arrangements were made for a preliminary meeting, explaining
once again the purpose of the project, clarifying expectations of the participants,
allowing the participants to become accustomed to and comfortable with the
51


recording equipment, assuring the participant that he was not obliged to answer all the
questions, and letting the participant know that his contributions were important and
appreciated. For the purpose of helping the participant to relax, each interview
session began with a minimal amount of small talk (Yow, 1994).
The considerations guiding this methodology and the research questions were
drawn from the review of literature. For example, a question that was asked about
their life journeys was: Tell me about your experiences in school and your
experiences in your community. This type of grand tour question recommended
by Spradley (1979) helped to probe the reasons why school achievement was or was
not important to participants in this study. The concerns suggested by the literature
include the relationship between school achievement and success in life, community
support of education, the nature of the sense of kinship in the African American
community, and employment opportunities in the area. According to Spradley
(1979), the work of describing a culture is to understand another way of life from
the native point of view, to learn and see in and out of the academic setting. Strauss
and Corbin (1990) explain that these topics will provide a foundation of
understanding the school and community environment, and the people in these
environments, yet not limit the research to these areas only.
The Research Questions
The following research questions guided this study of successful life pathways
of African American males.
What protective factors in the lives of urban African American males guided
their successful pathways, despite adverse social circumstances?
What are the characteristics that foster resiliency in the lives of African
American males growing up in the inner city?
52


During the interviews, participants were encouraged to talk about their life
experiences as they related to their educational or career success. Review of the
literature on African American males lack of academic and career success led to the
development of the interview questions. The questions were asked to elicit
elaborated responses from the participants. Information was needed on the cognitive
styles utilized by African American males to describe themselves, their surroundings,
and the universe of ideas meaningful to them (Word, 1979). When additional
information was sought, more specific questions were asked Once data were
collected, the interviews were transcribed, coded and cammed for themes or
categories. This process of analyzing the data was consistent with the qualitative
research method (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993).
Familv/Peer-Communitv Members/School
Officials Interviews
Interviews with additional persons or significant others, on the participants
were designed to provide information from other perspectives of the participants. For
those areas, the researcher defined topics which related to information that emerged
from the interviews which is common in the literature review. The interviews were
semi-structured with open-ended questions. The interview questions for this group
are presented in Appendix B.
Data Analysis
Everything is considered to have potential importance in a life history
interview. Accordingly, each interview was taped and transcribed (LeCompte &
Preissle, 1993; Miles & Huberman, 1984; Yow, 1994). The analysis of data occured
in stages. Memoing (Miles & Huberman, 1984), informal notes or jotting down
events to help the memory, was used throughout data collection to track ideas as they
occurred during and after interviews.
53


Each of the transcripts were hand-coded, utilizing emerging categories.
According to LeCompte and Preissle (1993), The first categories to emerge from the
data generally are those that occur most frequently (p.42). Consequently,
information on the life histories, focusing on protective factors and resiliency
characteristics did begin to emerge from the participant of this study. Plummer
(1983) refers to this type of presentation of data as Limited Life Document. The
limited life document does not aim to grasp the fullness of a persons life, but
confronts a particular issue (p. 13). The issue-in this case is academic attainment and
careers of African American males in an adverse social environment. The strategy
employed in this portion of the study was most common for writing up life document
research according to Plummer (1983, p. 65):
... get your subjects own words, come to really grasp them from the inside
and then turn it yourself into a structured and coherent statement that uses the
subjects words in places and the social scientists [researcher] in others but
does not lose their authentic meaning.
Limitations of the Study
1. Life history methodology utilizes recall as a primary data source and
correlation with real life events, and issues are difficult to accomplish.
2. Having selected certain family members and friends for interviews
may have biased findings.
3. A specific demographic location could narrow findings.
Delimitations of the Study (Identified before doing the study)
Participants were chosen only from one neighborhood in Northeast Denver
1. All participants had completed high school.
54


2.
Ethnic and gender participant selections were deliberate, based on
review of literature.
Summary
The analysis of qualitative data can be overwhelming to the researcher.
Several sources helped guide the analysis in this study: Strauss and Corbins (1990),
Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques. Plummers (1983), Documents of
Life, and LeCompte & Preissle, (1993) Ethnography and Qualitative Design in
Educational Research Chapters 4 and 5 of this dissertation will discuss the results of
data analysis of this study.
55


CHAPTER 4
LIFE HISTORIES:
of
Willie, Richard, Sam, Ron and Sonny
This chapter includes the life histories and limited documents (Plummer,
1983) of successful life pathways of five African American males who participated in
the study. A life history/life story is one that is dialogically created rather than a
history that is discovered and transcribed (McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993). Life
histories in the social sciences have been used to understand the relationships between
the individual, culture, and society to view the general process of socialization, and to
describe peoples lives in relation to the social groups in which they grew up (Galindo
& Escamilla, 1995). The names of the participants and those of people they named
have been changed in order to protect the privacy of those involved, and to ensure
confidentiality of the information shared.
The purpose of this study was to examine the protective factors and the
adaptive and coping strategies that fostered the successful life pathways of these
African American males. It is apparent that the only viable approach to enhancing
the successful academic and careers of African American males is to recognize the
multivariate nature of the issue. No one variable can be identified as the single cause
of why some males are successful academically or in careers. Gibbs (1988) found
that the attitude of significant others (parents, peers, and teachers) toward the student
was a source of African American youths' success in school and the community.
Other key findings in Ramseurs (1989) review of this literature are that the Black
56


family and community can act as mediators or filters of negative racist images and
messages for the Black youth.
A phrase occurring often in the literature sums up the resilient child as one
who "works well, plays well, loves well, and expects well," (Garmezy, 1974; Werner
& Smith, 1982).
Research Questions
The following questions guided this study:
1. What protective factors in the lives of urban African American males
guided their successful life pathways despite adverse social circumstances?
2. What are the characteristics that foster resiliency in the lives of
African American males growing up in the inner-city?
The five participants of this study who were interviewed are: Willie, Richard,
Sam, Ron and Sonny. The first participant presented is Willie.
Willie
Willie is a local executive director of a major national organization. He has
been in this position for two years. He is twenty-nine years old and married. He and
his wife are proud parents of two children. Willie graduated with a Bachelor of Arts
degree in 1991 and received his Master of Arts in Public Administration in 1995.
Willie was bom and raised in Denver. He and his twin sister were the last of
ten children bom to their parents. His mother and father divorced when he was six
years old. His mother raised all the children. Immediately after the divorce, his
father moved to Texas, where the majority of his fathers immediate family lived.
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Willie never saw his father again He recalled his older siblings visiting their father
in Texas, but he, personally, never went to visit his father. "T was a mommas boy
Willie Presents His Family
His mother and father completed junior college. Willies maternal
grandmother completed high school. His maternal grandfather died when his mother
was nine years old. Willie knew very little about his grandfather. On his paternal
side neither of his grandparents completed a formal education.
Willie remembered:
My family being quite chaotic not as stable as most families. I remember
being in the dark several nights. I remember being cold and hungry.
However, with all this chaos we were a close family who cared deeply about
each other often times demonstrated by anger at one another.
He had contact only with his maternal grandmother who lived in Denver.
Willie remembered:
My grandmother was my mothers partner, friend, backbone, and she was
very close to the family, as well. She didnt live with us, but she was always
with us during the holidays. She lived only five minutes away and we could
always get to her if we wanted to. My mother was her only child.
Willie described his relationship with his siblings as close. The brother that
was closest to him in birth was the one with whom he had the most conflict.
He was like my hero and he was very tough on me as a young person. As
time passed, I understood why he was so hard on me. He saw qualities and
promises for me. Although most of my brothers and sisters were older, I think
I had a pretty close relationship with all of them. Growing up as a twin was
difficult; there is resentment because you want things of your own. You want
your own birthday and you want your own identity. There was tension
growing up, but as we got older, we appreciated the fact that we were twins
and were very close.
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Reflecting on significant individuals in his life, Willie stated, God first. Of
course, there were others, his uncle, as he addressed him, was not a relative, but a
very close friend to his parents.
Uncle Joe was, and he still is, a very important person that was involved with
my life. Uncle Joe assumed the role of my father. I dont know why he took
particular interest in me, but he would take me on summer vacations and lots
of road trips with him. Uncle Joe had a son; we spent a lot of time together. I
was constantly over at his house. We had good times. He made sure that if I
needed anything, all I had to do was ask him. He always responded. He was
a very spiritual man; I think thats where my spiritual introductions may have
come from. I must have been about five years old when I had my first church
visit. I still attend the same church. I think its because of Uncle Joe that I did
not turn out the way some of my close friends, like Jasper, for example. I had
some male in my life that made me feel special and that I had a support
system.
Willie expressed the love and support his mother provided at all times.
My mother, whether or not she was able to provide school supplies, she
always provided them. She was very involved in school. I mean school folks
knew who she was. She was at all events: athletic, academic and any special
event. That really helped me achieve. That was also very important to me
because I knew that as long as they, the school, knew my mother, I couldnt
do anything bad. It was a trophy for me for folks to know and respect who my
mother was. She always helped me with my school work and supported and
encouraged me.
Willie Presents His Educational Experiences
Willie shared one of his most memorable educational experiences which
occurred when he was in the sixth grade. Willie recalled:
This turned my life around. I was a rebel in school. I had never been referred
to the principal in school, but I was the sneaky kid. I got away with a lot. I
hung with a pack of guys who got me going bullying the girls and sneaky
stuff. One day in sixth grade the teacher told me, Sit down or Im going to
send you to the principal. I was a chatter-mouth and constantly seeking the
attention of my classmates. I threw a tantrum, tossing desks, tears streaming
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down my face. I ignored her. She got up and said, Thats it. She drug me
to the principals office. She looked at the principal and said, This is the
brightest student I have and I just want him to cool off for a minute.
That changed my whole life. I had the greatest respect for that teacher. I was
a totally different student when I returned to class. Matter of fact, at that time,
the principal said, I think he ought to do the continuation address if hes the
brightest student She agreed. I focus on that to this day. That changed my
life.
As Willie continued in middle school, he became active in Student Council
and choir and focused on being a good student. He recalled his high school years as
challenging and enjoyable. He considered himself an average student. He didnt see
himself different from any other student. He loved school and he had good times and
good friends. His positive experiences outweighed the negative ones. In high school,
Willie found himself involved in many extracurricular activities, including football,
student government and choir. Willie never thought he wasnt going to college. He
knew he was going, but never gave thought as to how it was going to be financed. He
remembers taking the initiative.
The counseling department, as far as I was concerned, was not prepping me to
move to the college level. Whether it was helping me to reach colleges or fill
out the proper work, I dont think the support was there from the school.
He did secure a partial scholarship for academic and leadership; the rest was
funded by financial aid.
Willie was the first member of his family to graduate with a bachelors
degree. Some of his siblings completed their formal education with a year or two in
college. cTm the only one in my family to complete a four-year college education.
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Willies View of His Peers and the Community
Willie described his neighborhood in Northeast Denver as a supposedly very
high crime area. The majority of the people who lived in his neighborhood were
African American. Prior to his moving to this neighborhood, his family moved quite
a bit. He spent the majority of his childhood and adolescent years in his Northeast
Denver home.
Like most young people growing up, he had a close friend who lived across
the street from him, named Jasper. He recalls there were a lot of kids in the
neighborhood, but Jasper and he were probably the closest. He remembered:
Jasper and I did just about everything together. Every morning we were up on
our bikes. We would play football. We both thought we were pretty talented
football players running, catching, and quite frankly, the two of us were
probably the fastest guys in the neighborhood. We were well respected on the
football field.
Willies neighborhood had few resources as he described:
We had the middle school up the street. There was the library just down the
street and the high school within walking distance. We also had a recreation
center that was operated by the Salvation Army. The center provided
educational, cultural, religious and athletic opportunities.
Many adults were involved in the neighborhood activities when Willie was
growing up. He believed this kept most of the young people out of trouble .... 1
knew if I messed up, my mother would get on my case. Willie knew the gangs were
just getting started. As a matter of feet, a lot of my friends from elementary and
middle school and even high school became part of gangs. Willie noted:
Jasper, my closest friend, became a hard-core gang member. The gang
members tended to respect us guys like myself more than anything. They
even wanted to protect us more than anything, guys like me. They werent
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interested in guys like me. I mean, they would, for example, when we were in
high school, they would see me in the halls, they would say, Whats up
Willie? Theyd talk to me like one of their home boys. We had a mutual
respect. It wasnt a fighting kind of respect statement. We grew up together
as brothers, and they werent going to let anything happen to me unless I went
to the other side. They knew I was neutral and it wasnt an issue.
Willie felt the problems with the gangs were territorial and growing up with
the boys made a difference. He never felt intimidated. There was a mutual respect.
They had different lives. Willie described:
Walking up to a couple of gang members and saying, Why are you all doing
this? Putting the city in fear! They replied, We just want to be understood.
Were not trying to put anybody in fear, but were not going to let anyone
come into our territory. You know! Actually it became a source of jokes
with us as well. They would see me coming in the hall or on the street and
would say, Here comes the president! Here comes the head boy. I cant
remember what I used to call them, but it was a source of humor as well.
Willie Reflects on His Life
Looking back over the times, Willie reflected on his support and
encouragement he had from his mother and family. He felt his mother was the
driving force. He remembers his older brother who had a football scholarship, where
everything was paid for. He described his brother as one of those guys who allowed
women to influence his life a lot. Ultimately he dropped out of school because he
wanted to be home in Denver with some girl. He explained.
This broke my mothers heart even now [sic]. Ill never forget seeing her cry
the night he came home saying she cant believe she trusted that he would
follow through. At that moment I decided Im going to school and Im going
to finish college. Most importantly, I didnt like seeing my mother hint. I
made a decision then I would make her very proud of me.
Personally, as Willie reflected on his life, many things were drawing
comparisons and awareness he had not thought of before.
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Willie recalled:
Some difficulties I had, as other Black males, teenagers or young adults, were
problems with the police. I had never been arrested, but I recall being stopped
by the police and told Im being stopped because Im a Black man.
He continued:
Ill never forget being in Cherry Creek one night after a high school dance.
All the students would go to the pancake house before we went home. I was
in my mothers car. I happened to see these lights behind me. I pulled over
and I asked the officer, Why did you stop me? He actually pulled me out of
the car. He repeated himself. Youre a Black male. Youre driving a nice
car and youre in Cherry Creek. He said, So you go figure, and walked
away. My friend who was in the car jumped out; he was hot. I cooled him
down. As a Black male, I was conscious of the fact again, were on-stage.
Willie discussed the fact that incidents like this and others made him much
more aware of what was expected of him as an African American male. He echoed
his realization of how he had to do things ten times better. To be honest with you, I
think that some of that is subliminally indoctrinated in young African Americans at
an early age. Every time you look in a mirror, you are reminded of the fact that I
could pick up this piece of paper, but when I pick it up, I better pick it up ten times
more graceful than my Anglo counterpart. He felt whatever he did he was always
under a looking glass and he had to do everything ten times better in order to get
respect and recognition by others. So, yeah, you feel like youre constantly on-
stage, I guess is the way to say it.
Keeping a strong identity and being proud of who I was, was difficult, more
so in college than in elementary, middle and high school. I went to school in
rural Nebraska. I can remember the few Blacks on campus wanted a Black
Student Union. We felt we had to do something to bring our culture to this
campus and have it respected. We were paying $10,000 for an education just
as everyone else. Instead of taking European history, we thought we should
have the right to take African American history. We demanded it.
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Willie said, Racism was quite evident on the college campus as the student
body of African American students were small; the majority of the minority students
were athletes who were on scholarship. Willie reflected:
When we started making those demands . I remember getting slips or notes
slid under my door, you know, telling me to leave campus because we dont
need this [expletive] in Nebraska. I can remember we got notes posted on our
doors, Its not who you know, but who knows you. It was tough. It was
really tough.
These experiences coupled with others have made Willie a more grateful
person. He feels having the opportunity to experience some things makes one strong
in character and person. With these experiences and life in general, I have
absolutely no problem standing up talking about being a Black male in todays
society. I talk about issues that impact our community and about the things we need
to do, and Ill be looking at an all White audience.
Willie concluded:
I think that more and more as I look at what were going through as Black
men and the Black community as a whole, the more and more I realize we just
need to get back to the basics, the basics of spirituality and family as priorities
in our lives. Once we realize that those are the priorities in our lives, then all
of the other things tend to fall into place. Once you decide God and family
are number one, there is nothing anyone else can take away from you. I
remember many times being out there and feeling like, you know, Im going
through all of this now and I dont understand why. Knowing I had family,
and I could get on my knees and And comfort at anytime; that kept me going.
Once I decided that Im going to get my degree, once I got that piece of paper,
theres nothing anyone can take away from me. They cant take that away.
Ive earned it. It is mine. I can go anywhere I want to. I would say this to
any young brother, particularly our athletes, who are getting scholarships.
Just the other day I had a young man in my office who is going to attend CSU
on a football scholarship. I looked at him and said, Regardless of how your
career goes up there in Fort Collins, get your degree. Get your degree,
period.
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Summary of Protective Factors from Interviews
and Observations of Others
In addition to having a positive school experience from elementary throughout
high school, Willie attributed his educational success to his mother for the
encouragement and support she provided. He also had a strong will to be successful.
He was determined to be the first in his family to graduate from a four-year
institution, receive his bachelors degree and continue on to earn a masters degree.
Willie felt he had a goal to accomplish, which he did. His family played an
important role.
My mother helped me achieve and then move on. She assisted me by being
involved with my homework. She always helped. Ill never forget my mother
staying up one night. I had a paper to do and she had not used the typewriter
in a long time, but she knew how to type. She typed my paper for me. It was
like four oclock in the afternoon and she stayed with me until one oclock in
the morning typing my paper. Ill never forget that.
His mother, his siblings, and most importantly, his Uncle Joe, were his role
models. They encouraged and supported his achievements. Finally, Willie attributed
his educational success to his persistence. He stated:
I dont think there was a moment that sticks out when I decided I wasnt
going to college. I think there was just never a question that I was going
to attend college. I decided I was going to college and Im going to
complete it.... And I did!
Family. During a formal interview session with Willies mother, she indicated
that she was very proud of Willie and his accomplishments. Of her ten children, he
was the most determined to be successful. Maybe because he was the youngest.
She recalled his always being excited about school. She explained. "He was a terror
65


in elementary school." However, he changed in middle school. "Willie was a leader.
He loved to learn and to have people follow ideas that he had." She shared, "The
people in the community always spoke highly of him. He was well liked by the
young and the elders."
"Willie had a connectedness to others in the community. That still holds true
today. She mentioned he always took a personal responsibility to look after those
who needed assistance. After he graduated from high school and was in college, he
wanted to make contact with the young people of the community to give them
advice." Willie's mother was extremely proud of all her children, but Willie seemed
to be the one who got all the awards and was always getting honored. "He had me
and all of his nine brothers and sister encouraging and supporting him. He knew
better than to get with the wrong group. Willie knew perfectly well the things that I
would and would not tolerate. He had to face me!
I feel Willie had a strong desire to please me and be the best he could be in
life. He was religious and used this to keep him focused. He is a good person. He's a
good son!"
Friend. In the interview with a close friend of Willie, he agreed growing up
with Willie was an adventure. He was always full of energy and he had a good
sense of humor. He had the leadership skills that engaged others in being part of
positive activities. He was well respected at school and in the neighborhood.
The description of him was clear. He was seen as respectful and as a good
person. He valued school and learning. He had a good sense of who he was. He
was a Black male and very proud of it. They shared that Willie always had ideas of
keeping everyone involved. He had plans that gave everyone an opportunity to have
a part in whatever was going on. I think he was always planning for a project. His
friend emphasized the importance he placed on helping others. He wanted to make
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decisions that would make a positive and lasting impact on the school and the
community. He wanted us to always look good.
Teacher. In an interview with a former Social Studies teacher of Willie, who
said, Whenever I wanted something positive to happen in the building, I knew I
could call on Willies leadership. He was active in student council and in choir.
Willie was well liked and respected by both the White and Black students. He stated
Willie had confidence in who he was and what he wanted to do with his life. Willie
had developed strategies that enabled him to minimize any alienation associated with
having academic excellence as some of the other African American students did not.
He bragged on how hard he studied. He maintained an A average in Social Studies
for the two semesters he was in Mr. Ls class. Willie was not afraid to ask questions
in class. He always wanted to know what were the Blacks doing in certain periods of
history. He had a good identity and pride of his culture. I knew Willie would be
successful in anything he tried. You could see he wanted to accomplish many
milestones in his life.
Personal Observation of Willie. An observation of Willie in his present
position was interesting and zestful. Willie was highly respected by the elders in the
community. In brief conversation, they proudly recalled his growing up showing
promise to be a leader. He has presented at several engagements throughout the city.
On the occasion when I observed him, he was the guest speaker at a luncheon
recognizing elders in the community. He referred to his early adolescence in his
neighborhood, his mother, his family and most importantly, his community, as being
anchors for his success. He is a young man with a mission to continually improve life
for the people in his community.
He discussed how to be successful in school including: "get good grades,
work hard, study hard, pay attention, be respectful, follow directions and help others."
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He addressed the importance of the community in supporting, encouraging and
recognizing young people.
Willie spoke on how adults in the Black community used to tell you what to
do and you did it. "Today's young people frighten the elders as they don't seem to
have the respect as we had." He expressed the wisdom, knowledge and history the
members of the community offered, with hopes and intentions of making life better
for the next generation.
He shared in his present position as a community leader. He is concerned that
we are losing a generation of young people, especially African American boys. In
closing, he applauded the community and the elders for being there for him and to
continue their efforts as they "Do make a difference!"
Richard
Richard is a licensed barber. He is a single parent of a three-year-old boy. He
is twenty-eight years old. He is short of his bachelors degree by six hours, and he is
presently taking a class and assured me he would complete his course work by Spring
semester of 1999.
Richard was bom in a small town in Colorado with a population of about
5,000. IDs father was in the military which involved quite a bit of traveling for the
family. However, they settled in Denver when he was five years old. His parents are
still together. He is the second of three children. He has an older brother and a
younger sister. He believes he had a good childhood with a great deal of parental
support. Both of his parents had completed two years of college.
Richard Presents Ms Family
He remembered his maternal grandparents, but knew very little about his
paternal grandparents. He knew that his grandpa had only a second grade education.
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He wasnt sure about his grandmothers education. He had a lot of contact with them.
He was happy over the feet that he had a big, extended family. He remembers his
grandparents as being very active in the church.
My grandfather and grandmother both were pastors. They both had a great
influence on my life, and so it kind of triggered over and got me into the
church and molded me to being who I am today.
Being a middle child, Richard said he tried to be equally responsive to both of
his siblings. He felt he had a good relationship with both of them. As they have
gotten older, he hasnt spent as much time with them. His sister lives in Florida, but
he makes periodic telephone contact with her. IBs brother lives in Denver, and they
try to have lunch at least once a month. As he stated, they both have very busy lives
and commitments, but they still try to keep the contact.
When we were kids, we spent a lot of time together. Our parents would take
us on outings; we would go for walks and rides. We were a pretty tight-knit
family. One of the biggest things in our family was the way education was
stressed. We were always told that education was the key to success, to open
doors, and an opportunity for you to do things you would want to do. It was
highly stressed .... Yes, it was.
As Richard and his brother and sister grew up, he recalls they were always
involved in a lot of activities: sports, choir and track and field the last of which he
especially enjoyed. He chuckled:
I was involved in Student Council and a lot of extracurricular activities after
school to keep me busy... to keep me out of trouble. I knew trouble was out
there. I chose at an early age in my life that I didnt want to be a part of bad
stuff. I wanted to make a difference. I centered my life around things that
were positive, things that would lead me down the road to success. I felt if I
started at a young age and got myself something positive, then it would carry
over as I got older. Its like if you start some good habits when youre young,
it kind of carries over with you as you get older.
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In discussing summertime, Richard mentioned most of his vacation was spent
going to summer school. He explained:
To be honest, I went to summer school a lot. Not that I failed classes during
the school year, but just to keep myself active, because I enjoyed learning.
Learning was a big tool for me, so I pretty much went year round. I would
hang out with my friends, and we would often go to the neighborhood
Community Center which was not far from home. I was so active at the
Center during my school years that after graduating from high school, I
worked as a counselor for younger boys and girls for a couple of summers at
the Center.
Richard continued to mention keeping busy was so important for him because
in the neighborhood he grew up in there was a lot of tension and a lot of strife. He
shakes his head sadly, saying:
At the time I was growing up, it was really hard. It was hard to concentrate
because this was a gang-related area. It was real hard to concentrate. I wasnt
pressured by gang members, but I knew I didnt want to associate myself
around them. My parents were such a support they would not have allowed
me to be involved with groups like the Bloods or Crips. I often had to sit
down and read, a way to find some quiet time for myself. Yes, reflecting, that
was hard times.
Richard Presents His Educational Experiences
Richard, who always attended public school, remembers his early experiences
with school as being very positive. He enjoyed learning and his grades and
excitement for learning were indications that he was doing well. He reflected:
My first day of school, when I entered kindergarten, was a great day; I was
real excited. I remember my Yogi Bear lunch pail that was special, also
having to have a packed lunch. My first day was really good. I enjoyed ....
I didnt want to leave at the end of the day. I wanted to stay, but I knew I
could come back the next day. Yes, I learned, I mean education was a big
thing for me at an early age.
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Richard explained in elementary school, his elementary teachers were there to
give the basics, and he wanted to excel. Therefore, he worked very hard, learning
everything they were teaching him. His success in school continued on into middle
and high school. Richard remembered:
My junior high school teachers were special. I really enjoyed them. I think
maybe it was because I was a little more mature; I saw where I wanted to go. I
enjoyed going to classes and learning. My friends were great motivators for
me, also. I couldnt wait to go to high school... doing well in school would
be my ticket to wherever I wanted to go. It was very important for me to do
well. Growing up in this community, I wanted to do well. I wanted to get out
of what I was in, and to succeed and to make a better life for myself. I wasnt
the best student, but I was highly motivated to stay on the honor roll. I was
determined I was not going to make it tougher on myself being a Black male;
I knew I had to work hard and get good grades.
He mentions that one of his memorable educational experiences was taking a
course in African American history. Richard shared:
It was really important for minorities, especially Black males, to know where
they came from, so they would have an idea where theyre going ... to learn
about their heritage. This played a big part in my life as far as education.
Yes, I really enjoyed my high school. My teachers were not just teachers, but
they were your friends as well. You could talk to them about anything.
From time to time Richard mentioned one teacher who would take a special
interest in him. Fortunately for Richard, this was a high school physics teacher. He
would help him with problems he had at home, or if he needed help in other course
work. He encouraged him about his education and stressed the importance about
going to college. He always said, Youre not going to get anywhere in life taking
Mickey Mouse classes. He stressed, You need to push yourself past your comfort
zone, and take accelerated classes, motivate yourself to do better. He was impressed
with this teacher, as he would take time out after school to get him involved in other
after-school activities that would motivate him. He was a big influence, he sighs, He
was genuine.
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Richard took responsibility for his education in many ways. The folks I hung
out with were like me, anxious to get ahead. Richard considered himself an above
average student. He knew he wanted to go to college but didnt know just what lay
ahead for him. It was his best friend who one day said, Hey, lets go to the same
college. This was an exciting idea as he reflects. They had gone to elementary,
junior and high school, and now they were considering college life together. And
they did enter college together!
Most of Richards college education was financed through financial aid. He
had athletic and music scholarships that helped with some of his finances. Richard
attended a small, Midwestern college in which he shared he had good times.
Everybody knew everybody. He stressed how he really enjoyed college life
because he had no bills and food was prepared at all times. All he had to do was go
to classes and learn. My main concern was to concentrate on my studies. And if
you were involved in extracurricular activities, you did your thing. So, I really
enjoyed college. He didnt graduate; however, he is presently working towards
getting his degree by taking evening courses.
Richard explained that his physics teacher and his best friend, Ray, were great
influences on him in high school. His mom and dad encouraged him and were
supportive. He had a lot of parental support, but he noted:
To be honest with you, my parents really did not motivate me that much in
school. They felt it wasnt a need for them to go up to the school and to see
how I was doing. They could see my progress when I brought home my
report cards, and they knew I was doing well... so they felt it wasnt a need
to check on me ... they knew I was a self-starter, a self-motivated person.
They concentrated more on my younger sister and older brother, they werent
as strong in their academics as I was, so more attention was given to them.
However, they were always supportive.
Richard took responsibility for his education in many ways. Because his
parents trusted him, he continued to challenge himself. He was a self-motivator. He
72


would do his homework without reservations. If he needed additional assistance, he
knew he could seek and get help from his teachers.
Richards Views of His Peers and the Community
He stated his best friend, Ray, was one reason he was so successful. I
admired him; he kept me involved. He was always active in school and I tried to
model him. He explained that there was a lot of criticism from other people and
friends, because he and Ray were being successful. He related:
I always stood by Rays side. I understood Ray like no one else did. He
understood me the same way. We both knew we wanted to be successful. We
would put all the negative aside; we had this down-to-earth, side-by-side
relationship. We could talk and kid around, but we knew how to get serious.
We had each other, and yeah, we would have our moments of
misunderstanding, but we had a great mutual respect and understanding for
each other.
Richard credits his mother with giving him a lot of encouragement. Mom
always told me you can do it. You can do anything that you want to do. She was a
big influence in my life.
He talked about a lady who lived in his neighborhood who inspired him a
great deal. She was indeed a great motivator. She was an English teacher before
she became a local news broadcaster. She encouraged me, you know. She would
take the time and talk to me and tell me I can do anything that I wanted to do...
besides [laughing], her daughter liked me, too. Richard also baby-sat for the local
city councilmans son. He also mentions the councilman was a big influence on his
life. I would say I had strong role models in the community who took the time to
listen and give me encouragement. This was really helpful for me. It meant a lot.
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Richard Reflects on His Life
Richard shared that he had a few encounters as he was growing up. He related
these issues to being an African American male. He explained:
I can give you a prime example. I worked for this company in Castle Rock;
they had not had many African Americans work for them. They really made
my job very difficult for me. I was a video production manager. I faced a lot
of racism. Times were very hard, but I managed to survive. It made me a
stronger person.
He shared that being African American was, and is, a problem when he goes
out into the job market.
You can have all this education behind you, but being a Black male,
especially in our society, youre facing a lot of resentment. If you are a Black
male and well prepared, youre going to get people that are going to question
you and they are going to try and knock you down as much as they can. On
the other side, there are people out there that want to see you succeed and to
do well, and those people will help you.
Summary of Protective Factors from Interviews
and Observations of Others
Family. In addition to having a positive and enjoyable school experience
early on, Richard attributed his educational success to the confidence of his parents
and the encouragement of his high school physics teacher and his best friend, Ray,
and most importantly, his own self-motivation and determination to be successful in
school.
Richard is now in school completing his six hours to receive his bachelors
degree in the Spring of 1999. He wants to make a career change. He obtained his
barbers license because he knew he could secure a job quickly, and he enjoys cutting
hair.
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Once he obtains his degree in communications, he wants to work with young
people. He expressed that it is really important to have Black role models in the
schools. He feels there are so many single family homes without fathers, and his
presence is needed as a role model. He feels that there needs to be more of a presence
of Black role models in school systems so that they can stand up and let the young
Black students know they can be successful "They don't need to sell drugs to be
successful in life; they can use their minds and God-given talent to do whatever they
want to in life."
Like his parents, teachers, and friend, who were his supporters throughout his
growing up, he wants the same for his son. Richard is a single parent and he wants to
be a good role model for his son.
I want him to be successful. I mean, the skys the limit. And he is his only
limitation. I want to be able to motivate him in every way possible. I want to
encourage him to continue his education; Im going to always be there for him.
Observation. An observation of Richard revealed him as a loving and very
attentive father. He worked out of his house as a barber in order to be at home with
his son. He didn't want to share any information regarding his reasons for single
parenting. He was reserved about personal issues. However, he was eager to talk
about being a good father and wanted his son to be proud of him.
He wanted his son to have a childhood similar to his, where there was always
family involvement. He wanted his son to be happy, smart and athletic. During my
visit, Richard played ball with him. He wanted his son to be a good athlete. His son
had a soccer ball. He demonstrated and gave instructions on how to approach the ball
to kick it, very patiently. He showed a lot of calmness and love.
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Friend. In an interview with Richard's best friend Ray, he sees Richard as a
quiet fellow, but one who keeps his word. He is dependable and trustworthy. He is
friendly, but often stays to himself." Now that he works out of his home and takes
care of his son, he doesn't socialize very much Richard and I always talked about
doing well. We played around, but it was funnothing that would get us in trouble.
We have big arguments sometimes but never lost respect for each other. We were
really tight. Ray discussed how he and Richard would stay on the telephone late at
night quizzing each other for an up-coming test. Richard is a genuine friend. He
was a sensitive guy, he knew how to listen. He was always dreaming of what he
wanted to do when he grew up to be a man. He wanted a family, a nice home and a
sharp car. Ray believed that Richard modeled his dad, as he was very proud of him;
however, he, too, was quite a man.
Teacher. A high school teacher of Richards remembered him as studious.
He shared he was always reading a book. "He liked to read. He read a lot. He was
always at school and enjoyed school." He could count on Richard having his
homework. He was a pleasure to have in a classroom. He was always prepared and
an active participant in class. "He was always considered a "good" student. Other
students respected him although some of his friends did not do as well as he did; he
never let up. Richard was a very bright student who worked hard in school." Mr. Y
remembered staying after school to help Richard with his assignments when he
needed help. Richard wanted to be a good student; he never was late to class or
missed an assignment. Mr. Y mentioned that Richard was not a selfish person. He
would help others who were not sure of how to solve problems. He was good at
solving problems. He had to be pushed sometimes, but when he knew he had
support, he moved ahead without hesitation. He was just a nice guy!
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Richard was able to avoid negative peer pressure by keeping himself involved
in sports and academics. He was a track star. A lot of his time was conditioning and
preparing for track meets.
Community In an interview with the manager of the recreation center in the
community where Richard worked during the summer months, he shared another
profile of Richard. Mr. Blade is still amazed on how well Richard worked with the
young people when he was a youth counselor. "He was looked up to, and still is, by
young people. One of the reasons he made it out of this community and is successful,
is because he was persistent in keeping a positive focus and to have the best life had
to offer him."
He mentioned that Richard was motivated to get himself top honors in
academics and sports. Richard would come to work early some days so that he could
work out before the young people arrived. He had a plan and always stuck with it."
He had many friends, but most importantly, enjoyed working with the younger
children. "I knew if Richard had kids of his own, he would be a very good father."
Sam
Sam was a professional arena football player. He is a single parent who is
raising two boys. In his off season he works as a barber. He was bom and raised in
Denver. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in art from Western State College in
Gunnison, Colorado.
Sam Presents IBs Family
Sam has a younger brother. He has a large, extended family. His fathers
family have lived in the Denver area for four generations. He knew his maternal
grandmother, but not his maternal grandfather, although he mentioned he did have a
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lot of contact with his mothers side of the family. However, he spent a great deal of
time with his paternal grandparents, especially his grandfather. His fathers side was
large. I spent more time with my fathers parents, my grandmother and grandfather
before he passed. He shared he had a lot of uncles, aunts and many cousins.
His mother and father graduated from high school. Sams father went into the
armed services after high school. He recalls his mother had a variety of jobs when he
was growing up. She did child care and worked as a secretary. His father was a
carpenter and painter. He remembers his father being a foreman for a company. Sam
often accompanied him on some of his smaller jobs.
It was fun growing up in his family. He commented:
We, my brother and me, were punished when we did something wrong, which
I felt was normal. I mean we were disciplined. We had hard times where it
got rough, but we made it. We had our share of fussing and arguing; but it
didnt bother me.
As Sam was growing up, he remembered a lot of family celebrations. He
recalled:
We always found time to get together. There was always barbecues, picnics,
everything was a celebration in this family. I can remember quite vividly,
when my little brother was bom. You see, I was the oldest grandson for a
while. I wasnt too happy when he came along. I was honestly jealous.
However, this was a big celebration. Another big celebration was my going to
college and graduating from college. See, I was the first to go to college in
my immediate family.
As his brother got older and he developed a great love for him, Sam grew to
have a very close relationship with his baby brother, Paul. He explained:
Paul plays a really big part of my life. We sit and talk a lot. We talk about
sports and lifes problems. We talk over problems either one may be
experiencing. I find Paul to be a strong person, also. Hes really independent;
he likes to do things his own way. But, Paul, hes a real good partner. You
know, along side being my brother.
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Speaking of having someone to talk to, Sam sighed, as he began to reflect on a
special aunt. This aunt was his mothers sister. He mentioned he knew he could sit
and talk to her a lot. She really liked to talk. He can remember after graduating from
high school, how scared he was to go to the next level, that is leaving home. He
remembers visiting Aunt J, sharing his fears:
She sat me down and she said, Hey, this is your turning point of your life,
where you can go down or you can keep going up. She made this a real positive,
that you could just keep going up and up, instead of.... You know, youre going to
hit some long, lonely roads; its going to get hard; its going to be difficult; but just
having these special moments helped me to be more positive and stronger. 1 still go
to her today; I still go to her to talk about a lot of things, personal problems, and just
regular conversation.
Sams family played a major part in his education. His cousins on his
fathers side were setting a pace. He was not about to let his family down by not
keeping on the educational journey. On his fathers side every one of his cousins that
were older than him had done very well in school. He recalled:
It was like, every May or June we had a graduation to go to because my
cousins were graduating one year after another. It was like a cycle, and to be
in that cycle and not achieve what your cousins had done or your parents, it
was almost like a failure to the family. You didnt want to let anybody down.
You knew you could do better. You didnt have any reason to fail.
Sam Presents Ms Educational Experiences
When Sam thought about his overall school experiences, he had some
difficulty remembering his elementary school days. However, he expressed he was
always excited about learning. He felt in junior high and high school he could have
been a better student, but he just studied enough to get by. He felt he was lazy. He
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knew he could have done more academically. He could remember his mother hissing
at him about getting his work done. He felt good about school because he could not
remember any bad times that leaped out at him. He stated, I enjoyed going to
school. The most important thing that he really remembers is love for art. I love
my art, and I really enjoyed that part of going to school. I actually hated some of the
other classes; I just didnt like them. However, he was clever enough to move along
and keep a low key, but a good pace.
In junior high school he was selected to participate in one of the local chapter
Black fraternitys program. This fraternity of African American men would mentor
twenty young men through school; helping them with homework; giving them
opportunities to attend local social and athletic events. He explained:
We were made to feel like we were in a fraternity. They were excellent
examples of Black role models. All of them had gone to college and had
professional jobs. Boy, that impressed me. They were pretty much preparing
us to think about college. They had a lot of influence on my life, aside of just
doing extracurricular activities. Later in life I joined that same fraternity.
Sam really enjoyed his high school years. This was the same high school his
parents had graduated from, as well as the high school where all his older cousins had
graduated from. He felt a sense of legacy being at the high school. Sam stated:
I knew I could be a good student. Sometimes I kind of got beside myself and
. did some bad things. But overall, I was an okay student. I felt real good
about being the student that I was ...I was a pretty good student.
The way Sam carried himself proud, laid back, and confident, made him feel
others looked up to him. He was kidded about because of the way his voice sounds,
which he describes as high-pitched. He indicated he had a kid-like voice when he
was in high school. He smiled:
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I know they respected me a lot. It is seen today when I see some of my
classmates. I really didnt know how much I was respected until this day. I
guess I was looked up to with some leadership more than I ever knew.
In high school Sam participated in mostly athletic activities, especially
football; he tried out for the basketball team and was cut. He did some wrestling and
played baseball for a while. He remembers a lot of Little League football back in
elementary school with the local recreation center. He had an active athletic
childhood.
Sam recalled thinking about going to college when he was in junior high
school.
It got more on my mind when I was in high school. I began to talk more with
teachers and counselors. I was always being asked what type of goals I was
setting for myself and what did I want to do when I get older. Funny, I
wanted to be an architect, until I found out I had to do a lot of math. That
kind of changed my mind. But I stayed within the realm; I went with art.
Sams Views of IBs Peers and the Community
In reflecting on his community, Sam felt it wasnt as drastic as it is today.
Now there are so many so-called gangs; it wasnt as bad as it is now. Actually, it
could have been, but I honestly didnt pay that much attention, because I was so busy
doing things. Keeping active! I was constantly doing something constructive. One
thing that kept Sam in line was his community.
He noted:
There were so many people in the community who knew my mom and dad
that I had to keep a show of face. I can remember them saying, Ill find out if youre
doing something wrong, and one day it happened. She [his mother] found out I was
where I wasnt supposed to be. The people down the street had already reported
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seeing me. Boy, did I pay for that mistake! I realize I had to keep busy, and to be
honest, I didnt have time to get caught up in anything wrong.
Sam always used the local recreation center as a place for good fun, as well as
the YMCA, which was in walking distance from his house. There was a library that
was available; he had many adequate resources he felt. .. many things to keep him
involved in a positive way. His grandmother had a ceramic shop in the
neighborhood- He found himself helping out in the shop. He also was able to get
small jobs, cutting grass in the summertime and shoveling snow in the wintertime.
He knew how to market himself for paid service.
One of Sams major concerns was seeing his community, as he expresses it,
Rot away as it is. He observed a lot of drug traffic that was beginning to move in
the area when he was growing up. That was a big fear. His only regret was he
wished he could have been more involved in community actions, but his athletic
activities were his priority.
At the time Sam was growing up, he remembers neighbors having barbecues
and everyone in the neighborhood was always invited. Playing games in the from
yard, playing in the streets, playing until the street lights would come on at night. As
Sam related:
Those were good memories about the community; you didnt have to worry
about someone creeping around, no one drive-by shooting. You could sit on
your front porch at night and just feel good. How quickly time changes!
Many of the adults in the community really had a lot of respect for the kids in
the neighborhood. They valued us. If something was needed to be done to help the
elders, we, the kids, were there to help. Not today. Times have changed as well as
the neighborhood. Sam shared:
The only thing I really didnt concentrate on and to this day was to have a
church affiliation. I just couldnt decide what church to go to. One
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grandmother was a Baptist, the other was Jehovahs Witness. Both spoke to
me about their religion. I guess its a decision I will have to make on my own.
However, religion was alive in my family, church was always spoken when
we were around the elders.
Sam Reflects on His Life
Sam attributed his success partially to his positive attitude. He felt his
mellowness, easy-going personality, along with being good at doing things and
wanting to be the best at what he did, pushed him to be successful. He felt he was a
self-starter and a risk-taker, particularly because he wanted to, Do the right thing.
He specifically believed that he had the control over what he wanted his outcomes to
be, that is, within limits. He explained:
I have had ups and downs; however, my married life was a hard period in my
life. It was downfall in a period of my life. In the discussion of divorce, I felt
extremely bad. This was not anything I had seen in my immediate or
extended family. I felt ashamed. I felt I was letting everybody down because
I couldnt work out the adjustments in my marriage. I was really ashamed of
that one thing. Instead, I worked this out, I realized I had to bring myself back
up. I feel I am just getting myself out of the rut.
In spite of the marriage failure, Sam indicated he had some control of what he
wanted to do professionally with his life. He always wanted to play professional
football. He worked hard to make the team and has been playing professionally now
for ten years. Playing professional football, being divorced and the father of two
young boys, made him rethink his profession. He was a licensed barber during the
off-season, as well as the custodian of the children. He shared the children with their
mother during the football season. He recently purchased a home in Denver. When
he completes his football career, he feels that is when he will concentrate on his art.
He enjoys sculpturing.
In addressing his concerns, with making adjustments into the mainstream
being an African American male, he noted:
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I kind of jumped in with both feet and took off. I didnt let most of the
mainstream activities bother me, as far as this group or that group. I feel
when you do that, it slows you down, and holds you back because thats going
to always be on your mind. My mother always made a point to tell me about
my heritage; be proud and cany yourself proud. She made it a point to let us
know about our past, but always stressed that I should never let negatives be a
barricade, but to hurdle for the type of achievement you want in life.
Sam is trying to balance his professional life with his personal life. He stated:
This is a struggle, being a single parent. Nevertheless, I try to spend as much
time with my boys and with my family as I can, between playing football and
being at home. Its a balancing act! I just show a lot of love. I think when
you show that love to your family, they know where you are.
Moreover, life continues to be hectic and enjoyable for Sam. One thing he
mentioned is he would like to have a significant other in his life that he could share
some good times with. He spoke warmly about being proud of his boys and being a
good role model, as his grandfather and father were for him.
Summary of Protective Factors from Interviews and
Observations of Others
Family Sam attributed his academic success to family encouragement and
support, his own personal desire to achieve. In addition to having a strong
commitment not be a failure in the family, he knew at an early age he was going to be
successful. He was and still is very proud of and close to his immediate and extended
family. He felt the community was a tremendous support to his success because of
the high expectations they shared. He was determined no one or anything was going
to be a barrier that he could not hurdle.
Sam credits his success, in part, to his strong belief in himself. He knew that
he would have many challenges, but was confident he had a strong support system to
help him along the way.
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Finally, Sam is most grateful to his parents who mentored him as he was
growing up, and most of all his mother, who in Sams word, was a strong, stem
woman, who had a big influence on my life.
Family An interview with Sams mother gave additional insights of him.
She shared that Sam was her first bom and was very upset when his younger brother
was bom. But having a family celebration of a new baby in the family was so
powerful she believed it made Sam realize this baby brother was also special and that
Sam had a special task to take care of him and show him how to be big and strong
like he was. She wanted Sam to be assured his love was going to continue and to be
shared with his brother. I always let my boys know that it was okay to be loving and
strong. I wanted them to be confident and to always express their feelings and
creativity.
She shared Sam had so many cousins and everyone was competing for
attention. Sam did very well in school. He always wanted to out do a cousin that was
near or at his age. He was competitive. She mentioned that Sam spent lots time with
his brother than with other kids in the neighborhood. He was, I wouldnt say shy,
but keep close to home. She said Sam always liked to play all type of sports but she
noticed at an early age he had a fondness for drawing and painting. He loved art, I
can remember his grandmother had him working in her ceramic shop and he loved
every moment. He was always bringing me gifts he had made for me. Sams mother
voiced her concerns about giving her sons a positive self image. She concentrated on
letting them know that they were good boys and they could achieve whatever was
before them.
I think Sam was scared of getting in trouble when he was growing up. He
knew I didnt like when kids misbehave. I have tried to be there for both of my
boys. She discussed when Sam got his divorce how she stepped in not until she
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knew she could help. She helped him only as needed with the children. A mother
will come through in a life or death situations. Sams female cousin was visiting his
mother and shared her thoughts on him She shared that Sam had retired from arena
football and was very happy to be back home with his boys. She mentioned how he
loved and cared for his boys. She was disappointed that he has not met a lady friend
because he wants so much for his boys to be raised like he was with mom and dad at
home. She proudly stated that Sam was a good man and the young ladies he dates are
carefully observed by his female cousins. We are looking out for him. He is truly a
good man and we want him to have a good wife. She feels now that he is back in
town he will have more time to socialize and raise his boys.
Friend. In an interview with a fraternity brother of Sam, he stated that Sam
seemed to be very mature. He acts older than he really is. "He has been teased of
being old-fashioned in his ways and thinking. He is quite opinionated about
parenting and family. He shares a major concern of the young Black males of today's
generation." He is an ideal role model for young men his age. He's friendly and gets
the job done. He's a good leader and a teacher. He is highly respected!"
He remembers when Sam was pledging membership into one of the most
established Black fraternities. He was a strong leader for his line brothers. Sam was
conscientious and studied for membership. He discussed openly the importance of
being a competent and respected African American man. He wanted the dignity and
pride that this fraternity was known for. He appeared to be a strong Black man in
which this fraternity was seeking.
Observation. I observed Sam at the barber shop; his mother was there. He
was giving her a haircut. He was very proud to let all the people around know that
this lady is his hero. Sam was so eager to share he had just purchased a home. This
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was something he wanted so much for his boys. He has plans to retire from football
after this season, his tenth season in the league. He would now be in town and able to
be a full-time parent.
Sam shares a lot of wisdom with the young people in the barber shop. He
spoke often on how young people need to talk to their parents and family. He was a
firm believer in you must listen to those who have lived it before you. A lot of what
he learned during his life experiences and his experiences in the pro football league
was modeled by his elders.
Sam's friends are few as he spends more time on the road with his football
career. It is during the off season that he spends most of the time in town. This time
is spent with his sons and family.
Ron
Ron is a salesman with a local television station in Denver. He is thirty years
old and single.
Ron Presents His Family
Ron was bom in Denver and is an only child. He grew up with what he calls
the extended family concept. Up until Ron was five years old he lived with his
biological parents. His mother divorced his father and later remarried. He spent most
of his adolescence with his mother and stepfather. He lived nine blocks away from
his maternal grandparents. This allowed him to visit them at least once a week, if not
more often. He didnt have any contact with his stepfathers parents. However, he
knew his biological paternal grandmother, but didnt see her often. Ron remembers
many occasions of family gatherings. He smiled:
Almost any occasion that would call for us to get together, we got together.
We always had a lot of friends come around the house. A lot of people knew
87


my grandparents, and so whenever I would be at their house, there would be a
lot of visitors. It was great in my family. My mother had six brothers and
sisters, therefore, there were a lot of people even though there are only a few
of them here now. They came and went, but we were all very close.
The neighborhood high school had an established legacy for Ron. His
grandfather graduated in the 1930s and his grandmother graduated in the 1940s. His
mother also graduated from this high school. Years later he maintained the legacy
and graduated from the same high school. His stepfather had completed high school,
but not the same one in this neighborhood.
Times were not always pleasant in Rons home. He remembers his mother
working for Great Western Sugar and she lost her job. She continued to hold many
other clerical jobs throughout his childhood. However, she received a scholarship
and obtained her bachelors degree. His stepfather drove a school bus for many years
and became manager at the terminal and later retired. He speaks about his maternal
grandfather proudly:
He was quite a man He was modest. He didnt share a lot. I can remember
hearing stories about him from my grandmother. He lived in Texas. He ran a
hotel back there at some time. He was run out of business by the Klan, my
grandmother told me. He had to stay inside his home in the summer because
of the dangers outside. She shared [that] they were lynching people. He made
me what I am today. He had such perseverance. He achieved quite a bit and
held several jobs. He played in a band; he was a janitor; and he went on to get
a bachelors degree and then a law degree. He was a special person. He has
always been my hero.
Reflecting on these memories, Ron explained he had special people that
influenced him. His mother, as well as his grandfather, played special roles in his
past. My mother, who brought me up for several years by herself, made sure that I
was kept and had everything I needed; and she worked hard, worked very hard. He
admired her for never giving up the thought of continuing her education. She set an
example for him. Never give up!
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Full Text

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A LIFE HISTORY ANALYSIS OF PROTECTIVE FACTORS AND RESILIENT CHARACTERISTICS OF SUCCESSFUL AFRICAN AMERICAN MALES by Barbara L. Batey B .A. Metropolitan State College of Denver, 1971 M.A. University ofNorthem Colorado at Greeley, 1976 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fu1fillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Educational Leadership and Innovation 1999

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This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by Barbara L. Batey has been approved by Michael Martin Lerita Coleman f--I:Z-9? Date

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Batey, Barbara Lynn (Ph.D . Educational Leadership and Innovation) A Life History Analysis of Protective Factors and Resilient Characteristics of Successful African American males. Thesis directed by Professor Michael Martin ABSTRACT The primary purpose of this study was to identify the protective factors and resilient characteristics that encouraged and supported the successful life values of African American males who grew up in an inner-city neighborhood of Denver. under adverse circumstances. It is apparent that the only viable approach to understanding such success is to recognize the complex nature of the issue. The complexities of African American males' homes. educational experiences and community environment were explored. Those factors and influences that have enabled or allowed some African American males to be successful were investigatecL utilizing a life history methodology. Life history methodology was employed through observations and interviews with each participant and cross-case analysis of the interview data were employed in this qualitative study to determine the protective factors and resiliency characteristics that were structures for adaptive and coping strategies. practiced by the young men to overcome adverse environmental circumstances. Key findings of protective factors and resilient characteristics of these successful African American males are strong support systems from the family, school and community. Additionally, these young men showed they had the power to construct meaning with a sense of purpose with personal strength in creating inside-out social change; they believed in themselves. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication. lll

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DEDICATION This dissertation is dedicated to the African American men in my family, in memory of my father, Joseph Landry Jackson. To my son, my grandson, my brothers, my nephews, and most importantly, my loving husband Samuel Richard You have filled my life with joy and peace.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS There are many people I would like to thank for the support and encouragement they have given over the years. Without their help, this study would still be just another one of my good ideas. I especially thank my committee. Each of you have played a very special role in my development as an adult educator. I want to thank Dr. Michael Martin. who directed this dissertation, and Dr. Alan Davis, Dr. Joe Lasky, Dr. Lerita Coleman, Dr. Lyn Taylor for the advice and support you provided through the dissertation process, and I also want to thank each of you for those special "little things, that you have done along the way. I also thank the five participants interviewed during this research for their time and their willingness to share. To all my friends-thanks for giving me my space, and for always encouraging and pushing me on. To my families -the Jacksons and the Bateys -thanks for understanding and being patient. Finally, I thank my husband, Samuel, for his encouragement and support always being there.

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CONTENTS Figures 2.3 .......... xi 3 .2 ................................ .. xi Tables 2.1 ................................................................................................................ xii 3.1 ................................................................................................................ xii CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................... 1 Background of the Problem ........................................................ 3 The Purpose of the Study ............................................................ 6 Research Questions ..................................................................... 8 The Research Design .................................................................. 8 Life Histories .............................................................................. 9 Definition ofTerms ................................................................... 11 Structure of the Dissertation ..................................................... 12 2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ................................................... 13 Envirorunental Issues ................................................................ 1 7 Gangs, Drugs, and Violence ..................................................... 18 Educational Issues ..................................................................... 19 Race and Racism ............................................................ 1 9 Employment Opportunities: Job Ceiling ....................... 21 V1

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Psychosocial Issues ................................................................... 22 Achievement Ideology ................................................... 22 Minority Classifications ................................................. 23 F . Kinshi '5 ICtlve p .......................................................................... Urban Schools ................................................................ 26 Resiliency ....................................................................... 2 7 Coping Strategies ........................................................... 30 Protective Factors Within the Family ....................................... 35 Caring and Support ......................................................... 3 5 High Expectations .......................................................... 35 Protective Factors Within the School ....................................... 3 7 Caring and Support ......................................................... 37 High Expectations .......................................................... 38 Protective Factors Within the Community .............................. .40 Caring and Support ......................................................... 40 High Expectations .......................................................... 41 3. TIIE RESEARCH METHOD ............................................................ 43 Methodological Assumptions ................................................... 43 Life Histories .................................................................. 44 Criterion-based Selection .of Participants ....................... 46 Demographic Information .............................................. 4 7 Data Collection ............................................................... 51 Participant Interviews ..................................................... 51 The Research Questions ............................................................ 52 Family/Peer-Community Members/School Officials Interviews ..................... 53 Data Analysis ................................................................. 53 Limitations of the Study ................................................. 54 vii

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Delimitations of the Study ............................................ 54 Summary ................................................................................... 55 4. LIFE IDSTORIES OF WILLIE. RICHARD SAM, RON. AND SONNY ...................................................... 56 Research Questions ................................................................... 57 Willie ......................................................................................... 57 Willie Presents His Family ............................................. 58 Willie Presents His Educational Experiences ................. 59 Willie's View ofHis Peers and the Community ............ 61 Willie Reflects on His Life ............................................. 62 Summary ofProtective Factors from Interviews and Observations of Others ................... 65 Richard ...................................................................................... 68 Richard Presents His Family .......................................... 68 Richard Presents His Educational Experiences .............. 70 Richard's Views of His Peers and the Community ........ 73 Richard Reflects on His Life .......................................... 7 4 Summary of Protective Factors from Interviews and Observations of Others ................... 74 Sam ........................................................................................... 77 Sam Presents His Family ................................................ 77 Sam Presents His Educational Experiences ................... 79 Sam's Views of His Peers and the Community ............. 81 Sam Reflects on His Life ................................................ 83 Summary of Protective Factors from Interviews and Observations of Others ................... 84 Ron ............................................................................................ 87 Ron Presents His Family ................................................ 87 viii

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Ron Presents His Educational Experiences .................... 89 Ron's Views of His Peers and the Community .............. 90 Ron Reflects on His Life ................................................ 92 Summary of Protective Factors from Interviews and Observations of Others .................. 93 Sonny ........................................................................................ 95 Sonny Presents His Family ............................................. 96 Sonny's Views of His Educational Experiences ............ 97 Sonny's Views of His Peers and the Community .......... 99 Sonny Reflects on His Life .......................................... I 00 Summary of Protective Factors from Interviews and Observations of Others ................. I 02 5. ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS ACROSS CASES OF SUCCESSFUL AFRICAN AMERICAN MALES ......................... I 06 Findings in the Protective Factor of the Family ...................... 107 Findings of the Protective Factors in Educational Experiences .................................................... 112 Post-Secondary Education ...................................................... 114 Findings of Protective Factors in the Community Fictive Kinship--Homies and the Hood ........................... Il6 Findings ofProtective Factors with Mentors and Role Models ............................................................... 118 Findings of Resiliency Characteristics--Social Competence, Problem Solving, Autonomy, and Sense ofPurpose ........ 120 6. SUMMARY OF THE STUDY, FINDINGS, DISCUSSION BASED ON THE LITERATURE AND CONCLUSIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH ............... 124 The Family .............................................................................. 125 Educational Experiences ......................................................... 128 Fictive K.inship-Homies and the Hood ................................. 139 IX

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Mentors and Role Models ....................................................... 131 Resiliency Characteristics-Social Competence. Problem Solving, Autonomy. and Sense of Purpose ....................... 132 Social Competence ....................................................... 13 2 Problem Solving Skills ................................................. 13 3 Autonomy ..................................................................... 134 Sense of Purpose .......................................................... 134 Conclusion .............................................................................. 136 Recommendations for Further Research ................................. 137 Questions for Further Research .............................................. 13 8 APPENDIX A. LIFE HISTORY INTERVIEW QUESTION GUIDE ..................... 140 B. QUESTIONS FOR F AMIL YIPEER. COMMUNITY MEMBERS/SCHOOL OFFICIALS INTERVIEWS ................ 142 REFERENCES ................................................................. ...................................... 144 X

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Figures 2.3 Profile of the Resilient Child .................................................... 32 3.3 Participant's Nominated Information ....................................... 50 xi

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Tables 3.1 Community Ethnic Population Makeup .................................... 4 7 3.2 Crime Rates (Crimes per 1,000 persons). by Crime 1988-1995 .......................................................... 48 Xll

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION For generations, social scientists and educators have focused on the lack of success of African American children in schools. Ongoing research focuses on academic achievement and underachievement within the African American population. The purpose of this study was to collect information from African American males on what influences of the family, the schooL their peers and the community may have had on their successful life pathways. Boykin (1986) suggests that the academic achievement of African American children and adolescents is influenced by mainstream experiences, minority experiences, and African American cultural experiences. Each experience has its own unique socialization pattern. Success in each requires mastering three distinctive patterns of behaviors. Boykin concludes that African American children face a triple quandary'': they are incompletely socialized into mainstream society, they develop a behavioral style that stems from their African heritage, and they experience racial and economic oppression. Academic and social competence, according to Boykin, depend on one's ability to adapt to all three arenas of socialization. GTowing up in a hostile world and being bombarded with negative images and stereotypes of self: many young African American males find themselves trapped in a cycle of despair. Many succumb to the unrelenting pressures of their external environment, and as such, many young African American men are not successful in the public schools today (Haynes, 1993). Fordham and Ogbu (1986), however, suggest that African American male students are showing increasing rates of 1

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academic success. negative images projected of them and oppositional cultural identification continue to lead to school failure and school disengagement for some African American male students The relationship between Black students, cultural characteristics and their achievement in school indicates that some of the characteristics and behavior of Black students are often in opposition to school and even the student, s own expressed desires to achieve (Irvin, 1990). Weis (1985) noted that students in her study wanted to go to college and escape poverty but were often absent from school and neglected their work. She referred to this situation in terms of oppositional cultural forms and believed that these students resisted school because of their perception of education, s limited value in their lives. Howard and Hammond ( 1985) found that Black underachievement and lack of achievement motivation could be attributed to Black students' acceptance and internalization of society's view that they are unlikely to succeed. In other words., many Black students distrust school and view achievement negatively, greatly deterring their achievement. A concerted effort must be made to develop positive and responsible African American males. Statistical data abounds as to why this is a population at risk., including contributing factors such as life expectancy, physical health and unemployment., incarcerations, alcohol and drug abuse, education, suspensions from school, and psychological and mental factors. Could the use of role models of persons who have overcome hardships in order to achieve a degree of success be an influence? This does not always mean the "successful" middle class or professional, but many times it could include persons who are living responsible lives and working in vocational and technically-skilled jobs. Werner and Smith (1982) describe the rationale for mentoring from the longitudinal research as others who have found that adult relationships., i.e., natural mentoring, not only provided by parents and grandparents, but neighbors, teachers 2

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and other concerned adults are protective factors for young men growing up in stressful family and community environments. Additionally, fraternity alumni groups could be brought in as individual role models while serving as examples of positive group behavior. However, many young men find role models among their peers and from among those who accumulated financial assets by selling drugs and engaging in other questionable activities. Black males are particularly vulnerable in this setting of the urban inner-city neighborhoods (Gibbs, 1988). Through such interaction with positive role models, career possibilities and their requisites could be discussed and explored. Hopefully, young men would be able to develop an understanding of personal characteristics necessary for upward social, educational, and career mobility. Every young man must be encouraged to believe that he has the power to become the next great scientist, attorney, astronaut, educator., musician, historian, or whatever he aspires to become. Wynn (1992) states African American men will raise their achievement level if they believe that someone believes in and encourages and supports them. They will gain confidence in themselves if they know others have confidence in them. Background of the Problem As an administrator in the pubic schools at the middle school and high school levels, I have observed African American male students, academic performances in schools. In the middle I have observed Black male students who are academically successful and who demonstrate a complete change in their attitude about academics when they are in high school. On the other hand, my observations indicate that students who have been highly successful at the middle level and continue to do well academically in high school have done so while displaying a strong drive for success. I continually do follow-up contacts with the high schools on some of these students. The coping skills and academic achievements of these 3

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students are challenged at the high school level although not at the middle leveL I have observed that many African American males, decisions, choices, and behaviors in schools are internally and externally attributed to their social influences. I believe that some of these students have attitudes that were fostered by family and peers. These students have not acquired the skills or fortitude to move up and on. There are no signs that this dismal picture of the African American males' failure is improving. Researchers and motivational psychologists are concerned with other achievement-related variables, including self-esteem and negative emotions (e.g., anxiety, depression), as factors accounting for academic performance. A theoretical framework for the study of motivation in Blacks must therefore be particularly capable of addressing how individuals think, feel, and act in response to non-attainment of goals (Graham, 1994). How do they beat the odds in the attainment of goals? The importance of this information is _obvious. If we can find out what successful African American males do and have in common, then we may have some idea of what can be done to intervene into the circumstances of the majority who are not succeeding (Ogbu, 1987). Two of the most pressing concerns and ever present problems are the number of African American males dropping out of school and in prison. The 1990 U.S. Census Bureau figures show the African American males have higher unemployment rates, lower labor force participation rates, lower high school graduation and college enrollment rates, while ranking first in incarceration and homicide as a percentage of the population. This issue becomes particularly important when a significant number of males are academically successful and productive citizens. In the landmark equality of educational opportunity study, Coleman and his colleagues reported that perceived control accounted for more of the variance in Black school achievement than any variable studied, including school, teacher, and background characteristics (Coleman, et al., 1966). One factor accounting for the 4

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importance influence of this construct among .PJiican Americans was its conceptual similarity to other factors known to be related to social class and racial group status. African American males must develop strategies for handling a subordinate racial or class status. Some students may be oblivious to racism and discrimination as barriers to their success. They may develop a "faceless identity'' that includes a denial of institutional racism, a lack of closeness to other African Americans, and an endorsement of mainstream values (Boykin, 1986; 1988). Fordham (1988) found that high-achieving African American students attending an inner-city Black school endorsed mainstream White values and behaviors. The students were often accused of acting White by their peers. The high-achieving students tried to minimize their academic abilities to avoid being labeled "brainiacs'' by their peers. These students were estranged from other African American students in their school and community. These findings suggest that racelessness, a lack of closeness to other African American students, and an endorsement of mainstream values may be protective mechanisms to facilitate the academic success of some African American students (Clark, 1991). Clark (1991) describes African American adolescents who experience racism and learn effective ways of coping and thus develop a bicultural identity. She explains they are socialized into mainstream society, do well academically, and maintain a strong identification with their ethnic group. Valentine (1971) described biculturality as the ability to draw simultaneously on standardized African American group behavior and on behaviors accepted by mainstream cultural system. Bicultural people actively participate in both cultures, have extensive interactions within each environment, and adopt behaviors that allow them to adjust to a variety of different environmental demands. Most African American adolescents with raceless and bicultural social identities are not at risk for academic failure. Developing these identities is considered a form of resiliency. 5

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While there are many aspects of a young person's life which are judged as successful or less successfu4 their educational achievement is decisive. Success in school is a prerequisite for maximizing life chances and for taking advantage of new opportunities (Bowser&. Perkins, 1991 ). Large numbers of Afiican American males are making positive gains in education attainment and careers. However, observers generally tend to ignore this evidence of progress, as well as the potential for even greater progress in the future. Rather than stimulating action to help young Black males from high-risk backgrounds, research and advocacy that focus on the negative may encourage public and private apathy or, worse, increase the pressure for criminal justice solutions to the public safety concerns created by Black males (Mincy, 1994). The Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to examine the protective factors that encourage and support the successful life pathways of the African American male. It is apparent that the only viable approach to enhancing the successful pathways of African American males is to recognize the multivariate nature of the issue No one variable can be identified as the single cause of why some males are successful academically or in careers. Gibbs (1988) found that the attitude of significant others (parents, peers, and teachers) toward the student was a source of African American youths' success in school and the community Other key findings in Ramesuer's (1989) review of this literature are that the B:ack family and community can act as mediators or filters of negative racist images and messages for the Black youth. This study examined the family, the school and the community environment of African American males with particular emphasis on identifying protective factors that contribute to their success. This study investigated those protective factors and resilient characteristics of these young men using a life history methodological 6

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approach. It is assumed that these males' personal experiences will provide important insights leading to the development of future frameworks for intervention. This qualitative study focused on the developmental assets of African American males, the major environmental risks that confront them, evidence of resilience in light of the risk they faced and explanations for the observed adaptation. and the implications for their education.. The study also explored why some African American males are more resilient than others, and attempt to identify so-called "protective factors," or those conditions that foster resiliency in the Black male despite the negative odds they face. Benard (1992) descn'bes a resilient person as one who is socially competent, self-efficacious, and an effective problem-solver who is able to negotiate through a web of adversity. Benard (1992) indicates that the following protective factors present in the family, school, and community serve as a buffer against those variables that put one at risk of unhealthy behavior such as violence: a positive, caring relationship with an adult, high expectations for behavior and abilities, and opportunities for meaningful participation and involvement. A phrase occurring often in the literature sums up the resilient child as one who "works well, plays well, loves well, and expects well'' (Garmezy, 1974; Werner & Smith, 1982). There is continuous research underway by Bowser and Perkins ( 1991) that looks directly at the lives of academically successful African American males. Their study specifically addressed high school students using focus groups. The primary focus of this study is on the success of African American adult males who are presently in the work force. Using a life history methodology, factors were identified which indicate these pathways of successful African American males. A life history/life story is one that is dialogically created rather than a history that is discovered and transcribed (McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993). 7

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Research Questions The following questions guided this study: 1. What protective factors in the lives of urban African American males guided their successful life pathways despite adverse social circumstances? 2. What are the characteristics that foster resiliency in the lives of African American males growing up in the inner city? The Research Design This study was designed as a qualitative, interpretive study which focused on African American males who have been in the work force for five to ten years. Data was collected from five African American males. Additional data was collected from families, school officials, peers, community members. Informal observations also yielded additional information. Reflections on their life experiences and social cultural factors were examined. Life histories of the subjects were obtained through personal interviews and validated by the significant others in their lives. The data were drawn from the personal experiences of African American males who have had unique and distinctive educational and career pathways. The inquiry relies on a series of individual, open-ended interviews over a short period of time. In reflections of their experiences, subjects were asked to identify critical influences, and particular individuals or circumstances that were milestones in their lives. According to Lightfoot ( 1988), life histories have been used to document the experiences of minorities or exceptional individuals. She believes the use of personal narrative and life histories help to illuminate how people, particularly those from oppressed groups, pattern their identities over a period of time. 8

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Biographical sketches of each of the subjects were written in the form of individual case studies. Major themes, recurring patterns and dominate categories were extracted and coded (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993). In this study the researcher focused attention and insight on African American males, a population of this nation that remains feared, loathed, and obscured (Gibbs, 1988). She continues to express that Black males are portrayed ... in a limited number of roles, most of them deviant, dangerous, and dysfunctional . . This constant barrage of predominately disturbing images inevitably contributes to the public's negative stereotypes ofBlack men, particularly of those who are perceived as young, hostile and impulsive. However, this study examined the life pathways of successful young men and asked: What were the protective mechanisms that fostered healthy development in their life journeys? This study has recognized and documented the successes that these young men have experienced in both mass and individual spaces. Life Histories A life history/life story is one that is dialogically created rather than a history that is discovered and transcribed (McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993). Life histories in the social sciences have been used to understand the relationships between the individual, culture, and society to view the general process of socialization, and to describe people's lives in relation to the social groups in which they grew up (Galindo & Escamilla, 1995). The telling of a tale of life is not new; it dates at least as far back as the ancient tomb inscriptions (Misch, 1951, cited in 1983). However, the use of life histories in the educational setting has only recently become an accepted practice (Graham, 1991; McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993). 9

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This study inquired about the beliefs that individuals considered as the source of the outcome and reinforcement of African American males' attitude toward their academics attainment and careers. However, many times they had to face problems often manifested in gang environments, negative peer pressure, anti-school attitudes, and drug trafficking. Polite & Davis ( 1995) state that the unheralded lives and daily experiences of Black men contradict the widely held notion that a viable and adaptive population of African American men failed to develop and flourish in Black communities across the U.S. Inquiry about the family environment is cruciaL It is this environment that shields adolescents from the often hostile, external environment and prepares them to function within their own and the wider environments. This environment often enables children to function effectively within conflicting demands, lifestyles and value systems. Too often, the parental role is considered to be non-existent or, at best, ineffectual within Black family environments (McAdoo, 1985). To attempt to offset the prevailing images in the literature on African American males, as noted by Gordon ( 1995), which he states have been too limited in its scope, this study presented the experiences of a small group of African American males who provided real life data based on analysis of their lives. Life histories of those males who overcame adverse circumstances to beat the odds were the focus of this study. Polite & Davis ( 1995) believe at the core of the African American males' experience in school and society is a record of persistence and triumph that has been overshadowed by the literature discourse focusing primarily on the social pathology of African American men. While many African American males are achieving at commendable levels and are navigating the academic and social currents of their lives, African American males as a group remain at risk for numerous social, 10

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economic, and educational ills. Within that context, however, many have survived and progressed successfully. Definition ofT erms Key terms that clarify the research questions are to follow. Academic SuccessFor the purpose of this study is completion of high school and continued post-secondary education. African AmericanUsed interchangeably with Black American, refers to those persons born in the United States and having at least one African American parent. Adverse Circumstances Refer to those correlates that have repeatedly been associated with school failure. They include membership in an ethnic minority group, specifically, African American, who have experienced and socially sanctioned oppression and discrimination, having few adult role models for academic success, and living in negative environmental conditions. Influence -For the purpose of this study, something or someone that had an impact on another. An !clluence can confirm, enhance, or provide value, or inhibit, or distract. Particularly, this study will focus on the influences that encouraged and supported these men. Educationally Successful-For the purpose of this study, refers to those African American males who have received at minimum a bachelor's degree, indicating successful completion of education, of at least two levels: high school and undergraduate study. Successful Career Attainment-For the purpose of this study, refers to those African American males who have chosen career paths that moved them successfully into the 21st century. 11

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Urban -In this study will focus on the individuals who have spent their early adolescence through adult life in the inner-city. Structure of the Dissertation Chapter 1 of this dissertation introduces the problem; Chapter 2 presents a review of the literature related to African American males, school success and failure. Chapter 3 descnbes the selected life history design. In Chapter 4, a biographical sketch of each of the participants is presented in response to the research questions Chapter 5 presents the findings across cases as a response to both research questions. A summary of the findings of the study, conclusions and recommendations for educators, and questions for further research are found in Chapter6. 12

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CHAPTER2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE To be African American and male in school and society places one at risk for a variety of negative consequences. Although a number of African American males have made it into the mainstream of society and contributed significantly to the national labor force., the residual effects of 200 years of enslavement and another I 00 years of legal discrimination cannot be denied (Polite & Davis, 1995). The unheralded lives and daily experiences contradict the widely held contemporary notion that a viable and adaptive population of African American men failed to develop and flourish in Black communities across the U.S. While many of African American male students do poorly in schools., many others have performed adequately and excelled in schooL A major barrier to the identification of successful Black learners., as well as to providing assistance to marginal students., has been identified as cultural differences in cognitive style. Black researchers and theorists have highlighted this concept as one which offers exceptional promise for understanding and changing racial disparities in academic performances (Washington & LaPoint, 1988). To create a comprehensive framework for understanding African American child development., it is critical that an examination of this development be mediated by gender. National attention has been focused on the plight of the African American male by intellectual leaders like Vernon Polite, Jewel Gibbs., Ronald Mincy and Linda Windfield, to name a few. Once there is an understanding of how the development of 13

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this group proceeds through various developmental milestones, an impact upon the challenges they face will provide guidance for support One explanation for the difficulty of the African American male student is they have a culture distinct not only from the White male culture but from the African American female culture as welL This African American male culture is not recognized and may even be condemned by the school because it is not understood (Hale, 1994). Hopkins ( 1991) charges that while African American males are misinterpreted and misunderstood, they nevertheless have managed to survive in American public schools. Solomon ( 1988) points out that student groups with "distinctive cultures', have simulated various associations within school structures, ranging from those who fully integrate into social system to those who vehemently reject it. He argues that this is the case with African American males and their highly "distinctive, culture. He states that African American males have two ways they manage to struggle to survive in the public schooL Some Black males "obey" and manage to survive the authority structure of the school (p.1 ). Other Black males are extremely resistant to the school and mainstream authority. The latter, as Solomon analyzed, often represent "lived experiences, systems of practices, and ways of life [different] from those students of the dominant culture.,, Although considerable research has been placed on gender and ethnic differences in educational achievement, most of this research has not been concerned with in-depth exploration of the intersection of race and gender. The exclusive study of African American males' successful school experiences and their related achievement and social outcomes has bad a very limited place in the academic literature. Negative school and societal experiences of the African American males have been viewed and researched in varying degrees, as products of structural factors, 14

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cultural adaptations to systemic pressures, and maladaptive definitions of masculinity (Polite & Davis, 1995). Although many African American males are achieving at commendable levels and are navigating the academic and social currents of their lives, African American males as a group remain at risk for numerous social, economic, and educational ills. However, within that context, many have survived and progressed successfully. Additionally, many African American men have gone unrecognized for their efforts to improve the educational and social development of other African American males (Polite & Davis, 1995). Hale (1982) compiled an array of data to support the view that Black children have distinct ways of perceiving, organizing, processing, and using information. This Afrocentric learning style is a reflection of the retention of elements from the African experiences in the context ofBlack American history environments. Mincy (1994) explains Afrocentric experiences affirm the need to be both African and American without shame, doubt, or feelings of inferiority vis-a-vis other cultures in the United States. He continues Afrocentrism is based on the belief that it is proper and good to reconnect with the best aspects of one's historical, cultur'aL and social identity. As applied to current social problems, Afrocentrism refers to internalizing structures, values, and practices that are African derived, and applying the best of them to present-day situations. Recently, motivation researchers have been accumulating a strong empirical body of literature documenting the role of causal cognition as a guide to achievement 1991; Weiner, 1986). For example, when Black children do well or poorly on a test, what are their beliefs about the causes of these outcomes? Are there different motivational consequences for the student who attributes failure in math to lack of aptitude versus poor instruction? As intimated in these examples, the particular cognition outcomes occur. Causal attributions are central to a theory of IS

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cognitive motivation that have proved to be exceedingly rich and applicable to a wide range of phenomena relevant to Blacks (Graham, 1991). It has been documented that success and failure typically are attributed to some ability factor that includes both aptitude and acquired skills; an exertion factor that includes both immediate and sustained effort; and luck, task difficulty (ease), mood. and help or hindrance from others. Among these dominant causes, ability and effort are the most salient. That is, when explaining achievement outcomes, individuals attach the most important to their perceived competencies and how hard they try (Graham, 1994). Academic and personal successes and failures of inner-city African American males invariably are linked to the dynamics of family life, societal acceptance, economics. and political opportunities. Besides these impacting factors, many more internalized factors such as personal meaning, present and projected insecurities, differing values and hope (which these youngsters perceive as their chances of succeeding in the larger society), affect academic and personal success. The implication here is that academic success and failure are not only dependent on individual responsibility and commitment, but also on the supportive commitment and consistency of influential others. This suggests that a connection may exist between achievement, specifically academic achievement, and perceived anticipation of self and other support (Jackson, 1993). The academic achievement of African American adolescents depends not only on their individual atttibutes (i.e., intellectual abilities, aspirations. achievement motivation, and personal and social identity) but also on the social environment ofthe school and available support networks. The school as a social institution reflects and transmits mainstream culture and its prevailing world view (Minuchin & Shapiro, 1983). For example, African American children who enter school with some orientation to mainstream culture are likely to possess the skills necessary to develop academic and social competence in the school setting (Taylor, 1991). Those whose 16

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family values and attitudes are incongruent with the values, attitudes, and behaviors reinforced at school may enter school with inadequate exposure to mainstream culture and become at risk for academic failure. These students may be required to learn a new repertoire of social behaviors before they can reach their academic potential (Clark, 1991). The problems facing young African American males today are both external and internal. Internally, many have low self-esteem and lack the vision for a hopeful future. Externally, poverty and negative environmental conditions deprive many African American children of wholesome development (Jones, Bibbins, & Henderson, 1994). Although the focus of this study is on African American males' educational and career attainment, the history of academic performances. of these students is framed within literature on failure and success. To account for the variability in the academic and career success of African American males, it is necessary to go beyond the school doors. Several explanations have been proposed. Of these, the following will be discussed in the review of literature: environmental issues, educational issues, and psychosocial issues. Research studies highlight the plight of the African male in terms of statistical findings that have led many to suggest that Black men are an "endangered species'' (Gibbs, 1988). Environmental Issues Ecological psychology is the area of qualitative research which emphasizes the interaction of the person and environment in shaping behavior. Ecological theory, a relatively recent educational paradigm, views student development, learning, and behavior as manifestations of child-environment interaction (Johnson, Johnson, & DeMatta, 1991 ). In order to begin to understand the issues that surround patterns of 17

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achievement and development among African American males in this study7 it is necessary to address environmental issues which may have (an impact) on these students. Demographic information of the area in which this research will take place will be provided; in a brief description will be given of drug U5e7 gangs and violence; race and racism; employment opportunities and job ceilings in the lives of African American males. Other topics related to school and life success which will be considered include achievement ideology, cultural differences, fictive kinship, and urban schools. Areas associated with the underachievement of African American male students include: the general concept of underachievement, the concept of "acting White," resiliency, and coping strategies. The current state of successful academic attainment of African American males will be covered through a presentation of the literature on barriers and significant promises. Gangs. Drugs and Violence Youth gangs, clubs or posses" can currently be found in most societies and throughout history. Of particular concern are urban youth gangs heavily involved with drugs, crime and violence. Spergel ( 1990) defines a gang as 'juvenile and young adults associating together for serious, especially violent, criminal behavior with special concerns for 'turf' (which) can signify the control of a physical territory, a criminal enterprise, or both." Poor, inner-city youth with limited options for employment are often drawn to gang involvement for the sense of belonging it provides the economic resources available through drug sales or extortion (Spergel, 1995; Hagerdorn, 1992). With the deindustrialization of urban areas and the resulting loss of available jobs for unskilled or low-skilled workers, it seems as though young and to a lesser extent, young are considering involvement in a gang as viable economic and social option. Gang membership seems to provide status, self esteem, and acceptance. 18

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Research on personality characteristics of gang members has found that youths who join gangs are often defiant individualists who are intensely competitive, self-reliant, socially isolated, have a strong survivalist instinct, and are dealing with the effects of poverty (Spergel, 1990) Gang members may be more willing to take dangerous risks because of having futures with limited options Three types of gangs are described by Huff {1988). The first is the hedonistic gangs whose main goal is to consume alcohol, marijuana and/or other drugs together. They are usually not violent, but may be involved with petty crime. The second type, instrumental gangs, commit more property crimes to support drug habits. Individuals in the gang may sell drugs, but it is not an organized activity of the gang The third type, predatory gangs, commit more serious crimes, use highly addictive and are more likely to be involved in the illegal drug economy More educational and employment opportunities, neighborhood, school and family social services and housing desegregation rather than only increased police activity, are recommended solutions to the influence and impact of gangs in urban areas (Spergel, 1990; HuH: 1988; Hagerdom, 1992; Hayes, 1993). Educational Issues Race and Racism Discrimination because of race is prevalent in the United States today despite efforts and accomplishments made in the 1960s which resulted in legislation concerning segregation in schools and discrimination in housing and employment. Residential discrimination, resulting in predominately African American inhabitancy of inner-city districts, is occurring in most of the major cities in the country, such as the city in this study. In these urban areas, some schools have populations of nearly 100 percent African American, and these schools are qualitatively different from predominantly White schools (Haberman, 1992). A major concern is disciplinary 19

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discrimination in many racially-mixed schools with the large number of African American, specifically males, suspended and expelled. Employment opportunities for African Americans are fewer than for Whites, both initial job options and in advancement opportunities for upper level management positions (Ogbu, 1987; Steinberg, Dornbush & Brown, 1992; Spencer, Kim & Marshall, 1987; Wilson, 1996; Fine, 1983; Gage, 1990; Reed & Sautter, 1990; Ingrassia, 1993). The movement of resources, jobs, and people from the central city to suburbs has created a hostile environment for children and families and institutions embedded in the cities, including schools (Wang & Kovach, 1995). Gill (1995) writes that African American males are in a war and that war is becoming a nightmare for the general society. As a group, these men are lowering their efforts to grow and survive in this society. In urban America this group bas taken the brunt of the blows if statistics are the measure. The disparities between African American males and other males in the population is appalling in employment, real income, and those living at or near the poverty level (National Urban League, 1994). Black teenagers face an unemployment rate of 57 percent and unprecedented levels of poverty, while impoverishment and hunger become the rule of the day. But what sets Black youth off from their White counterparts is that the preferred method of containing White teenagers is through constitutional controls exercised through schooling where working-class youth suffer the effects of choice programs, tracking, and vocationalization. On the other hand, Black youth are increasingly subjected to the draconian strategies of "tagging,"' surveillance or more overt harassment and imprisonment through the criminal justice system (Parenti, 1994). Recent statistics based on 1995 Justice Department data reveal the full scope ofthis policy by indicating that one in three Black men in their twenties are either imprisoned, on 20

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probation, or under the supervision of the criminal justice system on any given day in America (Butterfield, 1996). Employment Opportunities: Job Ceiling Changes have occurred in employment opportunities in most inner-cities. Many of the factories which provided manufacturing jobs to inner-city residents and traditionally provided economic opportunities that elevated them out of poverty have moved to suburban or ex-urban areas (Wilson. 1996). This exodus, called deindustrialization (Hagerdom, 1991 ), has resulted in a shift in the kinds of jobs available to inner-city residents from manufacturing to service. These new jobs are usually low paying, low tech and have no benefits (Reed & Sautter, 1990). According to statistics from the Digest of Educational Statistics cited by Gage (1990), African American high school graduates still experience an unemployment rate over 50 percent. The unemployment rate for African American high school dropouts, according to 1979 data cited by Fine ( 1983 ), is only 5 percent higher than it is for graduates. Clearly, the "conventional wisdom" of staying in school to get a better job is of questionable applicability for African American youths. Ingrassia (1993) quoted Eugene Rivers' sentiment regarding prospects for African American males, stating that "America has less use for Black men today than it did during slavery." For African Americans who are employed in stable jobs, prospects for advancement are often limited by what has been termed the "glass ceiling" or ')ob ceiling" (Steinberg, Dornbush & Brown, 1992; Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Ogbu 1987). Ogbu defines the job ceiling as: The result of consistent pressures and obstacles that selectively assign Blacks and similar minorities to jobs which occupy the lower status for power, dignity, and income. Whites compete freely for desirable jobs above the 21

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ceiling on the basis of the individual's training and ability or educational credentials (Ogbu, 1987). When students in high school or college observe others in the African American community who have been "passed over" for advancement in their careers, it can cause disillusionment about the value of schooling that "engenders a feeling of impotence and a lack of self-confidence regarding competing successfully with Whites in traditionally White people's domains," (Fordham & 1986). The effects of the job ceiling have "probably been cumulative and relatively enduring" (Ogbu, 1987) and discourage students from putting full efforts into their school work (Steinberg Dornbush & Brown, 1992). In an interview in Newsweek, a senior vice president at Equitable Life Assurance Society, recounted conversations with younger Black managers in his organization: There's an air of frustration that's just as high now as it was 30 years ago .... They have an even worse problem (than I did) because they've got :MBAs from Harvard. They did all the things that youre supposed to do ... and things are supposed to happen (in Cose, p. 76, 1993). Psychosocial Issues Achievemem Ideology Every popuiation or society has developed an approved strategy for getting ahead, which may be called a "folk theory of making it', (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986), achievement ideology, or status mobility system. This strategy generates its own ideal personality types, characterized by those dispositions, qualities and skills which one needs to get ahead in that particular population. The White middle-class folk theory of upward mobility is that success comes through education; one gets a good job that pays well by getting a good education 22

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(Ogbu, 1987). To most African Americans, education remains to be the "symbolic key to advancement, (Hare, 1987). Education may be no more than a because minority community members, perceptions of dismal future opportunities influence their perceptions of and responses to schooling (Ogbu, 1987). William Julius Wilson, professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, stated: (This) lack of association between education and post-school employment has discouraged a lot of young people. They see that whether you graduate from high school or you drop out, you're still going to be hanging around a comer or the best job you're going to find is working at a McDonald, s. After a time they develop a view that you are a chump if you study hard (cited in Gregory, 1992). The lack of connection between the amount of effort applied in school and future success causes many African American young people to tum their attention to nonacademic activities. They become aware of their limited future opportunities for employment above the minimum wage level and see how others in the community "make it" without a high school diploma or "mainstream employment" (Ogbu, 1987). Hunt (1976) believes that many African Americans question the concept of education as the ladder to upward mobility for Blacks. In a break from previous generations, African Americans are now more likely to view the success of one of the members of the group as an individual attainment, not as evidence of collective advancement (Fordham, 1988). Ford (1990) refers to an ambivalence among African Americans who support the "achievement ideology" but question the relationship of support to success in later life. Hare ( 1987) refers to the "Myth ofEqual Opportunity" as a situation in which the losers blame themselves for their lack of achievement and others see that because the "losers" did not apply themselves, they are getting what they deserve. These conditions contribute to why many young male African Americans live non-productive as underachievers, drug users, and one with crime as a way oflife. Minority Classifications In order to understand the complex relationship between the issues concerning the academic achievement or underachievement in African Americans, particularly African American males, it is helpful to examine the work of John Ogbu who developed a unifying theory to explain variations of achievement/productivity 23

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between various minority groups. According to theories set forth by members of minority populations may be considered in three ways. Autonomous minorities are those who possess a distinct ethnic, religious, linguistic, or cultural identity. They are not free from prejudice or discrimination, but are not socially, economically, and politically subordinated (Ogbu, 1987). They include the Jews, Mormons, and the Amish in the United States. Ogbu believes the second type of minority in the United States are the immigrant or voluntary minorities: people who have voluntarily moved to this country to seek improved economic and educational opportunities, and/or political freedom. Historically in the United States, for instance, this group includes the millions of European immigrants from the 17th through 20th centuries and. contemporary the immigrants from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The third type of minority are the involuntary or castelike minorities who were originally brought to a country through slavery, conquest, colonization, or forced labor. African Americans whose forebearers were slaves, Native Americans, Mexican-Americans in the Southwest, and Native Hawaiians are examples of this type of castelike minority in the United States. It is often the involuntary minorities who are denied true assimilation into mainstream society and who experience more difficulties with social adjustment and school performance (Ogbu, 1987). Ogbu ( 1987) states that voluntary minorities ''tend to accept the dominant group's folk theory that the way to get ahead is through hard work, school success and individual ability. n Thus, the voluntary minorities are willing to adapt their cultural styles, if necessary, in order to succeed in school. This adaptation is viewed as an additive process, as persons who do adapt do not have to compromise their cultural identities to achieve in schooL For the involuntary minorities, particularly African American, school is seen as an agent ofthe dominant society (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986). African American children may have the skills needed to achieve in school, but that skill may be 24

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manifested in a way that is different than is expressed by the White mainline culture. The students may resist changing their be it dialect or personal interactions with others, because their cultural style symbolizes their identity. To change their style to the style of the dominant culture may be harmful to their social identity, sense of security, and self-worth {Ogbu, 1992). Dealing with this phenomena may have an impact on all students, but may intensely affect the African American males who may question their right to achieve. Fictive Kinship Ogbu uses the term "fictive kinship" to descn'be the bonds between people in the ethnic/culturaVreligious/social group beyond those people in one's family and extended family. Fictive kinship is the cultural symbol of collective identity of Black Americans (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986): a kinship-like between and among persons in a society, not by blood or marriage, who have maintained essential reciprocal social, economic or political relationships (Fordham, 1988). Fordham and Ogbu (1986) speculate that the fictive kinship system developed as a response to treatment from White Americans during and after slavery. White Americans historically treated African Americans as an undifferentiated mass of people, and Fordham and Ogbu believe that Blacks may have transformed White assumptions of Black homogeneity into a collective identity system and a coping strategy. Fordham (1988) states that membership in the system is not automatic. If an African American portrays an attitude, behaves or participates in activities perceived to be counter with those thought to be appropriate, culturally patterned, and serve to delineate the group from the dominate group, membership is denied. This sense of belonging or wanting or needing to belong to the larger group explains some of the choices a student may make to ignore their individual abilities and talents for the greater importance of staying loyal to the group or to the community values which 25

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are derived from a sense of opposition to the mainline dominate culture. The transmission of the fictive kinship occurs in the family setting and from peers when a child is growing up (Fordham, 1988; Fordham & Ogbu, 1986). Distrust of the educational system begins when a child hears his parents discuss their perceptions of discrepancies in the educational system among themselves and in the presence of their children. Minority children learn from older members of the community their shared antagonism toward Whites and their institutions like the schools, as well as White culture and language. Children who have internalized this cultural antagonism may have difficulty performing according to school norms even if they possess the cognitive and language skills (Ogbu, 1985, p. 866). Accordingly, Ogbu believes that students may have to consciously choose whether to be loyal to their community or to the mainline White culture that represents "the system." He summarized theory of differences in achievement between minority groups stating: The main factor differentiating the more successful from the less successful minorities appears to be the nature of history, subordination, and exploitation of the minorities and the nature of the minorities' own instrumental and expressive responses to their treatment, which enter into the process of their schooling (Ogbu 1987, p. 317). School may be viewed as an instrument of the society to instill values and ways of the White mainline culture, which is not desired, and/or as the vehicle through which social mobility may be possible. Urban Schools In urban settings, the school is often the primary representative of society at large and is where urban children often face their first experience with mainline 26

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culture. It is also here that parents of these children are reminded of the frustrations they experienced in school and the promises and hopes for a better life through education which proved empty in many cases. Working with children who face poverty, violence, drugs and major home instability every day creates a unique climate in the school and classroom environments. Haberman (1992) described the common features of classrooms and teaching styles in schools located in urban areas with high concentrations of poverty: The teaching acts that constitute the core functions of urban teaching are: giving information, asking questions, giving directions, making assignments, monitoring seat work, reviewing assignments, giving tests, assigning homework, reviewing homework, settling disputes, punishing noncompliance, marking papers, and giving grades. There are occasions when any one of the fourteen acts might have a beneficial effect. Taken together and performed to the systematic exclusion of other acts, they have become the pedagogical coin of the realm in urban schools. They constitute the pedagogy of poverty (p.291). Resiliency Research about the personal characteristics of children who are able to survive and succeed in school and life endeavors despite singular or multiple life crises is pertinent to the study of achievement and underachievement for its emphasis on nurturing this characteristic in children. Resiliency has been defined as the ability to recover successfully from change or severe risks (Benard, 1992). Benard lists four attributes of resilient children: I. Social competence-The qualities of responsiveness, flexibility, empathy and caring, sense of humor. Resilient children tend to establish more positive relationships with other people. 2. Problem solving skills-The ability to think abstractly, reflectively and flexibly. Children who exhibit these qualities are able to pose alternative solutions for both cognitive and social problems. 27

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3. Autonomy Children who exhibit autonomy have a strong sense of independence, internal focus of control, and are able to exert some control over their environment. 4. Sense of purpose of future. These include the qualities of healthy goal directness, success orientation, achievement motivation, educational aspirations, persistence, hopefulness, hardiness, belief in a bright future, and sense of coherence (p.5). Benard ( 1992) states that the risk factors children may encounter (death, illness, violence, poverty, drugs) need to be balanced with sufficient protective factors in order for a child to overcome their effects. These protective factors are the enabling facilitators which nurture the development of resiliency in a child. The protective factors mentioned include care and support, high expectations, and the participation of the child in program planning. These protective factors can center in the family, school and/or community. If a child has sufficient support, he can weather difficult situations. U: however, the protective factors are absent, even a child who has other characteristics of resiliency may have problems. Understanding resilience requires that obstacles to adaptation be understood and that the standard for, or definition o( adaptive behavior be delineated. Adaptation in the study of resilience, as in the study of developmental psychopathology, is defined in terms ofthe attainment ofpsychosocial milestones called developmental tasks (Masten & Braswell, 1991). Developmental tasks represent broadly defined standards or expectations for behavior at various points in the life span. Resilience in an individual refers to successful adaptation despite risk and adversity. This study review and design is to broaden the basis of our understanding of African American males, the major environmental risks that confront them, to discover what effect different educational, interpersonal and community experiences 28

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had on their professional and career choices and evidence of resilience in light of the risks faced_ A major study of resiliency was conducted during the 1970s and 1980s. This study (Garmezy & Rutter, 1983; Murphy & Moriarity, 1976; Werner & Smith, 1982) examined several personal variables in relation to resilience. In general, the results indicated that a number of personal variables were related to resilience. These variables included sensitivity, sociability, inner control, cooperativeness, and cognitive superiority. However, these findings were based mostly on clinical observations and anecdotes, with some of the findings based on data from surveys and standardized instruments. In considering resilience, it is useful to remember a few key concepts: risk and protective factors; stress, coping and adaptation; and prevention. Studies of resilience focused originally on children's experiences with particular kinds of stresses: natural disasters; wars, concentration camps; divorce; living with a parent with severe psychiatric disorder, severe adjustment difficulties that can manifest themselves in alternative engagement and disruption in schools; chronic illness; and maternal deprivation. The literature suggests that there are two different kinds of variables that contribute to resilience_ One has to do with individual dispositions. The other category of variables reflects our social environment, the families into which we are born, and the social setting in which we live. However, Werner and Smith (I 992) explain the growing body of international, cross-cultural, longitudinal studies that provide scientific evidence that many youth, even those with multiple and severe risks in their lives, can develop into "confident, competent, and caring adults.,, They also discuss the critical role schools can play in this process. 29

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Coping Strategies African American males who have performed well in school must overcome multiple cognitive, cultural and attitudinal barriers regarding the value of academic success. These African American males face anti-academic sentiments in the larger culture through anti-intellectual dispositions. Also, the culture of male gender usually does not promote scholastic endeavors, nor does the general African American culture through oppositional reactions to the White achievement ideology. The adolescent culture may provide problems with hedonistic priorities, peer pressure and a general anti-school penchant (Edwards, 1976). These avenues of anti academic/anti-intellectualism intersect in the lives of African American male youth. Students have developed strategies to cope with the aspects of this inner and outer conflict. Ogbu (1992) reported nine strategies used by African American students to deal with the cultural differences faced while dealing with achievement in school. 1. Emulating Whites or adopting "White" academic attitudes and behaviors which extract a high psychological cost. 2. Accommodating without assimilation, which is an alternative strategy. One school counselor said about this approach, "The students seem to have the motto of'Do your Black thing (in the community), but know the White-man thing (at school)'" (p. 11). 3. Acting, or camouflaging, a scheme which may take on a variety of techniques, such as becoming the class clown, being an or participating in other activities, which are acceptably African American. 4. Involvement in church activities creates a peer group apan from school, often with others who are empathetic. 5. Attending a private school is a way to avoid peers. 6. Having a mentor who serves as a role model enhances academic success. 30

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1. Some students align themselves with students who can protect them physically. Often this is done in exchange for help with homework. 8. Intervention and remedial programs provide opportunities and encouragement for students to succeed. 9. Encapsulation is the term to describe the action of academic successful youth succumbing to the pressures of the peer group, their way of thinking about activities. These students don't want to accommodate the system or take advantage of the other techniques for survival in school (p.ll ). In recent decades, researchers trying to learn why some young people are more resilient than others have studied numerous charts of young people in an attempt to identify so-called protective factors, or those conditions that foster resiliency in young people despite the negative odds they face (Benard, 1992). This research examined protective factors that contributed to the development of young Black males who were exposed to factors that put them at risk for a number of problems, including delinquency, drugs and gangs, and school failure, who nonetheless, avoided these problems and developed into healthy and successful young adults. Benard (1991) describes a resilient person as one who is socially competent, self-efficacious and an effective problem solver who is able to negotiate through a web of adversity (see Figure 2.3). Bowser and Perkins ( 1991 ). with a team of investigators, interviewed a group of academically successful young Black and Hispanic students. One of the single most difficult pieces of information to find is what goes on in the lives of 31

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Figure 2.3 PROFILE OF THE RESILIENT CHilD Social Competence Problem Solviug Autonomy Sense of Purpose Responsiveness Critical Thinking Self-Esteem Sense of Meaning Flexibility Planning Skills Self-Efficacy Special Interests Empathy and Control Over Coherence/ Caring Help Seeking Environment Meaningfulness Communication Educational Skills Creative Thinking Self Awareness Aspirations Achievement Sense of Humor Imagination Independence Motivations Resourcefulness Adaptive Distancing Persistence Hopefulness Optimism Compelling Future Faith/Spirituality Goal Directedness Adapted from: Benard, B. (1991 ). Fostering Resiliency in Kids: Protective Factors in the Family. Schools. and Community. San Francisco: Western Regional Center for Drug-Free Schools and Communities. 32

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.. academically successful Black and Hispanic adolescents? How do they beat the odds? If we can find out what successful Black and Hispanic students do have in common, then we will have some idea of what can be done to intervene into the circumstances of the majority who are not succeeding 1987). There is some research underway that looks directly at the lives of successful Black students. The primary focus of this study is the community, peers and parents in academic attainment and career success of the African American males. -Bowser and Perkins developed a series of questions to be used with the students to probe their relations with parents, relatives, teachers, peers, other people and organizations within their community. These students were questioned on what they did to perform well in who played important roles in their lives and what were the barriers. In this focus group a number of students expressed the importance of both family and school as a motivation to succeed and a supportive and involved family along with extended family members. Schools that had teachers and counselors that took a personal interest in the students' work provided support. Public acknowledgment and identification of an achievement were essential to the students' realization that they are indeed doing exceptional work and can qualify for opportunities in the larger society outside of their community. Specific study techniques and the number of hours spent studying was of secondary importance to the students. Most of these young people shared that they disassociated themselves from their peers and normal friendships in order to maintain their motivation to academically succeed. It is very clear that if motivational influences at home or at school had not taken special interest and given attention to these students, they would not have and any Black and Hispanic high achievers to interview. These young

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people would be indistinguishable from their peers, many of whom are just as talented (Bowser & Perkins, 1991). The idea that peers can influence the attitudes, ambitions and academic achievement of adolescents was supported in a study by Schmuck (1963) who indicated that relationships exist between self-perceived peer liking status and academic performance. Muma ( 1965) indicated that relationships exist between extremes in peer choice and academic performance; and Damico (1975) indicated that relationships exist between peer group membership and academic performance. Research has indicated that adolescent males are more susceptible to peer pressure than females, and that Black adolescents are more susceptible to peer pressure than White adolescents (Carter, et aL, 1975). The results of a study by Trotter (1981) indicate that academically able Black male adolescents perceive themselves in a peer environment which values academic learning less than they do. The results demonstrated that academically able Black male adolescents who achieve at relatively low levels perceive a peer environment that is more hostile to academic learning than that perceived by relatively high achievers. Although this study did not specifically investigate peer acceptance, the findings do suggest that peer acceptance probably would not enhance academic achievement among academically able Black male adolescents. Current research suggests that Black student academic achievement is largely due to family influences, in which case declining achievement is due to declining family support. What researchers might be really looking at is declining community morale and declining social resources mediated through the family (Bowser & Perkins, 1991). When asked what the students thought could be done to increase the numbers of academically successful students like themselves, they responded, "Get rid of drugs and get more jobs." 34

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Protective Factors Within the Family Caring and Support What is evident from nearly all the research into the family environments of resilient people is that, "despite the burden of parental psychopathology, family discord, or chronic poverty, most young people identified as resilient have had the opportunity to establish a close bond with at least one person (not necessarily the mother or father) who provided them with stable care and from whom they received adequate and appropriate attention during the first year of life" (Werner, 1991). According to Feldman, Stiffman, and Jung ( 1987), "The social relationships among family members are by far the best predictors of children's behavioral outcomes." Furthermore, Rutter's research found that even in cases of extremely troubled home environments, "a good relationship with one parent" (defined in terms of the presence of"high warmth and absence of severe criticism") provides a substantial protective effect. Only one-fourth of the children in the troubled families studied by Rutter (1979} showed signs of conduct disorder if they had a single good relationship with a parent, compared to three-fourths of the children who lacked such a relationship. High Expectations Research into why some children growing up in poverty and still manage to be successful in school and in young adulthood has consistently identified high parental expectations as the contributing factor (Williams & Kornblum, 1985; Clark, 1983}. 35

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A number of including Clark, 1983; Greenberg & Davidson, 1972, examined high-and low-achieving economically disadvantaged African American pre-adolescents and adolescents. The high-achieving subsamples in this work consisted of individuals who, despite living in inner-city neighborhoods, managed to do well in school. Several factors appeared to separate high-achieving from low-achieving students, including the organization of their homes and the nature of their parenting experiences. Interpreting these findings, Clark ( 1983) suggested that the parents of highachieving adolescents appear more likely to employ authoritarian parenting practices in the home than the parents of low-achieving adolescents. Authoritative parenting involves a constellation of behavior. Similarly, in a sample of younger children, Scheinfield (1983) found that parents of high achievers encouraged self-motivation, autonomy, and engagement of the environment. The processes underlying these differences in parental such as parent personality differences or differences attributing to the social environment experienced by the family, deserve further attention. Similarly, the work ofMills {1990) with parents living in an impoverished housing project in Miami demonstrated the power of a parental attitude that "sees clearly the potential for maturity, common sense, for learning and well-being in their children." According to Mills, an attitude expressed to a youth, ou have everything you need to be successful, and you can do it," played a major role in the reduction of several problem behaviors, including substance in this disadvantaged community. families that establish high expectations for their children's behavior from an early age play a role in developing resiliency in their children. Haan ( whose research on the development of morality in young children clearly challenges prior assumptions of freud, Piaget, and Kohlberg that young children are 36

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morally deficient; i.e., self-serving, writes, "Young children have the same basic moral understandings and concerns as adolescents and young adults.,, A natural outgrowth of having high expectations for children is that they are acknowledged as valued participants in the life and work of their family Research has borne out that the family background of resilient children is usually characterized by many opportunities for the children to participate and contribute in meaningful ways. For example, Werner and Smith (1982) found that assigned chores, domestic responsibilities (including care of siblings), and even part-time work to help support the family proved to be sources of strength and competence for resilient children. When children are given responsibilities, the message is clearly communicated that they are worthy and capable of being contributing members of the family. In addition to holding high expectations of children (i.e., that they will succeed in school and become good citizens in their households that are structured and employ consistent discipline, rules, and regulations produce better outcomes among children from at-risk families (Bennett, Wolin, & Reiss, 1988) Protective Factors Within the School Caring and Support Just as in the family arena, the level of caring and support within the school is also a powerful predictor of positive outcome for youth. While according to Werner ( 1991 ), only a few studies have explored the role of the teachers as a protective buffer in the lives of children who overcome great adversity, few do provide moving evidence of this phenomenon." While the importance of the teacher as caregiver cannot be overemphasized, a factor often overlooked that has definitely emerged for protective factor research is the role of caring peers and friends in the school and community environments. 37

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Research into resiliency of"street gamins" clearly identifies peer support as critical to the survival of these youth (Feldman, Stiffman & Jung. 1987). The academic achievement of at-risk students is the product not only of a child's intellectual ability, but also the school's climate and social support networks available from families. Clark ( 1991) stated that after fiunily, peers are the most important source of support Social support networks from peers provide children and adolescents with a sense of being valued, cared for, and loved. These support networks not only facilitate the development of an individual, but serve as a protective shield against stress. Obviously, resilient youth are those youth who have and took the opportunity to fulfill the basic human need for social support, caring, and living. If this is unavailable to them in their immediate family environments, it is imperative that the school provide the opportunities to develop caring relationships with both adults and other youth. High Expectations As with the family environment, research has identified that schools that established high expectation for all children and given them the support necessary to achieve them, have incredibly high rates of academic success (Rutter, 1979; et al., 1989; Edmonds, 1986; O'Neil, 1991; Levin, 1988; Slavin, Kanweit, & Maden, 1989). Probably the most powerful research supporting a school of"ethos" of high expectations as a protective shield was reported by Michael Rutter (1979). In his compelling book, Fifteen Thousand Hours, psychiatrist Michael Rutter found that even within the same poverty-stricken areas of London, some schools showed considerable differences in rates of delinquency, behavioral disturbance, attendance and academic attainment (even after controlling for family risk factors). The successful schools, moreover, appeared to share certain characteristics: academic emphasis, teachers' clear expectations and regulations, high level of student 38

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participation, and many, varied alternative resources/library facilities, vocational work opportunities, art, music, and extracurricular activities. A major critical finding was that the relationships between a school's characteristics and studeut behavior increased over time; that is, the number of problem behaviors experienced by a youth decreased over time in the successful schools and increased in the unsuccessful schools. Rutter (1979) concluded that "schools that foster high self-esteem and that promote social and scholastic success reduce the likelihood of emotional and behavioral disturbance." Studies have also shown that the differences between schools account for less of the variance of scholastic attainment than did features of the family or home (Rutter & Madge, 1976). However, this may result from the fact that there is a bigger difference between the "best" and "worst', home than between the "best', and "worst" schooL If schools vary in quality less than do homes, as pr?bably the case, then their statistical effect on children's attainment will also appear less. Discussions of the risk factors for school failure focus on two sets of variables. One is individual student behaviors and characteristics, such as lack of engagement in instructional and co-curricular activities, poor performance on classroom tasks and achievement tests, poor attendance, using alcohol and drugs, and having a child. The second set embraces environmental characteristics. Family indicators, including family poverty and marital status of parents, are cited frequently, as well as school policies and practices, such as tracking, retention in the early grades, and low teacher expectations of African American students. How these factors contribute to school failure has been the subject of numerous research and policy reports (Fine, 1988; Nartriello, McDill & Pallas, 1990; Scott-Jones, 1991). 39

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Protective Factors Within the Community Caring and Support As with the other two arenas in which young people are socialized., the family and the school, the community which supports the positive development of youth is promoting the building of the traits of resiliency-social competence, problem-solving skills, autonomy, and a sense of purpose and future. Community psychologists refer to the capacity of a community to build resiliency as "community competence', (Iscoe, 1974), and once again, as with the family and the school systems, competent communities are characterized by the triad of protective factors that Benard ( 1991) speaks to as: caring and support, high expectations, and participation. Benard also identified three characteristics of communities that foster resilience. These characteristics are: availability of social organizations that provide an array of resources to residents; consistent expression of social norms so that community members understand what constitutes desirable behavior; and opportunities for young people to participate in the life of the community as valued members. Hill, Wise and Shapiro (I 989) emphasized the role of communities as key contributors in the revitalization of failing urban school systems. They believe that troubled urban school systems can only recover when the communities that they serve unite in decisive efforts to improve their performance. A competent community, therefore, must support its families and schools, have high expectations and clear norms for its families and schools, and encourage the active participation and collaboration of its families and schools in the life and work of the community. According to Kelly (1988), "The long-term development of the 'competent community' depends upon the availability of social networks within 40

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the community that can promote and sustain social cohesion within the community ... that is, the formal and informal networks in which individuals develop their competencies and which provide links within the community are a source of strength (i.e., health and resiliency) for the community and the individuals comprising it." Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of caring and support at the community level is the availability of resources necessary for healthy human development: health care, child care, housing, education, job training, employment, and recreation. According to most researchers, the greatest protection we could give children and youth is ensuring them and their fimrilies access to these basic necessities (Garmezy, 1991; Samerofl: 1984; Long & Vaillant, 1989; Wilson, 1987; Coleman, 1987; Hodgkinson, 1987). Conversely, the greatest risk factor for the development of nearly all problem behaviors is poverty, a condition characterized by the lack of these resources. High Expectations Nettles ( 1991) found that the word "community" invoked images as different as the cohesive, village-like neighborhoods that many African American Southerners recall nostalgically, and the faceless mass known in the media as "The Black Community.,, She says that these and other diverse pictures capture the two most common notions of community, those of place and social relationships that transcend locales. However, communities are also characterized by the structures rules, norms, and processes that serve to maintain the community and support its constant individuals and organizations. The role of community involvement will be important for this study just as schools and families are factors that may contribute to the resiliency of African American males; a community can either contribute to adverse outcomes in school, or serve as a protective factor for the young Black male to be successful in school. 41

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This approach of studying African American males who have had academic and career success is especially appealing to the researcher because it provides an opportunity for the participants themselves to give their own interpretations of their life experiences, particularly as they pertain to their educational and career success Like Bowser and Perkins, the researcher believes that the lives of academically and career successful African American males can serve as case studies to reveal important themes in minority educational and career success. Like Jackson, the researcher believes that the contributions of the family, in the educational success of African cannot be ignored The life history approach (McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993) used in this study was to examine the interacting factors of home, school, community socioeconomic influences, environmental conditions, general societal influences, individual characteristics, culture and resiliency that could provide researchers and educators with the much needed personal perspective of the minorities themselves. 42

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CHAPTER3 THE RESEARCH :METHOD This study was designed to be both qualitative and interpretive as it focuses on the life pathways of successful African American males. The researcher examined the protective factors of the family, the school, the community along with the resilient characteristics that the participants identified as having impacted their past, including their personal reflections on their life journeys. A set of common elements for this five participant group is: ethnicity, gender, and the common environment where they spent most of their youth and young adult experiences. Multiple perspectives of each participant were sought throughout the study. Qualitative research has its origin in anthropology and sociology (Krathwohl, 1993). For each, the goal is to understand culture through the careful observation of that culture. In other words, it is a contextual analysis of the culture through an exploration of the meanings for that group. Educational researchers have frequently made use of the principles of qualitative research because of its value in describing the subjective phenomena intrinsic to situations. Methodological Assumptions Both quantitative and qualitative inquiries are vital to the endeavors of researchers because each offer possibilities for discovery that do not exist in the other. The appropriate choice of research depends on the goal of the study, the types of questions the researcher is attempting to answer, and the philosophical underpinnings of the study itself. This study is qualitative in design, using a life history approach 43

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(McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993). From the qualitative research tradition, this study has some of the same objectives as ecological psychology: the study of naturally occurring human behavior and the relationships between human behavior and its environment. What follows is an explanation of the life history approach to qualitative research, and an explanation of the procedures utilized to collect, present, and analyze data from a wide variety of sources. Life Histories Life histories are basically "an account of an individual ofhis or her life that is recorded in some taping, or writing, for another person who edits and presents the account," (Yow, 1994 p. 168). They differ from biographies and personal narratives, in that they are told to another person, the researcher. Life histories incorporate the very roots of generations before birth to stories being told across generations. According to Plummer ( 1983), life histories have been used to convey one's own experience "with all the ambiguity, variability, and even uniqueness that such experience usually implies" (p. 65). Life histories include ways in which individuals interpret their own lives and the world around them. They can be used as a tool of history, defining the past and reflecting on one's own socio-economic and cultural diversity with a particular period of time. McLaughlin and Tierney (1993) suggest that life histories give voices to people who have traditionally been silenced. They also claim that these histories give us a glimpse of the past history, give us a look at how society impacts individuals, as well as the masses help explain deviance, problem-solving, solutions and diversity amongst peoples. Life histories have been used to document the experience of minorities or exceptional individuals {Lightfoot, 1988). The use of personal narrative and life histories help illuminate how people, particularly those from oppressed groups, 44

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pattern their identities over a period of time. Oftentimes a culture or minority will incorporate into their identity, incidents that they have discarded or have found to be difficult or painful to accept. In educational contexts. oral histories have been used to highlight educators' points-of-view and interpretations of their experiences. These histories are viewed not only as stories, but as proposed interpretations of life experiences (Plummer, 1983; Langness & Frank, 1981). The unique responses of the individuals, experiences also allows the researcher, "to understand another way of life from the native point of view ... learning from people" (Spradley, 1979). According to Page and Valli (1990), this phenomenon is central to the potential of interpretive studies. Critical to the purpose of this study is to get actual responses from the subjects regarding their educational experiences and career success. This study could draw upon several theoretical perspectives in the social sciences. However, the Psychodynamic theory will be used for this study LeCompte and Preissle ( 1993) describe this theory as human personality development and its psychological and cultural determinants. The assumptions that relate to this theory are: (1) human behavior and personality relationships with parents and siblings; (2) certain constellations of these traits are recognizable as "ideal types" or labels which characterize individuals or cultures; (3) identification of the personality type which characterizes an individual or culture facilitates prediction of future behavior, and ( 4) overt behavior is manifestation of specific personality characteristics or traits. This research will examine protective factors that contnbuted to the development of young Black males who were exposed to factors that put them at risk for a number of problems, including delinquency, drugs and gangs, and school failure, who nonetheless, avoided these 45

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Criterion-based Selection ofParticipants Permission to conduct the research was obtained from the Human Research Committee at the University of Colorado. Each of the participants was asked to sign an informed consent at the beginning of the study. The research was designed as a qualitative, interpretive study which focused on African American males who have been in the work force from five to twelve years. Reflections on their life experiences and social cultural factors which they identify as impacting experiences was critical in understanding how and why some African American males experienced, life and educational success when so many do not. This study was conceptualized as an extensive case study analysis of protective factors and resiliency characteristics of African American males as presented by the subjects themselves. Data were triangulated by observations and interviews with significant others including the participants. It is hoped that the data will be useful for a thorough understanding of African American males, school and career success, using a case study approach. The participants were African American males, who graduated from high school within the last ten years, who lived and grew up in Nonheast Denver, and are currently employed. The participants had attended public schools in the inner city. They were all working in a profession or a career which may or may not have required a college degree. All the participants became successful against all odds, poverty, gangs, crime in their community. They have represented a variety of family compositions, two with both parents, three with other structures. All were nominated by a variety of sources. 46

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Demographic Information Demographic reports indicate that many inner-city neighborhoods have become increasingly poor, minority, and non-English speaking The school system of this study bas been under court-ordered busing for 25 years. Recently the court order was lifted, and the schools are neighborhood schools. This community bas over 93 percent of its residents being ofHispanic (56 or African American (37 percent) ethnicity according to 1990 U .S. Census figures (see Table 3.1 ). Estimates for 1995 reveal that the racial composition remained relatively unchanged, with African American and Hispanic residents making up 94 percent of the population. This is in stark contrast to the ethnic composition of the overall Denver population where only 38 percent of the residents are ethnic minorities. The community is identified as a lower socio-economic status with high crime and gang activity in the area This community is very old and rich with tradition, history and culture. This neighborhood was the center ofBiack and Brown civil rights movement of the '60s and '70s. Many fourth and fifth generation Denverites have their roots in this community. Table 3.1 Community Ethnic Population Makeup African American Hispanic Anglos 370/o 56% 7% I 996 estimate 36% 600/o 4% Source: 1990 U.S. Census of Population and Housing and Denver Community Development Agency for 1996 Estimate 47

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The literature suggests that the Black community is now reaping the bitter harvest of decades of neglect of the plight of its young people by national policies that have failed to eradicate poverty, failed to equip them with education for an information society, and failed to replace discriminatory barriers with equal opportunity. The result is that young Black males, as Gibbs (1988) suggests, have become an endangered species, with more young Black men added each year to the ranks of the poor, the jobless, and the homeless. The impact on the Black family, the Black economy, and on individual lives has been devastating. The young men in this study attended the same local high school in the community, providing them an opportunity to be in a racially diverse setting because of court-ordered busing. Representation of African American males has declined drastically in the graduating classes over the past five years at the high school in this community. However, many of those who have graduated have gone on to college or pursued successful career opportunities. The community where this study was conducted is one in which poveny and unemployment rates are high; drugs and violent crimes are commonplace; and high stress affects both home and school environment. It is an environment that could manifest serious behavioral and educational problems. (Table 3.2) Table 3.2 Crime Rates (Crimes per 1.000 persons). by crime. 1988-1995 Type of Crime 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 Homicide 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.8 0.3 0.8 0.6 0.8 Sexual Assault 2.9 2.8 2.4 3.7 2.6 4.7 3.7 .. .., _, __ Robbery 7.2 3.1 4.6 4.6 6.2 5.4 7.0 1.9 Burglary I 13.4 73.2 61.6 74.8 53.5 84.9 76.5 82.2 Source: Department of Safety, City and County of Denver, 1998. 48

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A list of candidates was obtained by making contacts with local chapters of African American fraternities., community agencies, such as Urban League of Colorado and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for a pool of candidates who are thought to meet the criteria stated earlier. After the nominations were received of perspective candidates, this researcher began to examine each nominee in relation to the criteria. The goal was to have six to ten candidates for this study. An attempt to achieve a balance in career and professions was made (Figure 3.3). The data were drawn from three semi-structured interviews (Appendix A), and many telephone conversations over a period of six months. Participants were asked to reflect on critical influences of their educational and career successes. In addition to interviewing the participants there were observations made on some of the young men, additional information about the participants, social., career and educational aspirations was collected from their families., peers, school officials, and in some cases, community representatives. The participants were interviewed on their recollections of personal motives for academic and career success. The researcher investigated both what they identified as key, and what is believed, based on previous theory and research., to be significant factors. This researcher obtained information from the participants on what internal and external assets supported, encowaged and promoted their dreams for academic achievement by recalling their life-learning pathways. Krathwohl (1993) states that qualitative methods are inductive: they let the problem emerge from the data or remain open to interpretations of the problem different from those held initially. The data gathered from the interviews were categorized by themes or meanings, finding commonalties in the data leading first to a description and then to an explanation of the regularity. 49

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Figure 3.3 Participant's Nominated Information Participants Nominated Willie Participated Ron Participated Richard Participated Sam Participated Sonny Participated Jamal Could not make time commitment Tyrone Could not make time commitment Buster-Could not make time commitment Patrick Did not meet criteria Fred Did not meet criteria Chuck Did not meet criteria Malik Did not meet criteria Malcolm Unable to Contact Vernon Unable to Contact Edgar Unable to Contact Ethnicity: Gender: African American Males Education Profession/Career BAIMA V.P. of a National Organization BA Sales In progress Will graduate Spring 1999 Barber BA Professional architect/Barber I yr. College Account Manager H.S. diploma Electrician BA Mortician BA Manger of retail store BA Sales BAIMA Banker H.S. Musician BA Computer Programmer BA Communications 2 yrs. College Policeman 3 yrs. College Sheriff's Depamnent 50

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Data Collection According to Miles and Huberman (1984) and Yow (1994), strategies which strengthen validity of a qualitative study such as this include: building trusting relationships and participants; collecting data in repeated contacts; seeking data from a primary source and a variety of sources utilizing data that is volunteered; and using skill in posing probing questions to the participants. Three semi-structured interviews were conducted with all participants to collect data for this study. According to (Yow, 1994), "The in-depth interview enables the researcher to give the subject leeway to answer as he chooses, to attribute meaning to the experiences under discussion, and to address the topic.,, Other data collected included informal observations, interviews with family/peers, community members and/or school officials. A total of 200 hours was spent in collecting, transcribing and analyzing and data on each subject during a nine month period in 1997 and 1998. Participant Interviews The participant interviews were designed to elicit information about the participant's childhood, family, school and community experiences. Based on the preliminary review of the literature, the interviews were scheduled at a variety of times in order to obtain as much information as possible on significant events and experiences, or turning points as perceived by the participants. In preparation for the interviews steps were taken to establish a rapport as stated by (Yow, 1994; LeCompte & Preissle, 1993). Arrangements were made for a preliminary meeting, explaining once again the purpose of the project, clarifying expectations of the participants, allowing the participants to become accustomed to and comfortable with the 51

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recording equipment, assuring the participant that he was not obliged to answer all the questions, and letting the participant know that his contributions were important and appreciated. For the purpose ofhelping the participant to relax, each interview session began with a minimal amount of small talk (Yow, 1994). The considerations guiding this methodology and the research questions were drawn from the review of literature. For example, a question that was asked about their life journeys was: "Tell me about your experiences in school and your experiences in your community . This type of"grand tour', question recommended by Spradley (1979) helped to probe the reasons why school achievement was or was not important to participants in this study. The concerns suggested by the literature include the relationship between school achievement and success in life, community support of education, the nature of the sense of kinship in the African American community, and employment opportunities in the area. According to Spradley ( 1979), '
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During the interviews, participants were encouraged to talk about their life experiences as they related to their educational or career success. Review of the literature on African American males, lack of academic and career success led to the development of the interview questions. The questions were asked to elicit elaborated responses from the participants. Information was needed on the cognitive styles utilized by African American males to describe themselves, their surroundings, and the universe of ideas meaningful to them (Word, 1979). When additional information was sought, more specific questions were asked Once data were collected, the interviews were transcnoed, coded and examined for themes or categories. This process of analyzing the data was consistent with the qualitative research method (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993). Familv/Peer-Community Members/School Officials' Interviews Interviews with additional persons or significant others, on the participants were designed to provide information from other perspectives of the participants. For those areas, the researcher defined topics which related to information that emerged from the interviews which is common in the literature review. The interviews were semi-structured with open-ended questions. The interview questions for this group are presented in Appendix B. Data Analysis Everything is considered to have potential importance in a life history interview. Accordingly, each interview was taped and transcribed (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993; Miles & Huberman, 1984; Yow, 1994). The analysis of data occured in stages. '"Memoing'' (Miles & Huberman, 1984), informal notes or jotting down events to help the memory, was used throughout data collection to track ideas as they occurred during and after interviews. 53

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Each of the transcripts were band-coded, utilizing emerging categories. According to LeCompte and Preissle ( 1993), "The first categories to emerge from the data generally are those that occur most frequently (p. 42)." Consequently, information on the life histories, focusing on protective factors and resiliency characteristics did begin to emerge from the participant of this study. Plummer ( 1983) refers to this type of presentation of data as "Limited Life Document.,, "The limited life document does not aim to grasp the fullness of a person, s life, but confronts a particular issue (p.l3 ). The issuein this case is academic attainment and careers of African American males in an adverse social environment. The strategy employed in this portion of the study was most common for writing up life document research according to Plummer (1983, p. 65): ... get your subject's own words, come to really grasp them from the inside and then turn it yourself into a structured and coherent statement that uses the subject's words in places and the social scientist's [researcher] in others but does not lose their authentic meaning. Limitations of the Study 1. Life history methodology utilizes recall as a primary data source and correlation with "real" life events, and issues are difficult to accomplish. 2. Having selected certain family members and friends for interviews may have biased findings. 3. A specific demographic location could narrow findings. Delimitations of the Study (Identified before doing the study) Participants were chosen only from one neighborhood in Northeast Denver 1. All participants had completed high school. 54

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2. Ethnic and gender participant selections were based on review of literature. Summary The analysis of qualitative data can be overwhelming to the researcher. Several sources helped guide the analysis in this study: Strauss and Corbin's (1990), Grounded Theozy Procedures and T echnigues, Plummer's (1983 ), Documents of Life. and LeCompte & Preissle, (1993) Ethnography and Qualitative Design in Educational Research Chapters 4 and 5 of this dissenation will discuss the results of data analysis of this study. 55

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CHAPTER4 LIFE HISTORIES: of Willie, RicharcL Sam, Ron and Sonny This chapter includes the life histories and limited documents (Plummer, 1983) of successful life pathways of five African American males who participated in the study. A life history/life story is one that is dialogically created rather than a history that is discovered and transcribed (McLaughlin & Tierney, 1993). Life histories in the social sciences have been used to understand the relationships between the individual, culture, and society to view the general process of socialization, and to describe people's lives in relation to the social groups in which they grew up (Galindo & Escamilla, 1995). The names of the participants and those of people they named have been changed in order to protect the privacy of those involvecL and to ensure confidentiality of the information shared. The purpose of this study was to examine the protective factors and the adaptive and coping strategies that fostered the successful life pathways of these African American males. It is apparent that the only viable approach to enhancing the successful academic and careers of African American males is to recognize the multivariate nature of the issue. No one variable can be identified as the single cause ofwhy some males are successful academically or in careers. Gibbs (1988) found that the attitude of significant others (parents, peers, and teachers) toward the student was a source of African American youths' success in school and the community. Other key findings in Ramseur's (1989) review of this literature are that the Black 56

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family and community can act as mediators or filters of negative racist images and messages for the Black youth. A phrase occurring often in the literature sums up the resilient child as one who "works welL plays well, loves well, and expects well," (Garmezy, 1974; Werner & SIIlith, 1982). Research Questions The following questions guided this study: 1. What protective factors in the lives of urban African American males guided their successful life pathways despite adverse social circumstances? 2. What are the characteristics that foster resiliency in the lives of African American males growing up in the inner-city? The five panicipants of this study who were interviewed are: Willie, Richard, Sam, Ron and Sonny. The first participant presented is Willie. Willie Willie is a local executive director of a major national organization. He has been in this position for two years. He is twenty-nine years old and married. He and his wife are proud parents of two children. Willie graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1991 and received his Master of Arts in Public Administration in 1995. Willie was born and raised in Denver. He and his twin sister were the last of ten children born to their parents. His mother and father divorced when he was six years old. His mother raised all the children. Immediately after the divorce, his father moved to Texas, where the majority of his father,s immediate family lived. 57

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Willie never saw his father again. He recalled his older siblings visiting their father in Texas, but he, personally, never went to visit his father. "'I was a momma,s boy." Willie Presents His Family His mother and father completed junior college. Willie, s maternal grandmother completed high schooL His maternal grandfather died when his mother was nine years old. Willie knew very little about his grandfather. On his paternal side neither of his grandparents completed a formal education. Willie remembered: My family '"being quite chaotic" -not as stable as most families. I remember being in the dark several nights. I remember being cold and hungry. However, with all this chaos we were a close family who cared deeply about each other often times demonstrated by anger at one another. He had contact only with his maternal grandmother who lived in Denver. Willie remembered: My grandmother was my mother's partner, friend, backbone, and she was very close to the family, as well. She didn't live with us, but she was always with us during the holidays. She lived only five minutes away and we could always get to her if we wanted to. My mother was her only child. Willie descnoed his relationship with his siblings as close. The brother that was closest to him in birth was the one with whom he had the most conflict. He was like my hero and he was very tough on me as a young person. As time passed, I understood why he was so hard on me. He saw qualities and promises for me. Although most of my brothers and sisters were older, I think I had a pretty close relationship with all of them. Growing up as a twin was difficult; there is resentment because you want things of your own. You want your own birthday and you want your own identity. There was tension growing up, but as we got older, we appreciated the fact that we were twins and were very close. 58

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Reflecting on significant individuals in his life, Willie stated, "God first." Of course, there were others, his uncle, as he addressed him, was not a relative, but a very close friend to his parents. Uncle Joe was, and he still is, a very important person that was involved with my life. Uncle Joe assumed the role of my father. I don't know why he took particular interest in me, but he would take me on summer vacations and lots of road trips with him. Uncle Joe had a son; we spent a lot of time together. I was constantly over at his house. We had good times. He made sure that if I needed anything, all I had to do was ask him. He always responded. He was a very spiritual man; I think that's where my spiritual introductions may have come from. I must have been about five years old when I had my first church visit. I still attend the same church. I think it's because of Uncle Joe that I did not tum out the way some of my close like Jasper, for example: I had some male in my life that made me feel special and that I had a support system. Willie expressed the love and support his mother provided at all times. My mother, whether or not she was able to provide school supplies, she always provided them. She was very involved in schooL I mean school folks knew who she was. She was at all events: athletic, academic and any special event. That really helped me achieve. That was also very important to me because I knew that as long as they, the school, knew my mother, I couldn't do anything bad. It was a trophy for me for folks to know and respect who my mother was. She always helped me with my school work and supported and encouraged me. Willie Presents His Educational Experiences Willie shared one ofhis most memorable educational experiences which occurred when he was in the sixth grade. Willie recalled: This turned my life around. I was a rebel in schooL I had never been referred to the principal in school, but I was the sneaky kid. I got away with a lot. I hung with a pack of guys who got me going bullying the girls and sneaky stuff. One day in sixth grade the teacher told me, "Sit down or I'm going to send you to the principal." I was a chatter-mouth and constantly seeking the attention of my classmates. I threw a tantrum, tossing desks, tears streaming 59

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down my face. I ignored her. She got up and "That's it." She drug me to the principal's office. She looked at the principal and "This is the brightest student I have and I just want him to cool off for a minute." That changed my whole life. I had the greatest respect for that teacher. I was a totally different student when I returned to class. Matter of fact, at that time, the principal "I think he ought to do the continuation address if he's the brightest student." She agreed. I focus on that to this day. That changed my life. As Willie continued in middle schooL he became active in Student Council and choir and focused on being a good student. He recalled his high school years as challenging and enjoyable. He considered himself an average student. He didn't see himself different from any other student. He loved school and he had good times and good friends. His positive experiences outweighed the negative ones. In high schooL Willie found himself involved in many extracurricular activities, including student government and choir. Willie never thought he wasn't going to college. He knew he was goin& but never gave thought as to how it was going to be financed. He remembers taking the initiative. The counseling department, as far as I was was not prepping me to move to the college level. Whether it was helping me to reach colleges or fill out the proper work, I don't think the support was there from the school. He did secure a partial scholarship for academic and leadership; the rest was funded by financial aid. Willie was the first member of his family to graduate with a bachelor's degree. Some of his siblings completed their formal education with a year or two in college. ccrm the only one in my family to complete a four-year college education.'., 60

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Willie's View ofHis Peers and the Communitv Willie descnoed his neighborhood in Northeast Denver as a ''supposedly very high crime area." The majority of the people who lived in his neighborhood were African American. Prior to his moving to this neighborhood, his family moved quite a bit. He spem the majority of his childhood and adolescent years in his Northeast Denver home. Like most young people growing up, he had a close friend who lived across the street from him, named Jasper. He recalls there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood, but Jasper and he were probably the closest. He remembered: Jasper and I did just about everything together. Every morning we were up on our bikes. We would play football. We both thought we were pretty talented football playersrunning, catching, and quite frankly, the two of us were probably the fastest guys in the neighborhood. We were well respected on the football field. Willie's neighborhood had few resources as he described: We had the middle school up the street. There was the library just down the street and the high school within walking distance. We also had a recreation center that was operated by the Salvation Army. The center provided educational, cultural, religious and athletic opponunities. Many adults were involved in the neighborhood activities when Willie was growing up. He believed this kept most of the young people out of trouble .... '1 knew if I messed up, my mother would get on my case." Willie knew the gangs were just getting started. "As a matter of fact, a lot of my friends from elementary and middle school and even high school became part of gangs." Willie noted: Jasper, my closest friend, became a bard-core gang member. The gang members tended to respect us guys like myself more than anything. They even wanted to protect us more than anything, guys like me. They weren't 61

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interested in guys like me. I they would, for example, when we were in high school, they would see me in the halls, they would say, 'What's up Willie?" They'd talk to me like one of their home boys. We had a mutual respect. It wasn't a fighting kind of respect statement. We grew up together as brothers, and they weren't going to let anything happen to me unless I went to the other side. They knew I was neutral and it wasn't an issue. Willie felt the problems with the gangs were territorial and growing up with the boys made a difference. He never felt intimidated. "There was a mutual respect. They had different lives.,, Willie described: Walking up to a couple of gang members and saying, 'Why are you all doing this? Putting the city in fear!" They replied, ''We just want to be understood. We're not trying to put anybody in fear, but we're not going to let anyone come into our territory. You know!,, Actually it became a source of jokes with us as well. They would see me coming in the hall or on the street and would say, "Here comes the president!'' "Here comes the head boy." I can't remember what I used to call them, but it was a source of humor as well. Willie Reflects on His Life Looking back over the times, Willie reflected on his suppon and encouragement he had from his mother and family. He felt his mother was the driving force. He remembers his older brother who had a football scholarship, where everything was paid for. He described his brother as one of those guys who allowed women to influence his life a lot. "Ultimately he dropped out of school because he wanted to be home in Denver with some girl." He explained: This broke my mother's heart even now [sic]. I'll never forget seeing her cry the night he came home saying she can't believe she trusted that he would follow through. At that moment I decided I'm going to school and I'm going to finish college. Most importantly, I didn't like seeing my mother hun. I made a decision then I would make her very proud of me. Personally, as Willie reflected on his life, many things were drawing comparisons and awareness he had not thought ofbefore. 62

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Willie recalled: Some difficulties I had, as other Black males, teenagers or young aduhs, were problems with the police. I had never been arrested, but I recall being stopped by the police and told I'm being stopped because I'm "a Black man." He continued: I'll never forget being in Cherry Creek one night after a high school dance. All the students would go to the pancake house before we went home. I was in my mother's car. I happened to see these lights behind me. I pulled over and I asked the officer, "Why did you stop meT He actually pulled me out of the car. He repeated himself "You're a Black male. You're driving a nice car and you're in Cherry Creek., He said, "So you go figure," and walked away. My friend who was in the car jumped out; he was hot. I cooled him down. As a Black male, I was conscious of the fact again, we're on-stage. Willie discussed the fact that incidents like this and others made him much more aware of what was expected ofhim as an African American male. He echoed his realization of how he had to do things ten times better. ''To be honest with you, I think that some of that is subliminally indoctrinated in young African Americans at an early age. Every time you look in a mirror, you are reminded of the fact that I could pick up this piece of paper, but when I pick it up, I better pick it up ten times more graceful than my Anglo counterpart., He felt whatever he did he was always under a looking glass and he had to do everything ten times better in order to get respect and recognition by others. "So, yeah, you feel like you're constantly on stage, I guess is the way to say Keeping a strong identity and being proud of who I was, was more so in college than in elementary, middle and high school. I went to school in rural Nebraska. I can remember the few Blacks on campus wanted a Black Student Union. We felt we had to do something to bring our culture to this campus and have it respected. We were paying $10,000 for an education just as everyone else. Instead of taking European history, we thought we should have the right to take African American history. We demanded it. 63

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Willie said, "Racism was quite evident on the college campus as the student body of African American students were small; the majority of the minority students were athletes who were on scholarship." Wtllie reflected: When we started making those demands . I remember getting slips or notes slid under my door, you know, telling me to leave campus because we don't need this [expletive] in Nebraska. I can remember we got notes posted on our doors, "It's not who you know, but who knows you." It was tough. It was really tough. These experiences coupled with others have made Willie a more grateful person. He feels having the opportunity to experience some things makes one strong in character and person. 'WIth these experiences and life in general, I have absolutely no problem standing up talking about being a Black male in today's society. I talk about issues that impact our community and about the things we need to do, and I'll be looking at an all White audience.'' Willie concluded: I think that more and more as I look at what we're going through as Black men and the Black community as a whole, the more and more I realize we just need to get back to the basics, the basics of spirituality and family as priorities in our lives. Once we realize that those are the priorities in our lives, then all of the other things tend to fall into place. Once you decide God and family are number one, there is nothing anyone else can take away from you. I remember many times being out there and feeling like, you know, I'm going through all of this now and I don't understand why. Knowing I had family, and I could get on my knees and find comfort at anytime; that kept me going. Once I decided that I'm going to get my degree, once I got that piece of paper, there's nothing anyone can take away from me. They can't take that away. I've earned it. It is mine. I can go anywhere I want to. I would say this to any young brother, particularly our athletes, who are getting scholarships. Just the other day I had a young man in my office who is going to attend CSU on a football scholarship. I looked at him and said, of how your career goes up there in Fort Collins, get your degree. Get your degree, period.'' 64

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Summary ofProtective Factors from Interviews and Observations of Others In addition to having a positive school experience from elementary throughout high school, Willie attributed his educational success to his mother for the encouragement and support she provided. He also had a strong will to be successfuL He was determined to be the first in his family to graduate from a four-year institution, receive his bachelor's degree and continue on to earn a master's degree. Willie felt he had a goal to accomplish, which he did. His family played an important role. My mother helped me achieve and then move on. She assisted me by being involved with my homework She always helped. I'll never forget my mother staying up one night. I had a paper to do and she had not used the typewriter in a long time, but she knew how to type. She typed my paper for me. It was like four o'clock in the afternoon and she stayed with me until one o'clock in the morning typing my paper. I'll never forget that. His mother, his siblings, and most importantly, his Uncle Joe, were his role models. They encouraged and supported his achievements. Finally, Willie attributed his educational success to his persistence. He stated: I don't think there was a moment that sticks out when I decided I wasn't going to college. I think there was just never a question that I was going to attend college. I decided I was going to college and r m going to complete it . . And I did! Family. During a formal interview session with Willie's mother, she indicated that she was very proud of Willie and his accomplishments. Of her ten children, he was the most determined to be successfuL "Maybe because he was the youngest." She recalled his always being excited about schooL She explained. "He was a terror 65

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in elementary school" However, he changed in middle school. "Willie was a leader. He loved to learn and to have people follow ideas that he had." She shared, "The people in the community always spoke highly of him. He was well liked by the young and the elders. n "Willie had a connectedness to others in the community. That still holds nue today." She mentioned he always took a personal responsibility to look after those who needed assistance." After he graduated from high school and was in college, he wanted to make contact with the young people of the community to give them advice." Willie's mother was extremely proud of all her children, but Willie seemed to be the one who got all the awards and was always getting honored. "He had me and all of his nine brothers and sister encouraging and supporting him. He knew better than to get with the wrong group. Willie knew perfectly well the things that I would and would not tolerate. He had to face me!'' "I feel Willie had a strong desire to please me and be the best he could be in life. He was religious and used this to keep him focused. He is a good person. He's a good son!" Friend. In the interview with a close friend ofWillie, he agreed growing up with Willie was an adventure. "He was always full of energy and he had a good sense ofhumor." He had the leadership skills that engaged others in being part of positive activities. He was well respected at school and in the neighborhood. The description of him was clear. He was seen as respectful and as a good person. He valued school and learning. had a good sense of who he was. He was a Black male and very proud of it." They shared that Wtllie always had ideas of keeping everyone involved. "He had plans that gave everyone an opportunity to have a part in whatever was going on. I think he was always plannmg for a project." His friend emphasized the imponance he placed on helping others. He wanted to make 66

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decisions that would make a positive and lasting impact on the school and the community. "He wanted us to always look good." Teacher. In an interview with a former Social Studies teacher of who "Whenever I wanted something positive to happen in the buildin& I knew I could call on Willie's leadership. He was active in student council and in choir. Willie was well liked and respected by both the White and Black students." He stated Willie had confidence in who he was and what he wanted to do with his life. 'Willie had developed strategies that enabled him to minimize any alienation associated with having academic excellence as some of the other African American students did not. He bragged on how hard he studied." He maintained an A average in Social Studies for the two semesters he was in Mr. L s class. "W"'Illie was not afraid to ask questions in class He always wanted to know what were the Blacks doing in certain periods of history He had a good identity and pride of his culture. "I knew Willie would be successful in anything he tried. You could see he wanted to accomplish many milestones in his life." Personal Observation ofWillie. An observation of Willie in his present position was interesting and zestful. Willie was highly respected by the elders in the community. In brief conversation, they proudly recalled his growing up showing promise to be a leader. He has presented at several engagements throughout the city. On the occasion when I observed him. he was the guest speaker at a luncheon recognizing elders in the community. He referred to his early adolescence in his his mother, his family and most importantly, his community, as being anchors for his success He is a young man with a mission to continually improve life for the people in his community. He discussed how to be successful in school including: "get good grades, work study pay attention, be respectful, follow directions and help others." 67

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I He addressed the importance of the community in supporting, encouraging and recognizing young people. Willie spoke on how adults in the Black community used to tell you what to do and you did it. "Today's young people frighten the elders as they don't seem to have the respect as we had." He expressed the wisdom, knowledge and history the members of the community with hopes and intentions of making life better for the next generation. He shared in his present position as a community leader. He is concerned that we are losing a generation of young people, especially African American boys. In closing, he applauded the community and the elders for being there for him and to continue their efforts as they "Do make a difference!" Richard Richard is a licensed barber. He is a single parent of a three-year-old boy. He is twenty-eight years old. He is short of his bachelor's degree by six hours, and he is presently taking a class and assured me he would complete his course work by Spring semester of 1999. Richard was born in a small town in Colorado with a population of about 5,000. His father was in the military which involved quite a bit of traveling for the family. However, they settled in Denver when he was five years old. His parents are still together. He is the second of three children. He has an older brother and a younger sister. He believes had a good childhood with a great deal of parental support. Both of his parents had completed two years of college. Richard Presents His Family He remembered his maternal grandparents, but knew very little about his paternal grandparents. He knew that his grandpa had only a second grade education. 68

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He wasn't sure about his grandmother's education. He had a lot of contact with them. He was happy over the fact that he had a big, extended family. He remembers his grandparents as being very active in the church. My grandfather and grandmother both were pastors. They both had a great influence on my life, and so it kind of triggered over and got me into the church and molded me to being who I am today. Being a middle child, Richard said he tried to be equally responsive to both of his siblings. He felt he had a good relationship with both of them. As they have gotten older.,. he hasn't spent as much time with them. His sister lives in Florida, but he makes periodic telephone contact with her. His brother lives in Denver.,. and they try to have lunch at least once a month. As he stated, they both have very busy lives and commitments, but they still try to keep the contact. When we were kids, we spent a lot of time together. Our parents would take us on outings; we would go for walks and rides. We were a pretty tight-knit family. One of the biggest things in our family was the way education was stressed. We were always told that education was the key to success, to open doors, and an opportunity for you to do things you would want to do. It was highly stressed . . Yes, it was. As Richard and his brother and sister grew up, he recalls they were always involved in a lot of activities: sports, choir and track and field-the last of which he especially enjoyed. He chuckled: I was involved in Student Council and a lot of extracurricular activities after school to keep me busy ... to keep me out of trouble. I knew trouble was out there. I chose at an early age in my life that I didn't want to be a part of bad stuff I wanted to make a difference. I centered my life around things that were positive, things that would lead me down the road to success. I felt if I started at a young age and got myself something positive, then it would carry over as I got older. It's like if you start some good habits when you're it kind of carries over with you as you get older. 69

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In discussing summertime., Richard mentioned most ofhis vacation was spent going to summer schooL He explained: To be honest., I went to summer school a lot. Not that I failed classes during the school year., but just to keep myself active., because I enjoyed learning Learning was a big tool for me., so I pretty much went year round. I would hang out with my friends, and we would often go to the neighborhood Community Center which was not far from home. I was so active at the Center during my school years that after graduating from high school, I worked as a counselor for younger boys and girls for a couple of summers at the Center. Richard continued to mention keeping busy was so important for him because in the neighborhood he grew up in there was a lot of tension and a lot of strife. He shakes his head sadly, saying: At the time I was growing up. it was really hard. It was hard to concentrate because this was a gang-related area. It was real hard to concentrate. I wasn't pressured by gang members, but I knew I didn't want to associate myself around them. My parents were such a support they would not have allowed me to be involved with groups like the Bloods or Crips. I often had to sit down and read, a way to find some quiet time for myself. Yes., reflecting, that was hard times. Richard Presents His Educational Experiences Richard., who always attended public school, remembers his early experiences with school as being very positive. He enjoyed learning and his grades and excitement for learning were indications that he was doing well. He reflected: My first day of school, when I entered kindergarten, was a great day; I was real excited. I remember my Yogi Bear lunch pail that was special, also having to have a packed lunch. My first day was really good. I enjoyed .... I didn't want to leave at the end of the day. I wanted to stay, but I knew I could come back the next day. Yes, I learned, I mean education was a big thing for me at an early age. 70

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Richard explained in elementary school, his elementary teachers were there to give the basics, and he wanted to excel. Therefore, he worked very hard, learning everything they were teaching him. His success in school continued on into middle and high school. Richard remembered : My junior high school teachers were special. I really enjoyed them I think maybe it was because I was a little more mature; I saw where I wanted to go. I enjoyed going to classes and learning. My friends were great motivators for me, also. I couldn't wait to go to high school . doing well in school would be my ticket to wherever I wanted to go. It was very important for me to do well. Growing up in this community, I wanted to do well I wanted to get out ofwhat I was in, and to succeed and to make a better life for myself. I wasn t the best student, but I was highly motivated to stay on the honor roll. I was determined I was not going to make it tougher on myself being a Black male ; I knew I had to work hard and get good grades. He mentions that one of his memorable educational experiences was taking a course in African American history. Richard shared: It was really important for especially Black to know where they came from, so they would have an idea where they're going ... to learn about their heritage. This played a big pan in my life as far as education Yes, I really enjoyed my high schooL My teachers were not just teachers, but they were your friends as welL You could talk to them about anything From time to time Richard mentioned one teacher who would take a special interest in him. Fortunately for Richard, this was a high school physics teacher. He would help him with problems he had at home, or if he needed help in other course work. He encouraged him about his education and stressed the importance about going to college. He always said, "You're not going to get anywhere in life taking Mickey Mouse classes." He stressecL "You need to push yourself past your comfort zone, and take accelerated classes, motivate yourself to do better He was impressed with this teacher, as he would take time out after school to get him involved in other after-school activities that would motivate him. He was a big influence, he sighs, "He was genuine." 71

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Richard took responsibility for his education in many ways. "The folks I hung out with were like me, anxious to get ahead." Richard considered himself an above average student. He knew he wanted to go to college but didn't know just what lay ahead for him. It was his best friend who one day said, '"Hey, let's go to the same college." This was an exciting idea as he reflects. They had gone to elementary, junior and high school, and now they were considering college life together. And they did enter college together! Most of Richard's college education was financed through financial aid. He had athletic and music scholarships that helped with some of his finances. Richard attended a smalL Midwestern college in which he shared he had good times. '"Everybody knew everybody.,, He stressed how he really enjoyed college life because he had no bills and food was prepared at all times. All he had to do was go to classes and learn. "My main concern was to concentrate on my studies. And if you were involved in extracurricular activities, you did your thing. So, I really enjoyed college.'' He didn't graduate; however, he is presently working towards getting his degree by taking evening courses. Richard explained that his physics teacher and his best Ray, were great influences on him in high schooL His mom and dad encouraged him and were supportive. He had a lot of parental support, but he noted: To be honest with you, my parents really did not motivate me that much in schooL They felt it wasn't a need for them to go up to the school and to see how I was doing. They could see my progress when I brought home my repon cards, and they knew I was doing well ... so they felt it wasn't a need to check on me . they knew I was a self-starter, a self-motivated person. They concentrated more on my younger sister and older brother, they weren't as strong in their academics as I was, so more attention was given to them. However, they were always supportive. Richard took responsibility for his education in many ways. Because his parents trusted him, he continued to challenge himself. He was a self-motivator. He 72

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would do his homework without reservations. If he needed additional he knew he could seek and get help from his teachers. Richard's Views ofHis Peers and the Community He stated his best friend, Ray, was one reason he was so successfuL cr admired him; he kept me involved. He was always active in school and I tried to model him.'" He explained that there was a lot of criticism from other people and friends, because he and Ray were being successfuL He related: I always stood by Ray's side. I understood Ray like no one else did. He understood me the same way. We both knew we wanted to be successfuL We would put all the negative aside; we had this down-to-eanh, side-by-side relationship. We could talk and kid around, but we knew how to get serious. We had each other, and yeah, we would have our moments of misunderstanding, but we had a great mutual respect and understanding for each other. Richard credits his mother with giving him a lot of encouragement. always told me you can do it. You can do anything that you want to do. She was a big influence in my life.,., He talked about a lady who lived in his neighborhood who inspired him a great deaL "She was indeed a great motivator.'' She was an English teacher before she became a local news broadcaster. "She encouraged me, you know. She would take the time and talk to me and tell me I can do anything that I wanted to do ... besides [laughing], her daughter liked me, too." Richard also baby-sat for the local city councilman's son. He also mentions the councilman was a big influence on his life. 'cr would say I had strong role models in the community who took the time to listen and give me encouragement. This was really helpful for me. It meant a lot." 73

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Richard Reflects on His Life Richard shared that he had a few encounters as he was growing up. He related these issues to being an African American male. He explained: I can give you a prime example. I worked for this company in Castle Rock; they had not had many African Americans work for them. They really made my job very difficult for me. I was a video production manager. I faced a lot of racism. Times were very hard, but I managed to survive. It made me a stronger person. He shared that being African American was, and is, a problem when he goes out into the job market. You can have all this education behind you, but being a Black male, especially in our society, you're facing a lot of resentment. If you are a Black male and well prepared, you're going to get people that are going to question you and they are going to try and knock you down as much as they can. On the other side, there are people out there that want to see you succeed and to do well, and those people will help you. Summary ofProtective Factors from Interviews and Observations of Others Family. In addition to having a positive and enjoyable school experience early on, Richard attributed his educational success to the confidence of his parents and the encouragement of his high school physics teacher and his best friend, Ray, and most importantly, his own self-motivation and determination to be successful in schooL Richard is now in school completing his six hours to receive his bachelor's degree in the Spring of 1999. He wants to make a career change. He obtained his barber's license because he knew he could secure a job quickly, and he enjoys cutting hair. 74

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Once he obtains his degree in communications, he wants to work with young people. He expressed that it is really important to have Black role models in the schools. He feels there are so many single family homes without fathers., and his presence is needed as a role modeL He feels that there needs to be more of a presence ofBlack role models in school systems so that they can stand up and let the young Black students know they can be successfuL "They don't need to sell drugs to be successful in life; they can use their minds and God-given talent to do whatever they want to in life." Like his teachers, and friend, who were his supporters throughout his growing up, he wants the same for his sen. Richard is a single parent and he wants to be a good role model for his son.. I want him to be successful. I mean, the sky's the limit. And he is his only limitation. I want to be able to motivate him in every way possible. I want to encourage him to continue his education; I'm going to always be there for him. Observation. An observation of Richard revealed him as a loving and very attentive father. He worked out of his house as a barber in order to be at home with his son. He didn't want to share any information regarding his reasons for single parenting. He was reserved about personal issues. However, he was eager to talk about being a good father and wanted his son to be proud of him. He wanted his son to have a childhood similar to his, where there was always family involvement. He wanted his son to be happy, smart and athletic. During my visit, Richard played ball with him. He wanted his son to be a good athlete. His son had a soccer ball. He demonstrated and gave instructions on how to approach the ball to kick it, very patiently. He showed a lot of calmness and love. 75

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Friend. In an interview with Richard's best friend Ray, he sees Richard as a quiet fellow, but one who keeps his word. "He is dependable and trustworthy. He is friendly, but often stays to himself." Now that he works out of his home and takes care of his son, he doesn't socialize very much. "Richard and I always talked about doing welL We played around, but it was fun-nothing that would get us in trouble. We have big arguments sometimes but never lost respect for each other. We were really tight." Ray discussed how he and Richard would stay on the telephone late at night quizzing each other for an up-coming test. '"Richard is a genuine friend. He was a sensitive guy, he knew how to listen. He was always dreaming of what he wanted to do when he grew up to be a man. He wanted a family, a nice home and a sharp car." Ray believed that Richard modeled his dad, as he was very proud ofhim; however, he, too, was quite a man. Teacher. A high school teacher ofRichard's remembered him as studious. He shared he was always reading a book. "He liked to read. He read a lot. He was always at school and enjoyed schooL" He could count on Richard having his homework. He was a pleasure to have in a classroom. He was always prepared and an active participant in class. "He was always considered a 11 good" student. Other students respected him although some of his friends did not do as well as he did; he never let up. Richard was a very bright student who worked bard in schooL II Mr. Y remembered staying after school to help Richard with his assignments when he needed help "Richard wanted to be a good student; he never was late to class or missed an assignment." Mr. Y mentioned that Richard was not a selfish person. He would help others who were not sure of how to solve problems He was good at solving problems. '"He had to be pushed sometimes, but when he knew he bad support, he moved ahead without hesitation He was just a nice guy!" 76

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Richard was able to avoid negative peer pressure by keeping himself involved in sports and academics. He was a traek star. A lot of his time was conditioning and preparing for track meets. Community. In an interview with the manager of the recreation center in the community where Richard worked during the summer months, he shared another profile of Richard. Mr. Blade is still amazed on how well Richard worked with the young people when he was a youth counselor. was looked up to, and still is, by young people. One of the reasons he made it out of this community and is successfu.l, is because he was persistent in keeping a positive focus and to have the best life had to offer him." He mentioned that Richard was motivated to get himself top honors in academics and sports. Richard would come to work early some days so that he could work out before the young people arrived. He had a plan and always stuck with it." He had many friends, but most imponantly, enjoyed working with the younger children. "I knew ifRichard had kids of his own, he would be a very good father." Sam was a professional arena football player. He is a single parent who is raising two boys. In his off season he works as a barber. He was born and raised in Denver. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in art from Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. Sam Presents His Family Sam has a younger brother. He has a large, extended family. His father's family have lived in the Denver area for four generations. He knew his maternal grandmother, but not his maternal grandfather, although he mentioned he did have a 77

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lot of contact with his mother's side of the family. However, he spent a great deal of time with his paternal grandparents, especially his grandfather. His father's side was large. "I spent more time with my father's parents, my grandmother and grandfather before he passed." He shared he had a lot of uncles, aunts and many cousins. His mother and father graduated from high schooL Sam's father went into the armed services after high schooL He recalls his mother had a variety of jobs when he was growing up. She did child care and worked as a secretary. His father was a carpenter and painter. He remembers his father being a foreman for a company. Sam often accompanied him on some of his smaller jobs. It was fun growing up in his family. He commented: We, my brother and me, were punished when we did something wrong, which I felt was normaL I mean we were disciplined. We had hard times where it got rough, but we made it. We had our share of fussing and arguing; but it didn't bother me. As Sam was growing up, he remembered a lot of family celebrations. He recalled: We always found time to get together. There was always barbecues, picnics, everything was a celebration in this family. I can remember quite vividly, when my little brother was born. You see, I was the oldest grandson for a while. I wasn't too happy when he came along. I was honestly jealous. However, this was a big celebration. Another big celebration was my going to college and graduating from college. See, I was the first to go to college in my immediate family. As his brother got older and he developed a great love for him, Sam grew to have a very close relationship with his baby brother, PauL He explained: Paul plays a really big part of my life. We sit and talk a lot. We talk about sports and life's problems. We talk over problems either one may be experiencing. I find Paul to be a strong person, also. He's really independent; he likes to do things his own way. But, he's a real good partner. You know, along side being my brother. 78

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Speaking of having someone to talk to, Sam as he began to reflect on a special aunt. This aunt was his mother's sister. He mentioned he knew he could sit and talk to her a lot. She really liked to talk. He can remember after graduating from high school, how scared he was to go to the next level, that is leaving home. He remembers visiting Aunt J, sharing his fears: She sat me down and she said, "Hey, this is your turning point of your life, where you can go down or you can keep going up., She made this a real positive, that you could just keep going up and up, instead of .... You know, you're going to hit some long, lonely roads; it"s going to get hard; it's going to be difficult; but just having these special moments helped me to be more positive and stronger. I still go to her today; I still go to her to talk about a lot of things, personal problems, and just regular conversation. Sam's family played a major part in his education. His cousins on his father's side were setting a pace. He was not about to let his family down by not keeping on the educational journey. On his father's side every one of his cousins that were older than him had done very well in school. He recalled: It was like, every May or June we had a graduation to go to because my cousins were graduating one year after another. It was like a cycle, and to be in that cycle and not achieve what your cousins had done or your parents, it was almost like a failure to the family. You didn't want to let anybody down. You knew you could do better. You didn't have any reason to fail. Sam Presents His Educational Experiences When Sam thought about his overall school experiences, he had some difficulty remembering his elementary school days. However, he expressed he was always excited about learning. He felt in junior high and high school he could have been a better student, but he just studied enough to get by. He felt he was lazy. He 79

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knew he could have done more academically. He could remember his mother fussing at him about getting his work done. He feh good about school because he could not remember any bad times that leaped out at him. He stated, "I enjoyed going to schooL, The most important thing that he really remembers is love for art. "I love my art, and I really enjoyed that part of going to school. I actually hated some of the other classes; I just didn't like them., However, he was clever enough to move along and keep a low key, but a good pace. In junior high school he was selected to participate in one of the local chapter Black fraternity's program. This fraternity of African American men would mentor twenty young men through school; helping them with homework; giving them opportunities to attend local social and athletic events. He explained: We were made to feel like we were in a fraternity. They were excellent examples of Black role models. All of them had gone to college and had professional jobs. Boy, that impressed me. They were pretty much preparing us to think about college. They had a lot of influence on my life, aside of just doing extracurricular activities. Later in life I joined that same fraternity. Sam really enjoyed his high school years. This was the same high school his parents had graduated from, as well as the high school where all his older cousins had graduated from. He felt a sense of legacy being at the high schooL Sam stated: I knew I could be a good student. Sometimes I kind of got beside myself and did some bad things. But overall, I was an okay student. I felt real good about being the student that I was ... I was a pretty good student. The way Sam carried himself: proud, laid back, and confident, made him feel others looked up to him. He was kidded about because of the way his voice sounds, which he describes as high-pitched. He indicated he had a kid-like voice when he was in high schooL He smiled: 80

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I know they respected me a lot. It is seen today when I see some of my classmates. I really didn't know how much I was respected until this day. I guess I was looked up to with some leadership more than I ever knew. In high school Sam participated in mostly athletic activities, especially football; he tried out for the basketball team and was cut. He did some wrestling and played baseball for a while. He remembers a lot ofLittle League football back in elementary school with the local recreation center. He had an active athletic childhood. Sam recalled thinking about going to college when he was in junior high schooL It got more on my mind when I was in high schooL I began to talk more with teachers and counselors. I was always being asked what type of goals I was setting for myself and what did I want to do when I get older. Funny, I wanted to be an architect, until I found out I had to do a lot of math. That kind of changed my mind. But I stayed within the realm; I went with art. Sam's Views ofHis Peers and the Community In reflecting on his community, Sam felt it wasn't as drastic as it is today. there are so many so-called gangs; it wasn't as bad as it is now. Actually, it could have been, but I honestly didn't pay that much attention, because I was so busy doing things. Keeping active! I was constantly doing something constructive., One thing that kept Sam in line was his community. He noted: There were so many people in the community who knew my mom and dad that I had to keep a show of face. I can remember them saying, "I'll find out if you're doing something wrong," and one day it happened. She [his mother] found out I was where I wasn't supposed to be. The people down the street had already reported 81

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seeing me. Boy, did I pay for that mistake! I realize I bad to keep busy, and to be honest, I didn't have time to get caught up in anything wrong. Sam always used the local recreation center as a place for good fun, as well as the YMCA, which was in walking distance from his house. There was a library that was available; he bad many adequate resources he felt . many things to keep him involved in a positive way. His grandmother had a ceramic shop in the neighborhood. He found himself helping out in the shop. He also was able to get small jobs, cutting grass in the summertime and shoveling snow in the wintertime He knew how to market himself for paid service. One of Sam, s major concerns was seeing his community, as he expresses it, "Rot away as it is." He observed a lot of drug traffic that was beginning to move in the area when he was growing up. That was a big fear His only regret was he wished he could have been more involved in community actions, but his athletic activities were his priority At the time Sam was growing up, he remembers neighbors having barbecues and everyone in the neighborhood was always invited Playing games in the from yard, playing in the streets, playing until the street lights would come on at night As Sam related: Those were good memories about the community; you didn't have to worry about someone creeping around, no one drive-by shooting. You could sit on your front porch at night and just feel good. How quickly time changes! Many of the adults in the community really had a lot of respect for the kids in the neighborhood. "They valued us. If something was needed to be done to help the elders, we, the kids., were there to help. Not today.,, Times have changed as well as the neighborhood Sam shared: The only thing I really didn't concentrate on and to this day was to have a church affiliation. I just couldn't decide what church to go to. One 82

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grandmother was a Baptist, the other was Jehovah's Wttness. Both spoke to me about their religion. I guess it's a decision I will have to make on my own. However, religion was alive in my family, church was always spoken when we were around the elders. Sam Reflects on His Life Sam attributed his success partially to his positive attitude. He felt his mellowness, easy-going personality, along with being good at doing things and wanting to be the best at what he did, pushed him to be successful. He felt he was a self-starter and a risk-taker, particularly because he wanted to, "Do the right thing.'' He specifically believed that he had the control over what he wanted his outcomes to be, that is, within limits. He explained: I have had ups and downs; however, my married life was a hard period in my life. It was downfall in a period of my life. In the discussion of divorce, I felt extremely bad. This was not anything I had seen in my immediate or extended family. I felt ashamed. I felt I was letting everybody down because I couldn't work out the adjustments in my marriage. I was really ashamed of that one thing. Instead, I worked this out, I realized I had to bring myself back up. I feel I am just getting myself out of the rut. In spite of the marriage failure, Sam indicated he had some control of what he wanted to do professionally with his life. He always wanted to play professional football. He worked hard to make the team and has been playing professionally now for ten years. Playing professional football, being divorced and the father of two young boys, made him rethink his profession. He was a licensed barber during the off-season, as well as the custodian of the children. He shared the children with their mother during the football season. He recently purchased a home in Denver. When he completes his football career, he feels that is when he will concentrate on his art. He enjoys sculpturing. In addressing his concerns, with making adjustments into the mainstream being an African American male, he noted: 83

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I kind of jumped in with both feet and took off I didn't let most of the mainstream activities bother me, as far as this group or that group. I feel when you do that, it slows you down, and holds you back because that's going to always be on your mind. My mother always made a point to tell me about my heritage; be proud and carry yourself proud. She made it a point to let us know about our past, but always stressed that I should never let negatives be a barricade, but to hurdle for the type of achievement you want in life. Sam is trying to balance his professional life with his personal life He stated: This is a struggle, being a single parent. Nevertheless, I try to spend as much time with my boys and with my family as I can, between playing football and being at home. It's a balancing act! I just show a lot oflove. I think when you show that love to your family, they know where you are. Moreover, life continues to be hectic and enjoyable for Sam. One thing he mentioned is he would like to have a significant other in his life that he could share some good times with. He spoke warmly about being proud of his boys and being a good role model, as his grandfather and father were for him. Summary of Protective Factors from Interviews and Familv. Sam attributed his academic success to family encouragement and support, his own personal desire to achieve. In addition to having a strong commitment not be a failure in the family, he knew at an early age he was going to be successfuL He was and still is very proud of and close to his immediate and extended family He felt the community was a tremendous support to his success because of the high expec+..ations they shared. He was determined no one or anything was going to be a barrier that he could not hurdle. Sam credits his success, in part, to his strong belief in himself He knew that he would have many challenges, but was confident he had a strong support system to help him along the way. 84

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Finally, Sam is most grateful to his parents who mentored him as he was growing up, and most of all his mother, who in Sam's word, was "a strong, stern woman, who had a big influence on my life., Family. An interview with Sam's mother gave additional insights of him. She shared that Sam was her first born and was very upset when his younger brother was born. But having a family celebration of a new baby in the family was so powerful she believed it made Sam realize this baby brother was also special and that Sam had a special task to take care of him and show him how to be big and strong like he was. She wanted Sam to be assured his love was going to continue and to be shared with his brother. "I always let my boys know that it was okay to be loving and strong. I wanted them to be confident and to always express their feelings and creativity. She shared Sam had so many cousins and everyone was competing for attention. "Sam did very well in schooL He always wanted to out do a cousin that was near or at his age. He was competitive." She mentioned that Sam spent lots time with his brother than with other kids in the neighborhood. "He was, I wouldn't say shy, but keep close to home., She said Sam always liked to play all type of sports but she noticed at an early age he had a fondness for drawing and painting. "He loved art, I can remember his grandmother had him working in her ceramic shop and he loved every moment. He was always bringing me gifts he had made for me.,, Sam's mother voiced her concerns about giving her sons a positive self image. She concentrated on letting them know that they were good boys and they could achieve whatever was before them. "I think Sam was scared of getting in trouble when he was growing up. "He knew I didn't like when kids misbehave. I have tried to be there for both of my boys.,, She discussed when Sam got his divorce how she stepped in not until she 85

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knew she could help. She helped him only as needed with the children. "A mother will come through in a life or death situations., Sam's female cousin was visiting his mother and shared her thoughts on him. She shared that Sam had retired from arena football and was very happy to be back home with his boys. She mentioned how he loved and cared for his boys. She was disappointed that he has not met a lady friend because he wants so much for his boys to be raised like he was with mom and dad at home. She proudly stated that Sam was a good man and the young ladies he dates are carefully observed by his female cousins. "We are looking out for him. He is truly a good man and we want him to have a good wife.'' She feels now that he is back in town he will have more time to socialize and raise his boys. Friend. In an interview with a fraternity brother of Sam, he stated that Sam seemed to be very mature. He acts older than he really is. "He has been teased of being old-fashioned in his ways and thinking. He is quite opinionated about parenting and family. He shares a major concern of the young Black males oftoday's generation." He is an ideal role model for young men his age. ''He's friendly and gets the job done. He's a good leader and a teacher. He is highly respected!" He remembers when Sam was pledging membership into one of the most established Black fraternities. He was a strong leader for his line brothers. Sam was conscientious and studied for membership. He discussed openly the importance of being a competent and respected African American man. ''He wanted the dignity and pride that this fraternity was known for. He appeared to be a strong Black man in which this fraternity was seeking." Observation. I observed Sam at the barber shop; his mother was there. He was giving her a haircut. He was very proud to let all the people around know that this lady is his hero. Sam was so eager to share he had just purchased a home. This 86

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was something he wanted so much for his boys. He bas plans to retire from football after this season, his tenth season in the league. He would now be in town and able to be a full-time parent. Sam shares a lot of wisdom with the young people in the barber shop. He spoke often on how young people need to talk to their parents and family. He was a firm believer in you must listen to those who have lived it before you. A lot of what he learned during his life experiences and his experiences in the pro football league was modeled by his elders. Sam's friends are few as he spends more time on the road with his career. It is during the offseason that he spends most of the time in town. This time is spent with his sons and family. Ron is a salesman with a local television station in Denver. He is thirty years old and single. Ron Presents His Family Ron was born in Denver and is an only child. He grew up with what he calls the "extended family concept.'' Up until Ron was five years old he lived with his biological parents. His mother divorced his father and later remarried. He spent most of his adolescence with his mother and stepfather He lived nine blocks away from his maternal grandparents. This allowed him to visit them at least once a week, if not more often. He didn ,t have any contact with his stepfather's parents. However, he knew his biological paternal grandmother, but didn't see her often. Ron remembers many occasions of family gatherings. He smiled : Almost any occasion that would call for us to get together, we got together. We always had a lot of friends come around the house. A lot of people knew 87

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my grandparents, and so whenever I would be at their house, there would be a lot of visitors. It was great in my family. My mother had six brothers and sisters, therefore, there were a lot of people even though there are only a few of them here now. They came and went, but we were all very close. The neighborhood high school had an established legacy for Ron. His grandfather graduated in the 1930s and his grandmother graduated in the 1940s. His mother also graduated from this high schooL Years later he maintained the legacy and graduated from the same high schooL His stepfather had completed high schooL but not the same one in this neighborhood. Ttmes were not always pleasant in Ron's home. He remembers his mother working for Great Western Sugar and she lost her job. She continued to hold many other clerical jobs throughout his childhood. However, she received a scholarship and obtained her bachelor's degree. His stepfather drove a school bus for many years and became manager at the terminal and later retired. He speaks about his maternal grandfather proudly: He was quite a man. He was modest. He didn't share a lot. I can remember hearing stories about him from my grandmother. He lived in Texas. He ran a hotel back there at some time. He was run out ofbusiness by the Klan, my grandmother told me. He had to stay inside his home in the summer because of the dangers outside. She shared [that] they were lynching people. He made me what I am today. He had such perseverance. He achieved quite a bit and held several jobs. He played in a band; he was a janitor, and he went on to get a bachelor's degree and then a law degree. He was a special person. He has always been my hero. Reflecting on these memories, Ron explained he had special people that influenced him. His mother, as well as his grandfather, played special roles in his past. '"My mother, who brought me up for several years by herself: made sure that I was kept and had everything I needed; and she worked hard, worked very hard." He admired her for never giving up the thought of continuing her education. She set an example for him. give up!" 88

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His family played a very important part of his drive to be successful. "I remember just going through high school and graduation; there was never a question in my mind whether or not I was going to college.,, Not all of his aunts and uncles got their degrees; however, his grandfather expected them to be well educated. "I just expected that of myself and I thought that was expected of me., No one told him where to go or what to do; he just knew what he wanted to do. "I guess it was high expectations I had set for myself" He noted: They [my family] always told me that I could do anything I wanted, that I was a bright kid; I felt like I was a bright kid, because I had seen some achievements that they had done when they were in school, and then what they accomplished, and I well, if it's in them, it's got to be in me, too, and . . It just never was really discussed; I g-.Jess it was just the way that it was going to be, that I was going to go on and to do some good things. Ron Presents His Educational Experiences Describing school experiences, Ron indicated his high school experiences stand out During his elementary school years, he was bussed out of his neighborhood to a school in Southwest Denver He shared it was a very long bus ride, forty-five minutes each way every day. He recalls having good times and making friends from other neighborhoods, but that was a tall order for a 10to 12-year-old. '1 guess what really just stands out in elementary school is the friends that lived out of my neighborhood. You saw them only at schooL I guess that was negative." Middle school was exciting. I started carrying my own key. I would let myself into the house. Although my grandparents were very close to where I lived, this was great. I felt a little more responsible. I had my first job as a sweeper boy at the middle school. I think it helped me develop the work ethic that I have today; from the time when I was 15 years old, I haven't gone without a job. This made me independent, self-sufficient, and it was very, very positive 89

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Ron perceived himself as a more serious student in elementary school than in middle or high schooL In middle and high school, it wasn't very difficult, the work was not hard, and he hardly applied the efforts. He did what everyone said," ... show up and you get a 'C'., In high school, he did have some advanced placement courses, but he let up a bit on the subjects to become involved in athletics and became a sports jock. I did my work, and I did good work, but I really didn't consider myself a serious student until the latter part of my college education. So, it was kind of like in elementary. I was really into it and then I kind of just went through until I got ready to graduate from college., As a result, his best friend perceived him as probably a middle-of-the-road guy with a lot of friends. He explained: A lot of the people that I did hang out with were maybe, I don't know .... Not even thugs, but just semi-thuggish. I mean, we got into things that I guess typical teenagers do; however, there were some on the other ... on the extreme side of the spectrum and then there were people that didn't do anything but go to school and go home and study and didn't run around or anything. I probably played the middle, either one way or another. Ron's Views ofHis Peers and the Community Ron had fond memories of his neighborhood; he felt safe. "' remember growing up in this hood and always wanting my mother to move to a bigger house." He had special friends. He remembers there being clubs, but was naive to think of them as gangs. Ron recalled: ... [They say] graffiti like ''ESP," referencing the Eastside Pot Patrollers and the 'CSOYZs'' when I was in high schooL I was a member of the Player's Club, but I didn't perceive it as a gang. Every now and then you hear of some rivalries or, you know, maybe got into a scuftle, but never was anyone afraid of getting shot. Nobody that I knew of was carrying guns. It is, was plain old fist fighting, I guess when it came down to it. But I never was afraid to walk home by myself: because I guess I also felt like I had the support group of my 90

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teammates; that I didn't need to be affiliated with any neighborhood gang. I had my high school buddies and my friends in the neighborhood. Ron felt there was very little peer pressure from others in the neighborhood or in school. I can remember some of the guys in school and the neighborhood. I didn't understand, but now I realize they were always high on marijuana This boggled my mind to think they were. Now I understand why they couldn't learn. I mean if you're in that mindset, you couldn't. But I was never pressured to try it. I was never pressured to join this group or get beat up. It could be because I was probably one of the bigger kids around and that I lived a little further East. But I remember some kids that lived from Humboldt down to Gilpin and Williams down to LaFayette and Marion, it seemed like they had a little more adversity to deal with. From what sources or whatever, I always felt safe in my little section of the neighborhood Ron had a great deal of support at home and in the community. His mother was involved in many community organizations. "She knew all the teachers. I never wanted to mess up because I knew that the teachers and the principal knew my mom and my grandparents., People knew who Ron was because his family was very active and visible in the community. He believed that maybe people expect something of you because of your family and what they have done for the community. It made Ron feel very good, for people to have those expectations of him to grow and develop and do the right thing. He attributes this support to his parents and others always around. "I mean, there was never-1 never remember a parent saying, you know, you can't do this, you won't do this, or you know, you kids are no good or anything. Everybody was reaiiy cool." Ron was not very active in attending church services every Sunday. He would make it a point to keep a religious outlook; however, he wasn't forced as some of his friends were to be an active church-goer. Ron attended college on an athletic scholarship and worked as a resident assistant in the dormitory. He saw this as a means of helping to pay his way through 91

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schooL He didn't have an exciting college life because he wanted to get out and get a professional job. He remembered: When I graduated from college, a lot of my friends were getting jobs, in low level management or management trainee positions. I knew I wanted to work in television. Through a friend of my mom's, I secured a part-time shipping clerk position at the TV station. At least I got in the door. It was difficult for an African American, especially a male in this professional work place. I can vividly remember when I started to work, there were two Black men who were working on the sales staff there. I went into one's office and I said, 'What do you do and how do you do it, and how can I get into it?" He seemed rather busy and brushed me off to the other gentleman in another room. He, unlike the first guy, took me under his wing and said, .. Sit down. Sit here while I'm on the phone and listen to what I do, and I will be glad to talk to you., I was just a part-time shipping clerk then, but he took the time to talk to me and he's still there now. This gentleman was probably one of the many influential mentors Ron had. The gentleman is now the national sales manager at the television station. He kept an eye on Ron and made sure he was doing what he could to be successful, and Ron followed those work ethics. What really stands out in my mind is somebody else, you know, saw me and cared. One gentleman, I guess was too busy to care about it and another one did. I guess one saw the value in having or seeing another African American do well. The other, I just don't know it was just interesting. Presently, Ron continues to make himself active in his community and neighborhood in which he grew up. His job takes a large portion of his day, but he arranges his time to extend services to his old neighborhood as often as possible. He is also a member of a Black fraternity that has emphasis on working with the elders of the community. Ron Reflects on His Life Ron believed he encountered few problems in mainstream society because he never let himself feel indifferent. cr make people see me as a person." He feels a lot 92

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of his attitude had to do with his success in schooL "I went through school from elementary in an integrated setting. I had confidence and pride." He felt being a minority and male brought on some patterns of stress during his growing up. "A lot of what you hear and read in the media, about one in every four African American males is either dea
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Ron knew his family encouraged a strong educational background. His grandfather, as well as his mother, were living examples he could modeL They did what they could to help him realize his goaL His parents' and grandparents' hard work was the model for Ron's blueprint. He never felt pressured. He just expected that of himself Finally, Ron attributes his educational success to his persistence. I am a self-starter. When I get something on my min
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willingness to learn. "He was an eager beaver! He had aspirations to get to the top of this organization, but he wanted to learn from someone who had been there before. Ron was so happy to be hired at the station, that starting as a part-time shipping clerk was not an ego problem for a young Black man just coming out of college with a degree; this was surprising to me in this day and age.,.. In the personal interview with Mr. G regarding Ron, he echoed his remarks on Ron's eagerness, and insightfulness as to where he wanted to go in his profession. saw a future for an African American man in the television industry that he believed he could achieve. This young man had a goal set for himself. He was confident. He was most disturbed by my co-worker not giving him any time, however, he brushed it off and learned from that. I would say it was a good learning experience for him.,., Mr. G is presently national sales manager at the television station, a promotion for him, from the time when Ron had to work at the station at that time he was on the sales staff He believes that Ron is optimistic and he will make it in this profession. "You know, it is a great feeling knowing that you helped someone." Sonnv Sonny is an account manager who was recently hired with a new collection agency. He is thirty years old, married, and has two children. Sonny was born and raised in Denver is the oldest of three siblings. He has a brother and a sister. He was born out of wedlock. He knew his biological father, who lives in Denver, however he rarely dealt with him. Sonny explained. In 1968 when I was born, to have a child out of wedlock and still be in school was still totally unacceptable in society. So my grandparents, my dad's originally wasn't happy about the situation. I was denied. My dad's mom originally didn't claim me. [She] said, '"You're not my son's child." My grandfather on my dad's side put a stop to that. And from that point forward, I knew where I was going. 95

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Sonny Presents His Family Sonny's mother and father graduated from the local high school in 1968. His father was an all-star baseball player who received a scholarship and graduated from Fresno State. He worked for U.S. Steel in between playing Division A farm-team baseball. He presently drives for the RID. His mother was an all-star track star, both of his parents were athletes. Sonny "Everything about what I am is basically because of how they were and how my grandparents would be if they were still around today." Sonny had lots of contact with his maternal grandmother, who he said was "more like my mom." His paternal grandfather was like a father to him. "So everything I got more or less came from my grandparents as opposed to parents." He had a step-grandfather who was a Baptist minister. All of his grandparents are now deceased. Growing up in Sonny's house was competitive and hard. He described: With my brother and sister, it was very chaotic; you've got three people, meaning my sister and brother, who fought about everything. About who thought they were right, and who was trying to be the parent, and who was going to be the parent, or if there was going to be any bosses. There were more fist fights than there were resolutions. The ongoing family gathering that stands out in Sonny's memories were Sunday dinners after church: Church dinner every Sunday, everybody was at the house; don't change church clothes until dinner is done and over with. Everybody gets up on Sunday morning to go to church; if you couldn't get up and go to church, you couldn't go play. This was a grandparent thing. Initially, I didn't like going, because I was forced to go, and it came to a point where I turned eleven, I got baptized; that I made my own decision that's what I wanted to do. 96

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Sonny,s Views ofHis Educational Experiences Education was a major concern in Sonny's house. His grandmother was a teacher at the middle school in his neighborhood. Sonny felt pressured to do well in schooL He remembered: It was the focus of stay on task, homework came first; I think I maybe watched an hour and a halfofTV a day during the school week. ''It was about read a book," "get your homework,'' "do extra books." I think I have more grocery-store-bought workbooks than any kid I know. Sonny felt he had open communications with all the members of his family, especially if it concerned school or anything that may have been a distracter for him at schooL He felt sometimes the expectations were too high. He explained. My mom wanted me to go on and be an accountant. My dad wanted me to do more and become an attorney. My grandfather wanted me to do whatever I was going to do, but do it good. He was the only one that didn't press what I went to school for. My grandmothers were the same way. Just my mom and dad had their differences of where I should go and what should happen with my education. In reflecting on overall school experiences, Sonny had mixed reactions: Elementary school, I was what they would call a class clown, but I got my work done. I strived on getting done, but the problem is when I got done, I had no focus . . I was a straight "A" student. All my cousins, for whatever reason, were straight "A" kids. The problem is ... I am out of thirty-two original grandkids on my dad's side; I am the third eldest and the only one who has never been in jail of the males. Out of that thirty-two, twenty-seven of us are males. Two of the women have been in prison. Middle school showed me that life wasn't easy and I dropped to a 3.2 grade average, and it kind of showed me that if I was going to play the game, I had to play it right or it was going to cost me a lot. In high school I carried a 3. 7. I was part of the homework network. I was part of the Big Brothers program. Sonny thought the reason he wasn't a statistic like his cousins having gone to prison was he had a philosophy somewhat like his grandfather. 97

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I told mysel:( because my dad was never really there for because of his job in sports, I vowed to myself. . I made a goal and an objective of mine not to be like anybody to have my own identity. Sonny was active in sports in high school. He was on the footba14 basketbal4 and baseball teams. Academically, he enjoyed his math and accounting classes best of all. "' love numbers. . I just love numbers. That was as in money. It made it easy to count ., Sonny enjoyed his school days, elementary throughout high school. Unfortunately, during his teenage years, he experienced both grandfathers' deaths within four weeks. My paternal grandfather passed two weeks before I turned sixteen. My maternal grandfather passed two weeks after I turned sixteen . they never got a chance to see me graduate or to my whole goal was to show them . because they were gone, I wasn't going to alter what was happening. When Sonny graduated from high schoo4 he wasn't sure what his plans were going to be for the future. He recalls the day of his high school graduation. I left this school ... was walking down the street with a beer in my hand, and an army recruiter pulled up next to me. I thought it was a big joke. . I went out and got my best friend, we went and took a quick test. We weren't trying to pass it; we were playing. I wasn't serious about anything . we took the test as a joke, and we scored extremely high. They called us to say it is time to go. It was too late! I talked to an uncle who had retired from the army. He thought it was a good chance, and it would develop my manhood and my own identity. So I did that. Sonny's mother was very upset that he was going into the army. "My mom, all my life, told me that it was something she refused to let me do; she wasn't going to allow it to happen." Needless to say, she was she understood that Sonny had to make his own life. "My father didn't think I would do it because he didn't think I had the discipline to do what it took to become a military individual. He was pretty stunned when I did it., 98

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Sonny's View of His Peers and the Community Reflecting on his community, Sonny explained: This community as I was growing up was pretty bard. You're either going to fit in or you're going to be beat up for trying to be yourself So, it was a choice you had to make -rather you were going to be part of this or if you were going to deal with the fact that you may have to run home because you weren't trying to be part of the problem. You had the outside communities who hung out in our area who brought it down. Sonny wasn't sure what the groups that imposed themselves on others were called As he explained: I'm not sure that you called them gangs then. You have bully groups, problem groups, problem cliques, they hadn't quite formed their own names. But they walked around with chips on their shoulders, and you had to either walk through it or deal with it. Dealing with it for Sonny was being involved in spons and avoiding the unnecessary conflicts "I kept trying to keep myself out of situations to where it would be a conflict, or just trying to stay away from the vicinity For the most part, even they [peers] gave me the respect for saying, "No, I don't want to be a part of what's happening." I can say all my life I've had respect of my peers. They never badgered me into doing anything, but the fact they were there, they had the money; they had the shoes; they had the things I didn't have; that was a hard enough distraction to avoid becoming them because of what they had. Sonny explained the block in which he lived on was controlled by parents. "They [parents] policed the block.'' His block wasn't as bad as those around him. '1t was like night and day from my block to the next block." Each block had certain groups that in some cases caused chaos and fears for the neighborhood. With this adventurous of a neighborhood, peer pressure was evident as Sonny noted: 99

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To ditch school was the biggest one. To ditch school. .. We used to have a grocery store, whether it's candy or snacks; the deal was just to see if you can do it [steal]. Back then, it was bike stealing, bike snatching; you wasn't cool if you didn't go steal a bike. If you bought a bike, then you were a little punk or a momma's boy or a house pet. You wasn't down with the program if you wasn't willing to get it like everybody else got it. Sonny bad strong feelings that his community valued the youth.. They expected the young people to have fun; however, they knew it was dangerous in the streets. I can honestly say my community is the reason I'm sitting here today. Between my friends and the parenting support network that was set up within the block, it's everything that I have become. Sonny Reflects on His Life During his three years in the army, Sonny was stationed in Vandenberg, West Germany. He enjoyed his time served in the military, but he knew he wasn't going to make it a career. He mentioned one incident that occurred when he was on leave in the military. I went to visit my cousin who is a big time Crip, one of the Rolling Thirties, in Pomona, California. I went to his house in a red sweat suit; my aunt picked me up from the airport, she said, "You know you are going to have problems.'' 'Well, I don't expect any. I'm at home aren't I?" I got to my cousin's house, I go into his room and he has some other gang members in there with him. They see me in this red sweat suit. Immediately, they bring problems to me. My cousin pulls me aside and tells me I . need to change my clothes or he'll take me back to the airport. I refused to change what I had on ... it [red suit] had Germany, Army all over it. What reason did he have to think I was going to be part of what was happening. I was in the military. I was immediately put back on the airplane and sent back to Denver. A most difficult decision he had to make was at the completion of his military duties. 100

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My brother! When I was in the military . he went to prison; he had an opportunity to be released in my custody. I had to make a very hard decision on not accepting that responsibility, even though I knew it would cost . force him to stay in I just couldn't risk what I bad going -to be responsible for another grown man. Life changed for Sonny after he completed his tour of duty in the army. He completed one full year of college. He got married to a lady who had a child. When he went job hunting, he was able to secure a job immediately with a collection agency. He has made this his career choice. "I do intend to go back [school]." Being a parent, a volunteer at the YMCA. Sonny continues to keep involved with his community. He still resides in the community where he grew up. He is active at his children's schooL serving on many committees. In discussing his feeling about being an African American male, Sonny charged: That's always going to be a problem, being a dark-skinned African American male. I found it hard to get in doors. I'm still looked at negatively, even when I'm in a business suit I'm addressed differently than somebody in jeans of the White descent. Denver has a lot of snob-nosed people. It is a city that's growing a lot faster than they wanted it to grow. It's also a city that caters to the financially secured ; it's still hard for a Black man to get ahead, yet he has to be a little smarter ... twice as smart as the man next to you and dressed three times as good as he could whether you can afford it or not; you had to look the part. Sonny knew he wanted his life to be a successful one. He was often criticized, but never praised for his accomplishments. You know my grandfather, God rest his souL as a Baptist minister, I used to hate to go over to his house because he sat there and praised me for not being like my cousins. And I didn't feel that was fair. Don't praise me for not being like them. Praise me for my accomplishments. Say, "Good job on this, good job on that,'' but don't say, "I'm glad you're not like somebody." 101

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Because in all actuality, I am like them. We came from the same bloodline. I just chose different opportunities and took advantage of different situations and handled it differently than they did. rm thirty years old and never had a prison stay . that's something to be proud of. Summary ofProtective Factors from Interviews and Observations of Others Family. Sonny identifies his grandparents, his success in school, a military tour of duty, and his own ambition, as significant contributors to his academic and career success. He states, ... my grandfathers were the only real males in my life. My dad was close, but I very rarely dealt with him."' While Sonny recalls getting support and encouragement throughout his educational career, he mentioned more than once that he had a strong drive and will to be a different and special person, despite the adversity hehad to deal with. Sonny felt that the emphasis on education early on helped to make education a priority in his life. Sonny summarized: ... all I would I would be able to say is to the young men up and coming, to the generation not yet at that point in life, you got to stay focused, stay in school, pay attention, and most importantly, keep an open line of communication with somebody. As I had the opportunity to speak with some of Sonny's friends and classmates, they shared he was confident, cocky, overbearing and sometimes demanding. Most of all he was a good friend, maybe at times a jerk. He kept his word. Sonny, as his friends say, was always proving himself-letting everyone know he could do what he laid claim to. 102

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Friend. In an interview with a close friend of Sonny's he shared interesting perspectives on him. "Sonny had always decided that he could match anybody .... If you're smart and everything, or you're ttying to make something of yourself and you live in a rough neighborhood, that's okay, because you can let others know you can make it out okay; that's the way Sonny presented himself." He mentioned that Sonny was yet cocky and sometimes over aggressive. "He wouldn't back off for anything." Sonny had good support from his family. He had grandparents pushing him forward and he had the respect of his peers." He charged that Sonny had built-in hope through his participation in sports. "Sonny aspired to having a good job, a home, a family and nice clothes. He never dreamed big, but he wanted the comforts of life. He is a survivor and a provider, that's all." As seen by his peer in his role as coach, father, husband and accountant, he applauds him. He stated that Sonny puts a lot of effort in ensuring that his children and other youth have opportunities made available to them. Sonny encourages young people to take advantage of those opportunities "He advocates for employment and educational opportunities that can lead to financially secure futures for all young people Teacher. In an interview with a high school math teacher of Sonny's, he remembered him vividly. "Sonny was a student of promise, more than he had yet let himself show. Mr. A indicated that Sonny could go either way-he could have been a gang-hanger, but he was a regular fellow. He mentioned Sonny had many cousins at the school who were known troublemakers. Despite their visibility and behaviors, "Sonny,'' he said, '"stayed clear" of getting caught up in the problems. He mentioned Sonny had a special way of avoiding conflict. "He was a cool guy. Sonny was almost a gifted student-gifted, that is, when he wanted to be. He had a great flair for math in particular." 103

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Mr. A explained that Sonny was popular with most students. He was also a good athlete and he had a great sense of humor. He knew all the gang-bangers as most of his cousins were members His problem was staying serious about schooL which I think was often too easy for him. or a career, which seemed beyond his powers of imagination. I wasn't sure what the future would hold for Sonny He never led me to believe he knew what he wanted to do with his life. I think he had many distractions, too many for him to concentrate on what he wanted to do with his life after high school. Observation. When I observed Sonny, he was excitable, indicating he was overbooking himself He had a very busy schedule as he participates in many neighborhood organizations. He expressed strong concerns about what the neighborhood issues were and the active role he wanted to play. He knew the odds, living in this community. He wanted to be a role mode! and to get some positive things done He is a confident person; he believes he can make a difference in his community. The occasion was at a community meeting where a new program was proposed for the community after school hours at the local middle school. This program would service the young people immediately after school and for the adults in the community in the early evenings. Sonny was very vocal on expressing safety concerns for people who were out at night. Twice he took the floor to express his knowledge of how dangerous it was out "there He charged that the crime statistics for the community were "bad." He had current information available He wanted police visibility and additional lighting in the neighborhood during the evening hours. He stated his personal mission was to try to help as many young and older people as he possible could through this world so they could benefit from this program and help themselves be better and productive citizens "I want them to be educated. I want them on their feet and do what I have done, and that is give back positively to their community." 104

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The meeting lasted two hours, lots of discussion was on the program and the safety issues that surround the school in the evening hours. Sonny left the meeting feeling that he was seeing some progress. He merited the extra efforts of the community membership for the additional programs for youth and elders of the community. Sonny believed ,out of his own life experiences, the imponance of a helping hand and an advocate for others, especially the youth of the community, is of grave importance. 105

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CHAPTERS ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS ACROSS CASES OF FIVE SUCCESSFUL AFRICAN AMERICAN MALES In this chapter, the findings emerged in the data coding are grouped by category and linked by the overarching themes in relation to the two research questions. The first research question, "What protective factors in the lives of urban African American males guided their successful life pathways despite adverse social circumstances?" yielded four categories or themes of findings : The Family, Educational Experiences, Fictive Kinship-Homies and the Mentors and Role Models. The second research question, "What are the characteristics that foster resiliency in the lives of African American males growing up in the inner city?" yield the category of findings on Resilient Characteristics. These will be discussed in order. What protective factors in the lives of urban African American males guided their successful life pathways despite adverse social circumstances? Protective factors of the (I) Family as defined by Benard(l991) includes care and support and high expectations and briefly describes relationships in the immediate family, the extended family and with siblings. The findings of this study suggest that encouragement and support were conditions that significantly influenced the individuals. (2) Educational Experiences as researched by Benard (1991) is a powerful predictor of positive outcomes for young people. The care, support and high expectations in education from the home and the school had impact on the participants of this research and relate most closely with the other categories. In this chapter, those topics and themes that emerged through life history analysis with the 106

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individual men on friendship and "the hood"( the community) are presented under the category of(J) Fictive Kinship-Homies and the Hood. Once again, as with the family, the schools, competent communities are characterized by the triad of protective factors that Benard ( 1991) speaks to as: caring and support, high expectations and participation. The importance of knowing 'someone is going to always be there for me, descnoes the category (4) Mentors or Role Models as Benard (1992) explains, resilient children establish more positive relationships with other people; this is known as a protective factor. Having a mentor who serves as a role model enhances academic success (Ogbu, 1992). The second research question, 'ewhat are the characteristics that foster resiliency in the lives of African American males growing up in the inner city?" ( 5) Resilient Characteristics are findings of this study from the participants' point of view on the perceptions of themselves in their struggles to be successful and their aspirations. It describes the adaptation of coping strategies the young men used to survive and succeed in school and life. The protective factors in the life histories in this case study were analyzed across cases within the four categories on the first research question. It is to be noted that the categories are discrete and merit individual discussion; some of the categories overlap with other categories within this chapter. Information may be repeated more than once as it relates to the themes. Similarities and differences (findings) of the experiences of the five case studies are discussed within the categories. Findings in the Protective Factor of the Family 1. Although many families in poor, inner-city neighborhoods are struggling financially, the calls and support for education are loudly echoed as in the case of the five participants in this study. 107

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Willie and Sam were the first in their families to receive college degrees. Four of the participants went to college on financial aid and scholarships as their parents could not afford sending them to college. 2. All five of the participants reported a heavy evidence on the value of education in their homes. Willie could remember the times his mother would stay up and help him with projects for a class. Richard recalls how often he was told by family members that, '"Education is the key to success, to open doors and opportunities for you to do things you would want to do." There was so much competition in Sam's family that he felt pressured in being successful in schooL Ron indicated his mother and grandfather modeled education. He was always told, "Never give up!'' Sonny believed he was the only kid in his neighborhood who had more grocery store workbooks than toys. The value of learning was stressed daily by his grandmother. 3. Most of the participants mentioned their parents were not active on school committees. Willie and Ron mentioned that their mothers visited their schools for activities, such as student performances or athletic events. They had very little time to be on committees, but they tried to be very supportive and visible. 4. The majority of the families in this study did not dwell on hardships and inequities facing them. Ron mentioned, "There was never a question in my mind whether or not I was going to college." His grandfather had expected all of his children and grandchildren to be well educated. Sam's family never dwelt on anything but doing well in school, in spite of the fact that both ofhis parents only completed high schooL Most of them took a strong interest in their children's schooling. 108

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5 All of the case study participants came from a variety of family compositions. Willie was raised by his mother, a divorced mother of ten children and a single parent. Richard and Sam were raised by both of their biological parents. Ron was raised by his mother who divorced his father when he was very young, but later married his stepfather when he was nine years old. Sonny was born out of wedlock and was raised by his biological mother and his stepfather. Although Sonny knew his father, who lived in Denver, he had very little contact with him. The smallest family had one child; the largest one had ten children. Home was a place where each participant had love and care. 6. In most cases, siblings played a major role in their lives. It meant older siblings taking responsibility for younger siblings in helping with homework and sometimes baby-sitting. Willie, being the last of his mother's ten children, had all kinds of attention from his siblings. Sam had a very close relationship with his younger brother. He noted, "Paul played a really big part of my life." In contrast, Sonny's experiences with his siblings were, as he stated, "chaotic.,, Richard enjoyed the days when he and his brother shared fun times playing, and he continues to share time with both of his siblings, even with one of them who is out of state. Ron, being an only child, had only friends and cousins to share his childhood and adolescent memories. 7. In most cases the grandparents were critical influences in the participants, lives. Both Richard's grandparents were ministers in the community. "They had a great influence on my life ... it got me into church." Sam spent a great deal of time with his paternal grandparents, especially his grandfather. Ron's maternal 109

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grandparents lived nearby which allowed him to visit them weekly. This gave them an opportunity to share family stories with him. "My grandfather was my hero. He was a special person. He made me what I am today "explained Sonny. His paternal grandfather was like a father to him. '"Everything I got more or less came from my grandparents as opposed to my parents,'' explained Sonny. In addition to the grandparents, siblings, peers, the extended family, aunts and uncles, and other relatives most importantly made major contributions in encouraging the success of these young men. 8. In majority of the cases both parents worked outside of the home. A variety of jobs were held in each case study: bus drivers, clerica,4 a carpenter, and a painter. The mothers of two of the participants continued their education striving to achieve professional jobs. 9. The parent educational attainment levels varied. Willie's and Richard's mothers and fathers had completed two years of college. Both of Sam's parents completed high schooL Ron's mother worked her way to complete college after holding several clerical jobs, as did Sonny's mother. Sonny's father was the only father of the participants who had a college degree. Ron's grandfather was a lawyer. Education was a priority for these families. Willie was the first generation of his family to graduate with a four-year college degree. Sam was the first to go to college in his immediate family. Not only did these individuals strive for educational success, they went far beyond and met with success in highly respected careers. I 0. All the families provided rich cultural experiences of family traditions as demonstrated in the individual life histories. Examples included large family gatherings, showing respect to the elders, and the closeness of the extended family. There were barbecues, picnics, even 110

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celebrations for a birth in the family, and most importantly, the celebration of graduations. In Sonny's family the Sunday dinner after church was a weekly event at his grandparents' house. In Ron's family, almost any occasion that would call for them to gather was a celebration. This would include all of his six uncles and aunts and all of their children, plus neighbors. 11. Religion was strongly emphasized by grandparents and significant others in most of the case studies. Willie's Uncle Joe was a spiritual man. Willie believed it was he who introduced his spiritual guidance. Willie attends the same church that he was introduced to when he was five years old. Willie referenced in his life history, "God first," as being a significant individual in his life. Both Richard's grandfather and grandmother were pastors. This he felt was a great influence in his life. Sam, like Ron, had some affiliation with the church, but not much. Sam had one grandmother who was Baptist and the other was Jehovah Witness. Both spoke to him about their religion, but he has not answered the calling of either, something he is presently working on. However, religion was practiced and encouraged by both parents not as strongly as the grandparents influence. Unlike Sonny's parents and grandparents, church came first. Sonny felt he was forced and was unhappy about his church experiences. However, when he made his decision at eleven to be baptized, he made the choice. Then, there was more meaning for him. Although the participants of this study identified a variety of factors that contributed to or influenced their life and educational success, the family appeared to be the primary factor they could always count on for continual support and encouragement. Ill

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Findings of the Protective Factors in Educational Experiences 12. Continuity during the K-12 educational experiences was evident for most participants. Four ofthe participants attended K-12 schools in the vicinity of the study. Ron was bussed out of his neighborhood for elementary schooL The participants had a variety of school experiences at each and yet there were some common threads leading to their success. Willie described himself as a "rebel" in elementary school. He was a sneaky kid; he got away with a lot. He was constantly seeking the attention of his classmates. He mingled with a group of fellows who had him bullying girls and doing sneaky stuff It was when he was in sixth grade that a disruptive behavior in the classroom required his teacher to escort him to the principal's office. This incident turned his whole life around. He gained respect for this teacher. The teacher expressed to the principal that Wtllie was one of her "brightest students, and she refused to have him go unnoticed for his disruptive behavior. Likewise, Sonny was the "class clown" in elementary schooL He could not keep a focus but managed to get his work done. He was a high academic achiever in all his subjects. As Ogbu (1992) taking on such techniques, such as becoming the class clown, is a strategy used by African American students to deal with cultural differences faced, while dealing with achievement in school. In contrast, Richard and Sam had extremely positive elementary school experiences. Both young men enjoyed learning. Richard's grades and excitement for learning were indications that he was doing welL Ron was bussed out of his neighborhood into Southwest Denver for his elementary schooL The bus ride was forty-five 112

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minutes each way daily; it was boring for him to sit that long to get to school. In elementary school he recalls the good times he had making friends from other neighborhoods, but he was saddened over the fact he only got to see friends whom he had made at school only when he was at schooL That was a negative experience for him. 13. All the participants had a successful middle school experience with activities in school and in the community. They maintained good grades and became involved in athletics and after school activities during these years. In each case study they felt older and were given some independence with responsibilities. As Ron noted. he was able to have his own house key. This was a great time for him. He got his first job as a sweeper boy at the middle school. He believed this is where his good work ethics began. Ron did not find middle school very difficult. The work was not hard; he hardly applied any effort. Sam felt he was lazy in middle schooL He just did enough to get by. He could remember his mother fussing at him for not getting his homework done. Willie and Richard were involved in student council, choir, and continued focusing on being good students. Sonny's grades went down when he was in middle schooL It did not take him long to realize if he let his grades get low, it would cost him a lot, as good grades followed you into high schooL 14. All the participants were participating in athletics at the nearby recreation center in the neighborhood during their middle school years. Each young man played one or more sports while in high school and in most cases received athletic scholarships for colleges. 15. The local high school had an established esteem for many of the participants. ll3

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Many of their parents .. grandparents .. siblings .. and other relatives had graduated from the same high schooL This tradition provided the motivation for these young men to follow through and graduate from high school. 16. All of the case study participants completed high school in the normal amount of time 17. Most of the participants recalled their high school years as enjoyable and challenging academically and recreationally. For example, Willie loved school and he had a good time. His positive experiences outweighed his negative ones. Willie was recognized as the leader of his class, as well as a leader in the school and community. He was highly respected by his peers and teachers. Post-Secondarv Education 18. Four of the participants had envisioned themselves getting an education beyond high schooL Only Sonny did not express the readiness to take on a college program immediately after high schooL For Sam, college was not part ofhis family's experience, so his source of information was limited to other than what he had been introduced to at school. He knew he loved art and was set on becoming an artist. Working in his grandmother's ceramic shop during the summer confirmed this love for art. Willie and Richard never thought they were not going to college. Neither knew how he was going to finance his college education but was set on attending college. Both had the confidence in their academic abilities that they knew they could perform at this level. Richard had college track classes, whereas Willie did not. Willie knew he was bright enough to take on the challenge of college. He would 114

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have to study hard, but be could make it. They knew this was a goal both wanted for themselves. Willie and Sam were the first in their families to receive a four-year college degree. Richard is hoping to complete his course work for his degree by Spring 1999. Ron knew the emphasis on a college degree was going to be his goal, as his mother and grandfather had completed this assignment for him to model. When Sonny graduated from high schooL he was not sure what his plans were going to be for his future. While all the panicipants were exceptional in their aspirations for their future, Sonny enlisted in the military without giving it a second thought. This was an opportunity to learn a trade. During his three years of military duty, he attended college for one year. After his three years, he secured employment with a collection agency. His career choice was to stay in that area. While working and providing for a family, he hopes at some time he will be able to go back to school and get his degree. However, he is happy with his career, but he knows that continuing his education would provide additional opportunities for him. Richard and Sam attended barbering school. Each has used this career in a different way. Richard has not completed his hours required for his degree, therefore, this career allows him to have an income and be at home with his son. But Sam, s professional football career season and training time demands are such that working as a barber is a second income that allows for flexibility with his career. He rents a chair at a neighborhood shop with the understanding his position is seasonal. 19. All the men attended college on financial aid which consisted of scholarships, grants, and loans. Of the three who completed their undergraduate degrees, Willie has been the only one to continue and receive an advanced degree. 115

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20. Most of the participants had little guidance in college preparatory course work. Richard and Ron were the only two who had someone to guide them in college preparatory course work. Willie had no one to give him assistance. He had to see to it himself that he was assigned appropriate college preparation classes. He was not placed on a "college track" program. He prepared himself by studying bard with a master plan in hand. Fortunately, Richard had a teacher who encouraged him to take accelerated classes. Mr. Y constantly reminded him of the importance of a college education. Mr. Y would give him special tutoring after school and steered him to positive after school activities. As Richard says, '"He was a big influence!" on his life. Richard also took personal responsibility for his education. He made sure the peers he mingled with were very much like himself: learning and studying were okay. He knew he wanted to go to college. Findings ofProtective Factors in the Communitv Fictive Kinship. Homies and the Hood 21. In the quest for honor, respect, and local status, the participants were often faced with enacting their own particular versions of the "display of nerve or holding ground" in their neighborhoods and school. Willie had a close friend who ended up becoming a hard-core gang member. He recalled the good times they had growing up and how they did everything together. He knew they both were respected in the neighborhood. Gangs were just starting up when he and his friend were in middle school. Gang as Willie noted, "wanted to protect guys like me.,, He had a mutual respect with this group of young men. The gangs knew Willie had a different focus on life and they respected him for that. They had all grown up together as brothers, but they all made different 116

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choices. It turned out that his peers decided to accept his wishes and some even expressed a respect for them and encouraged his success. Similarly, Sonny had a majority of his cousins who were gang members involved in a series of very serious events. He recalls he "bad to either walk through it or deal with it.,, And yet they gave him respect for voicing his disapproval not to engage in their acts or be a part of their program. He honestly admitted he liked what they had-money, shoes-they had all the things he did not have. But he wanted to get his money and shoes and other goods the honest way by not hurting others for gains for himself. He managed to stay involved in sports and that represented his gang. Sam and Ron never felt peer pressure as a problem. Sam had many cousins whom he had to compete against for success; Ron, being an only child, made his edge by being engaged in sports. Ron expressed he was somewhat sheltered, but being "street smart" was a vehicle for negotiating the streets. He did not need to be affiliated with any neighborhood gangs. Richard had a best friend that he modeled. His friend had leadership skills, a dynamic personality, and a good sense of humor. He admits that his best friend kept him involved in positive efforts. He openly admits he admired him. The participants in this study reported very few instances of any kind of harassment because they wanted to be successful and high achievers. Along with the other two arenas in which young people are socialized, the family and the school, is the community, or '"hood., The '"hood" supports the positive development of youth in promoting the building of traits of resiliency-social competence, problem solving skills, autonomy, and sense of purpose and future. All ofthe participants were aware ofthe presence of drugs and gangs in their community, but made efforts to avoid them. 117

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Parents of the participants policed their respective neighborhoods, as they were aware from block to block, it could be unsafe for their children.. The environment was continually changing rapidly. High crime and drug deals were daily happenings. The recreation center in the community was a blessing, as the majority of the young people were engaged in supervised sports and fun activities. 22. All of the participants had established fictive kinship despite the adverse conditions they may have experienced The term fictive kinship is used by African Americans as a collective identity of brotherhood and sisterhood within the group. By finding other interests and having peers respect their academic achievement and choices, they made it without having to be confronted in situations. These participants who, through up-bringing, had valued friendship and strong conventional social experienced and felt internalized acceptance. Ogbu ( 1987) states minorities ''tend to accept the dominant group, s folk theory that the way to get ahead is through hard work, school success and individual ability." Likewise. the minorities are willing to adapt their cultural styles to succeed in school. This adaptation is viewed as an additive process, as persons who do adapt do not have to compromise their cultural identities to achieve in school. ? ... Findings of Protective Factors with Mentors and Role Models All of the participants had a person with whom they could identify as a critical influence on their lives. It is often said we learn by example, which most often is from family, peers, and whoever may have the time and one's interest at heart to make positive in most cases for one's life. All the participants could identify mentors and role models who made a positive difference in their lives. 118

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Ron spoke of a man at the TV station who took him under his wing. He modeled and developed this man's work ethic and learned a tremendous amount of knowledge of sales in the media world. This gentleman was one of the most influential mentors Ron could reflect on. "He saw the value in helping me., Ron stressed the importance of mentoring for Black especially in the work force. Likewise, Sam had mentors when he was in middle school. He was selected to participate in a local chapter of a Black fraternity's program. The fraternity of African American men mentored twenty middle school boys. Richard's physics teacher took a special interest in him in high school. He helped him with problems he had at home and at school. He encouraged him with his education and stressed the importance of going to college. The other participants had identified role models that were critical influences in their lives. In most cases the role models were limited to immediate or extended family members. Often times a parent, a sibling, or grandparent were the models for communicating values. Willie's Uncle Joe assumed the role of his father, and Willie concludes he modeled spirituality and educational values. He believes because of his Uncle Joe he did not turn out the way his close friend, Jasper, did-a hard-core gang member. He was grateful he had some adult male in his life that made him feel special. Sonny, and Sam all mentioned their grandfathers as critical influences in their lives. They expressed their sentiments of them as strong role models. Ron's and Sam's grandfathers modeled hard work. Ron believed the character of his grandfather gave him the will to be whatever he wanted to be. '"He was history to live by. I have so much rich heritage." Sonny believed that his grandfather had set too high of expectations for but ... ''he was the only real male in my 119

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In the same way, mothers were significantly mentioned as being role models to most of the men. As Sam asserts, "My mother is a strong, stern woman who was a big influence on my life." Ron admired his mother's never-give-up attitude with continuing her education. '"She set an example for me!" Richard credits his mother with the encouragement she always gave him. She always told me, "You can do anything that you want to do. She was a big influence in my life." Willie admired his mother's persistence in helping him with his homework and giving him support and encouragement. After all, he was the last of ten children, and a twin. His mother continually provided the love, care and support he needed. In contrast, Sonny credits his maternal grandmother," ... [she] was more like a mom.'' The second research question, "What are the characteristics that foster resiliency in the lives of African American males growing up in the inner city? Findings ofResiliency Characteristics Social Competence, Problem-Solving, Autonomy. and Sense ofPwpose Each of the participants contnbuted to his own success. Although they received support and encouragement from families and mentors, they shouldered much of the responsibility for advancing in life. These responsibilities included in the findings, social competence, problem-solving skills, autonomy and a sense of purpose. These characteristics are in response to Research Question #2, What are the characteristics that foster resiliency in the lives of African American males growing up in the inner -city? I. The participants all demonstrated that they were socially competent and responsive. They could all elicit more positive responses from others and have the ability to thrive, and increase competence in the face of adverse circumstances. These 120

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as described in their life histories, included living in the inner -city where poverty and drugs and violent crime were commonplace. Each participant demonstrated the importance of being socially competent in achieving success. They wanted to get through school and have a good job. They envisioned themselves out of the negative environment their daily livers were entangled in. Their communication skills and flexibility allowed them to relate to gang members, as well as adults., peer and community members with respect. They were empathetic and caring. In their own unique way, each young man was resourceful., insightful and displayed planning skills to have a better life for themselves. They were competitive and anxious. 2. Most of the participants demonstrated their abilities to think quickly and abstractly Willie, Ron and Sonny presented themselves clearly with the skills needed when in the company of gang members. The literature on "street" children grovving up in the slums of the United States and other countries provided an extreme example of the role these skills play in the development of resiliency since these children must continually successfully negotiate the demands of their environment or not survive (Feldman, 1989). 3. All the young men in this study were well aware of their environment and were able to keep focused to "do the right thing., Each participant discussed his social experiences and behavior as they walked in and out of their neighborhood. They revealed that their behavior was shaped by the nature of the environment they inhabited, and by their perceptions of how they were viewed (e.g., with fear, suspicion, intimidation or apprehension) by others. Benard ( 1991) explains different researchers have used different terms to refer to autonomy. Protective factor researchers, including Benard, discusses the term as a 121

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sense of one's own identity, and an ability to act independently and exert some control over one's environment. The development of resistance (refusing to accept negative messages about oneself or one's culture) and detachment (distancing oneself from parental, or community dysfunction) serves as a powerful protector of autonomy. Sonny indicated he knew how far to go in certain areas. As Willie noted, 'The problem with the gangs were territorial and growing up with the boys made a difference.,, There was mutual respect. All the participants had descriptive evidence of positive social acceptance for who they were and what they wanted. 4. Each participant demonstrated a sense of purpose and personal strength in achieving success. Being persistent was common to alL They were persistent to beat the odds and better themselves and their lives. They challenged themselves and the system. Each of them was a high self-motivator. They were determined to make their lives different and better. All the participants shared early experiences of positive identity along with family optimism. They had views of themselves. They had their own sense of power, purpose, and promise. They were supported and recognized for being good students. During the elementary school days and thereafter. they performed high academically and had positive social acceptance for who they were and what they wanted. Each person expressed a personal desire to be successful. All the participants had a strong will to be successful. Willie and Sam were determined to be the first in his family to graduate from a four year institution. Willie and Richard never thought they were not going to college. Richard and Ron took pride in being self-starters, self-motivators. They took the responsibility to be successful in all of their educational experience but credited their parents for the support that was given. Sonny lived his vision, ..... a goal and objective of mine was not to be like anybody else, to have my own identity.,. Sonny 122

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had a strong drive and will to be a different and special person, despite the adversity he had to deal with.. All the participants had personal desires to succeed in life. Richard has not completed his course work for his degree., but he proceeds by attending evening classes. He is continually working towards a career to become a counselor. Sonny, too., has not completed his schooling, but he has the aspirations to do so. Willie was determined not to stop at a bachelor's degree; he completed his master's degree within two years. In addition to being a professional arena football player., Sam completed barber school to bring home an additional income. Ron is determined to advance himself in the workplace. His career in television is just starting for a promising future in the media industry. The fact that all the parents of these young men were unable to finance their children's college education did not impede the young men in pursuit of good grades. with the visualization of going to college. These young men believed if they studied hard and did well in school, they would be able to receive academic scholarships, student aid, or other sources of support that would enable them to accomplish their goals. These young men's perceptions of their potential for success were buttressed by the significant adults in their lives. These adults, at home and school, constantly reassured them of their distinctiveness and their ability to overcome whatever might discourage them. They were empowered by the resources in their lives and the values of themselves by self: family, and others. All participants were involved in positive activities in school and in the community. It was as though they pursued success with their future in mind. They believed they could override the barriers to achieving their dreams. They also acted as if they believed that the could overcome whatever obstacles were placed in their way. 123

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CHAPTER6 SUMl\IIARY OF THE STUDY FINDINGS AND SUMMARY WITH LITERATURE, CONCLUSIONS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH This study examined the protective factors and resilient characteristics of life pathways of five successful African American males, using case study methodology. The life history approach was used to investigate those factors and conditions that these young men faced in a community that were characterized as under stressful conditions. An inner-city, low income, high crime environment did significantly challenge these five African American males. Their resilience to overcome the odds against them in this community can challenge the image of them that society has often depicted This study inquired about the beliefs that individuals considered as the source of the outcome and reinforcement of African American males, attitude toward their academic attainment and careers. However, many times they had to face problems often manifested in gang environments, peer pressure, anti-social attitudes, and drug trafficking. Varied data were collected through personal observations in diverse settings in the community. Open-ended questions in interviews with family, friends and teachers on the participants as well as in-depth interviews with each of the five participants and the review of documents were sources for triangulation This study of five African American males does not attempt to indicate that all experiences are the same for all African American males. Rather it presents an in-124

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depth portrait of a few African American males, their families, their peers, their community, and their educational experiences in the minority community. Specifically, it focuses on the resiliency and the courage that exists in each individual. This chapter summarizes the findings of the study, discusses the findings in relation to the literature, presents a conclusion and recommendations for future research. The following research questions guided the study: 1. What protective factors in the lives of urban African American males guided their successful life pathways despite adverse social circumstances? 2. What are the characteristics that foster resiliency in the lives of African American males growing up in the inner-city? The findings will be presented by the categories which emerged from the life history analysis and included: (1) Family, (2) Educational Experiences, (3) Fictive Kinship-Homies and the Hood, (4) Mentors and Role Models, (5) Resilient Characteristics. Research Question 1 What protective factors in the lives of urban African American males guided their successful life pathways despite adverse social circumstances? The Family 1. The families of all the participants provided support and care in the homes; the family held high expectations of its children for school and neighborhood behavior. Each home addressed its expectations in different ways and to differing degrees, but it appeared that the families of all the participants provided a solid foundation of support and love for them. Family composition does not appear to be a determining factor in the level of achievement of these participants. The smallest 125

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family bad one child; the largest one had ten children. In the families of the five participants, two lived with both of their biological mother and father. Two of the five lived with their natural mother and a stepfather, one lived with his mother. The participants in this study reported that they families provided structure in the home, held high expectations for home, school and neighborhood behavior. The statemems actually may be made manifest in different ways and to differing degrees in the various homes, but it appears that the families of all the participants provided a solid foundation of support and love for them. Benard (1991) describes a natural outgrowth ofhaving high expectations for children is that they are acknowledged as valued participants in the life and work of their family. These families accepted mainstream values and attempted to instill them in their children. They valued hard work and self-reliance, and encouraged and supported their children's education. They harbored hopes for a better future for their children as well as for themselves. 2. The family gatherings that all participants shared provided each one with family values, culture and traditions. In all five of the homes the participants were able to interact with one or both of their parents, grandparents and extended family members. According to Feldman, Stiffinan, and Jung (1987). "The social relationships among family members are by far the best predictors of children's behavioral outcomes. This social connectedness as reported by the participants provided a social and spiritual bonding. 3. A majority of the parent(s) of the participants preached the value of education. In one case, education was modeled for the young man by his mother continuing her education in her late adult age. In all cases the parents wanted their children to at least complete high schooL When college was expressed as the dream 126

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of the participants, the parents supported the dreams, but expressed they could not finance a college education. The families of the participants held common notions that hard work, good behavior and good grades could lead to possible scholarships to college and rewarding careers which would later provide well for them and their families. To most African Americans, education is the "symbolic key to advancement" (Hare, 1987) because of the influence of the mainstream culture. Education may be no more than a symboL because minority community members' perception of dismal future opportunities influence their perceptions of and responses to schooling (Ogbu, 1987). 4. In two cases the participants were the first in their families to receive college degrees. In four cases one or both parents had some college experiences. In two cases one grandparent had a college degree. In one case a grandparent had a law degree. In all cases education was discussed as the only way to "make it." Williams and Kornblum (1985) and Clark (1983 identified high parental expectations as the contributing factor why some children growing up in poor areas still manage to be successful in school and young adulthood. When reflecting upon the factors to which they attributed their success, each of the subjects identified, particularly mothers and grandparents, as primary contributors to their educational success. ''Despite, the burden of parental psychopathology, family discord, or chronic poverty, most young people identified as resilient have had the opportunity to establish a close bond with at least one person (not necessarily the mother or father) who provided them with stable care and from whom they modeled and received adequate and appropriate (Werner, 1991). 127

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Educational Experiences As with the family environment, research has identified that schools that establish high expectations for all kids-and give them the support necessary to achieve them-have incredibly high rates of academic success (Rutter, 1979; Brook, 1989; Edmonds, 1986; O'Neil, 1991; Levin, 1988; Slavin et aL, 1989). 1. All the participants had meaningful early successful school experiences that had a positive impact on the way the individuals viewed themselves. An outburst by Willie in elementary school turned his life around. Because Ron was bussed out of his neighborhood, he had to make many adjustments. The three other participants reported having enjoyed their elementary school experience. However. all of them experienced school success at this early stage. Each participant received positive reinforcement for performing well in schooL Positive reinforcements early in a child's career contributes to the overall academic success of the child (Cordeiro & Carspecken, 1993). This encouragement was a motivation to continue to do well in middle and high school. When the message one consistently hears-from teachers, from significant others in one's environment-is, "You are a bright and capable person," one naturally sees oneself as a bright and capable person, a person with that resilient trait, has a sense of purpose and a bright future explains Benard (1991). 2. Middle school was a time most of the participants had more responsibilities. All of them were able to become involved in extracurricular activities at school and in the community. They had positive attitudes about their potential for learning and the levels of challenges they had to face. Aspirations were consistent amongst all participants. Werner and Smith (1982) found that assigned chores, domestic responsibilities and even part-time work proved to be sources of strength 128

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and competence for resilient youth.. When children are given responsibilities, the message is clearly communicated that they are worthy and capable of being contributing members of the family. 3. In high school all the participants were involved in one or more sports. Student Council and choir were other activities in which two of the participants had active membership. Four of the participants were encouraged to enroll in college preparatory classes. One placed himself on a college track program although he was never counseled or advised to take college preparatory classes. He had to become a self-advocate. The academic achievement of at-risk students is the product not only of a child's intellectual ability, but also the school's climate and social support networks available from families. Clark ( 1991) stated that after peers are the most important source of support Social support networks from peers provide children and adolescents with a sense ofbeing valued, cared for, and loved. These support networks not only facilitate the development of an individual, but serve as a protective shield against stress. Based on the achievement ideologies of achieving and under achieving students the ability to do well is school is considered an asset. The phenomena of "acting white" described by Ogbu {1985, 1987, 1992) was clearly not an issue with the participants. 4. All the participants in this study received financial assistance, such as scholarships, financial aid, grants and loans to pursue a college education as a reality, because finances from the homes were unavailable. 129

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Fictive Kinship=Homies and the Hood Fordham (1996) explains African Americans imagined community of fictive kin (rather than the nuclear family), with its focus on the survival of the group rather than the individual, was evoked by the group's will to survive fictive kinship stimulated and incited an emphasis on the value of cooperation, collaboration, and solidarity. These values thus became institutionalized in the culture. I. Maintaining a strong positive identity and cultural heritage was important to all the participants. On some occasions they had to stand up for what they believed in and they had to negotiate their relationships with some of their peers as well as maintain their academic place in schooL The participants in this study reported few, if any, instances of harassment for being good students. But this was a small victory in itself: as the respect they received and the respect they gave to their peers was special. The sense of identity, family, and pride gave strength to their struggle to be speciaL Ogbu ( 1987) states minorities "tend to accept the dominant group folk theory the way to get ahead is through hard work, school success and individual ability." Likewise, the minorities are willing to adapt their cultural styles to succeed in schooL This adaptation is viewed as an additive process, as persons who do adapt do not have to compromise their cultural identities to achieve in schooL 2. All the participants knew what kind of neighborhood they lived in and they all wanted to get themselves out and have better lives. They all had friends and acquaintances and sometimes relatives who had become involved in gangs; however, they believed in a fictive kinship They all had 130

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to balance their lives and walk both sides of the streets. They had to make decisions good decisions! These were individual decisions made in a stressful environment. Ogbu ( 1986) uses the term "fictive kinship, to describe the bonds between people in the ethnic/cultural./ religious/social group beyond those people in one's family and extended family Fictive kinship is the cultural symbol of collective identity of Black Americas. The term fictive kinship has a broader meaning amongst African American. It conveys the idea of "brotherhood" and sisterhood'' of Black Americans. The participants understood and was connected to the fictive kinship system as virtually the majority of African American understand however they knew the challenges and disagreemems concerning the value and advantages ofbelonging to it and honoring its principles. Mentors and Role Models Werner (1991) found that adult relationships, i.e., natural mentoring, not only provided by parems and grandparents, but by neighbors, teachers, and other concerned adults, are a protective factor for youth growing up in stressful families and community environmems. 1. Having positive mentors or role models, who acknowledged their potential and provided support and encouragement for them as they struggled to beat the odds, played a key role in the success of all participants. For most of them, family members were the primary figures as mentors and role models. Strong family members, extended family, teachers and community members provided countless hours of encouragement, support and on-going recognition. 131

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As Willie so eloquently spoke about the members of the community, "[They] do make a difference!" The participants all agreed the special people in their lives made a difference. The individuals believed in them. Having this support and believing in themselves were significant conditions they needed. Werner and Smith (1982) states the key to effective prevention efforts is to reinforce, within every arena, the natural social bonds-between young and old, between siblings, between friends-"that gives meaning to one's life and a reason for commitment and caring., Research Question 2 2. What are the characteristics that foster resiliency in the lives of African American males growing up in the inner city? Resiliency Characteristics Social Competence. Problem Solving Skills. Autonomv and Sense ofPwpose All the participants demonstrated autonomy, having internal controL a sense of power, self-discipline and a definite power to produce when called upon. Despite the adversity they experienced in the community, these young men managed to bounce away from the odds and take on the positives of life. In examining the four attributes of resilient children: social competence, problem solving skills, autonomy, and sense of purpose and future (Benard, 1992), it appears all of the participants possessed the majority of these attributes. Social Competence. The participants all demonstrated that they were socially competent and responsive (and can elicit more positive responses from others) and 132

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have the ability to thrive, and increase competence in the face of adverse circumstances. These circumstances, as described in their life histories, included living in the inner-city where poverty and drugs and violent crime were commonplace. Each participant demonstrated the importance of being competent in achieving success. They wanted to get through school and have a good job. They envisioned themselves out of the negative environment their daily lives were entangled in. Their communication skills and flexibility allowed them to relate to gang members, as well as adults, peer and community members with respect. They were empathetic and caring. In their own unique way, each young man was resourcefuL insightful and displayed planning skills to have a better life for themselves. They were competitive and anxious. The theory regarding motivation identified by Pincus et al. (1980) applies in some cases of the participants. The children whose parents were hard-working, were inspired to imitate their parents. On the other hand, they were propelled not to stay in the same hardships that their parents had endured. Problem-Solving Skills. All the participants demonstrated their abilities to think quickly and abstractly. Benard ( 1991) identified the ability to think abstractly,. reflectively, and flexibly and to be able to attempt alternative solutions for both cognitive and social problems as essential skills. Willie, Ron and Sonny presented themselves clearly with these skills when in the company of gang members. The literature on "street" children growing up in the slums of the United States and other countries provided an extreme example of the role these skills play in the development of resiliency since these children must continually successfully negotiate the demands of their environment or not survive (Feldman, 1989). 133

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Autonomy. In the area of autonomy, the participants displayed a strong sense of independence and self-efficacy, most appeared to have some internal control and exerted some control over their environment. The young men were aware of their environment and participated in extra activities at school and in the community to avoid adversity. Benard ( 1991) discusses the term autonomy as a sense of one's own identity, and an ability to act independently and exert some control over one's environment. Each participant discussed his own social experiences and behavior as they walked in and out of their neighborhood. They revealed that their behavior was shaped by the nature of the environment they inhabited, and by their perceptions of how they were viewed (e.g., with fear, suspicion, intimidation or apprehension) by others. They all knew how far to go in their community. Sense of Purpose. Each participant demonstrated sense of purpose and personal strength in achieving success. Being persistent was common to alL They were persistent to bet the odds and better themselves and their lives. They challenged themselves and the system. Each of them was a high self-motivator. They were determined to make their lives different and better. Benard ( 1991) refers to a sense of meaning and future as a characteristic most resilient people have. All the participants in this study demonstrated a certain amount of self-efficacy and a belief that they had some degree of control over their environment by balancing their lives in the streets and in school during adverse circumstances. As Werner (1991) validates the personalities of resilient children are those who "work well, play well, love well, and expect welL" Richard has not completed his course work for his degree, but he proceeds by attending evening classes. He is continually working towards a career to 134

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become a counselor. Sonny, too, has not completed his schooling, but he has the aspirations to do so. Wlllie was determined not to stop at a bachelor's degree; he completed his master's degree within two years. In addition to being a professional arena football player, Sam completed barber school to bring home an additional income. Ron is determined to advance himself in the workplace. His career in television is just starting for a promising future in the media industry. The fact that all the parents of these young men were unable to finance their children's college education did not impede the young men in pursuit of good grades, with the visualization of going to college. These young men believed if they studied hard and did well in school, they would be able to receive academic scholarships, student aid, or other sources of support that would enable them to accomplish their goals. These young men's perceptions of their potential for success were buttressed by the significant adults in their lives. These adults, at home and school, constantly reassured them of their distinctiveness and their ability to overcome whatever might discourage them. They were empowered by the resources in their lives and the values of themselves by sel( family, and others. Benard ( 1991) claims looking beyond the children themselves to their environments-their families, schools, and communities-the protective characteristics that appear to facilitate the development of resiliency in young people fall into three categories: (1) caring and support; (2) high expectations; and (3) opportunities for children to participate. Each participant contributed to his own success. Though they received a tremendous amount of care and support from families and mentors, all the young men had to shoulder a considerable amount of the responsibility for advancing educationally and socially. These responsibilities included attending school regularly and working for good grades, making sure they were placed in the right classes or 135

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"track" work during middle school and taking the initiative to apply to and enroll in college track courses. All participants were involved in positive activities in school and in the community. It was as though they pursued success with their future in mind. They believed they could override the barriers to achieving their dreams. They also acted as if they believed that the could overcome whatever obstacles were placed in their way. Conclusion It is acknowledged this study was an in-depth life history analysis of five African American males. the studies' results may not be generalizable to all African American males. Because the data was gender specific, future studies might examine similar issues with African American females. I. A variety of factors contributed to the educational success of African American males. The results of this study lead to the conclusion that the life stories of the resilient men teach us that positive commitment to learning, positive, and caring adult role models are assets even under adverse circumstances. If young African American males have someone who provide them with encouragement and recognition of their abilities, they can focus on their inner strengths. 2. Educators should consider including the families and family experiences of African American males into the school and learning environment. VIllanueva ( 1990) believes that learning of an individual's family and culture can provide knowledge of cultural history, practices and values that serves young people in the classroom and in life. Parents alone should not be looked at as key family influences. Extended family, grandparents, siblings, and community members are all social networks that can act as assets for developing relationships. 136

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3. The men in the study felt supported and empowered. They were clear about their boundaries and values placed on them by their families. They spent their time constructively in becoming lifelong learners. They held positive values and adapted themselves to a negative social environment being able to balance their social competencies with having a positive sense of self. Significant events in their lives enhanced and/or impaired the process of development of each individual. In all cases the young men strongly believed in themselves. Schools must develop support structures which foster this resilience amongst all minority pupils. Recommendations for Further Research I. Continued research is encouraged to examine the culture of African American males. There is a great need for comprehensive analyses of the African American males and their success in the public schools, the_ private schools, in the inner city, in rural America, at the university, and in corporate America. 2. Continued mentoring African American males by community leaders, family and extended family members. Reaching African American males early at the elementary and middle school ages and grade levels, when most are still impressionable and eager to learn. 3. School must develop support structures which foster resilience amongst all minority pupils. 4. Contrast these findings with other minority group of students. 5. Examine and contrast these findings with African American studei}ts who are drop-outs. 137

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Questions for Further Research I Do African American males have to adopt mainstream values and behaviors in order to be successful in school'? 2 How do negative images of African American males in schools and communities promote and encourage underachievement? 3. What factors account for the alienation of African American males in the traditional school systems? 4. Do life histories provide a significant profile for staff development for educators? 5 How do we share histories of successful African American males with communities and schools? 6 Do African American males have to develop a "raceless"' or bicultural identity to avoid academic failure'? 138

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APPENDIX (ES) 139

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APPENDIX A Life History Interview Question Guide Narrator -----------------------Family l. Background information: Where were you born? When? Tell me about your parents. What were their occupations? What kind of contact did you have with your grandparents and other family members? Tell me about your siblings. How many brothers/sisters did you have? What is your place in the birth order? What was it like growing up in your family? 2. Describe your earliest memory of family celebrations or events. When you reflect on these memories do you think of any one person that stands out in your mind. If please explain. What family member mentored you? Please explain how. What part did your family play in your education? Please explain. How did your family show support and care? How were high expectations shared? Please explain. School 3. Reflecting on your overall school experiences, which ones stand out? What was a negative (positive) school experience that you may have had? Please describe. Tell me how well you did in school at each level (elementary, middle, high school, college). What leadership roles did you have at those levels, if any? Please explain. 4. Describe how you perceived yourself as a student. How did others perceive you? Please explain. What kinds of extracurricular activities did you participate in at school? What was your favorite, or what was the most important to you? Why? Please explain. Describe a person/event that may have influenced your life and how. 140

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5. Reflecting on your high school and post high school at what time and when did you consider college or a career? Please explain. What encouraged your interest? Please explain. Were you a first a your family to graduate from high schooL college? If please explain. Communitv 6. tell me about your community. What was the environment like? When you were in your community, did you feel safe and secure at all times? Please explain. Explain briefly, activities and/or facilities that were available for youth in your community that were significant. Were there gang activities present? If so, please describe. 7. Describe your fears and regrets of your community. What was a good memory of your community? Describe negative peer pressure, gangs and dangerous situations that you may have experienced in your community. What evidence was there of a supportive and caring community? Please explain. How did the adults in the community show they valued the youth? What did your community do to help you? What was your involvement in the church? Personal 8. What do you attribute to your success? Briefly, describe yourself as a self starter or risk-taker. What significant or difficult time stands out in your pathway to success? Please explain, if you feel that you had/have control over "things that happened to you." 9. Please describe a professional or career experience which stand out in your mind. What changes have you made personally or professionally within the past ten years? What future aspirations are there for you? 10. Briefly describe your present involvement in your community. School? Do you have children? (number, sexes, ages) How do you balance your career and family life? 11. Is there anything else in your life history which you would like to share? Anything else in general. 141

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APPENDIX B Questions for family/peer, community members/school officials interviews. Please descnl>e -------as you knew him, as he was growing up (at home, in the community, at school). L How did show motivation to do well in school? -------What ways did _______ place high values on being successful? 3 What was (home life friendship, life in the community or school) like from early years until he left home? 4. 5 6 What family member or person did -------model? Please explain. How did -------act on convictions and stand up for his beliefs? Please explain. What traits did -------show that he was sensitive caring and supportive? 7 How did avoid negative peer pressure and dangerous situations? Please describe 8 9. 10. How did -------indicate or show he bad control over "things that happened to him?" When did, if at anytime, did -------accepted and took personal responsibility for accomplishments? Please briefly describe -------as a son, a grandson, a friend, young man or student as best you can 142

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11. What qualities did ______ have that made you believe he would be a successful adult? 12. Is there anything else you would like to share about _______ ? 143

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Carter, D. E. DeTine, S. L. Sero, J., & Benson, F. W. (1975). Peer acceptance and school related variables in an integrated junior high school Journal of Educational Psychology. 67 267-273. Clark, M. (1991, November). Social identity, peer relations, and academic competence of African American-adolescents, (Special Edition, L. F. Wmfield [Ed.]). Education and Urban Society. 24 (1), 41-52. Clark, R. (1983). Family life and school achievement: Why poor black children succeed or &il. Chicago. IL: University of Chicago Press. Coleman, J. Campbell, E. Hobson, C. McPartland, J. A. Wenfield, F., & York, R. (1966). Equality of educational opportunity, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Colema.n, J., & Hoffer. T. (1987). Public and public high schools: The impact of communities. New York: Basic Books. Cordeiro, P., & Carspecken, P. (1993). How a minority of the minority succeed: A case study of twenty Hispanic achievers. International Journal ofOualitatiye Studies in Education.6 (4), 276-288. E. (1993). The rage of a privileged class. New York: Harper Collins. Damico, S. B. Effects of clique membership upon academic achievement, adolescence, X. (Spring, 1975). The Journal ofNegro Education. 93-100. Denver Planning and Development Office (1998). Author. Denver, CO: Depmbnent of Safety. City and County ofDenver. Edmonds, R. (1986). Characteristics of effective schools: The school achievement of minority children: HiJJsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Edwards, 0. L. (1976). Components of academic success: A profile of achieving black adolescents. Journal ofNegro Education. 45 ( 4), 408-422. Feldman, R. Stiffinan, A., & Jung, K. (1987). Children at risk: In the web of parental mental illness. New Bnmswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 145

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