Issues Black Youth Face Today
Dr. Harold Davis, president and national director of the TALKS Mentoring program, talks about some of the issues facing our youth today: sexual promiscuity, gender identity issues, same-sex attraction, and peer pressure to name a few. Davis tells listeners what they need to know to understand and reach out to black youth around them.
About the Guest
Dr. Harold Davis talks about some of the issues facing our youth today: sexual promiscuity, gender identity issues, same-sex attraction, and peer pressure to name a few.
Issues Black Youth Face Today
Bob: When Harold Davis sits down with a group of young men to begin the process of mentoring them, he hopes that, over time, some lifelong bonds will be formed; but that’s not his primary goal.
Harold: We don’t start with relationships. We go in and we say, “Why are we here?” The kids say, “To take care of business.” We say, “What is the business?” They say, “Wisdom.” We say, “Let’s get busy”; and we start reading and sharing wisdom. That’s how we start. We start with business; we don’t start with touchy-feely “I love you,” because that’s fake! I don’t love you—I just met you.
So let’s start with the business relationship. The business is wisdom. We interact; and over time, feelings develop and come forth. Always go with love in your heart—the love of Jesus knocks down all types of barriers. It’s the only force—it’s the greatest force in the world. So when you do that, you have an entree—you’re in.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There’s a reason why the Book of Proverbs starts where it does, pointing people to the importance of wisdom. We’ll talk about how Harold Davis is doing that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I’m just sitting here, thinking that the question I’m about to ask you—if I’d asked you this question 25 years ago, when we were first getting started with FamilyLife Today, you’d have said, “Yes.” If I ask you this question 25 years from now, you’d probably say, “Yes,” then too. The question is: “Do you think it is harder today to grow up, as a young person, in this culture?”
Dennis: Oh! [Laughter] Oh my goodness!
Bob: We thought—
Dennis: I’m looking at my grandkids; and I’m telling you—this is a—I hate to say it—but it is back to Ephesians, Chapter 5: “…the days are evil.”
Dennis: There are bad people out there; and there are easier ways today, through screens, to seduce our children at younger and younger ages.
Bob: We thought things were hard 25 years ago, when we were raising the next generation. Now, as our kids are raising the next generation, it’s just obvious to us that the stakes have gotten higher and the fight is harder.
Dennis: And as you watch the breakdown of the family occur, it doesn’t make it better—because you’re taking forces out of the culture, which push back against evil and push back for good—because, even a family with its imperfect people, when it’s together, it’s a force for good—it can make an impact.
Well, we have a guest with us, Dr. Harold Davis, who knows this well.
You’ve been involved in leadership development training of young people for more than 20 years in the public school system through mentoring. You have a ministry called TALKS Mentoring, and you see the need Bob’s talking about. Young people today are being pummeled with the cultural issues around sexual identity, around immorality, around the racial divide, around peer pressure of all kinds of things—pornography on the internet—I mean, these are tough days to grow up as a young person.
Harold: Yes; these are very tough days, but the same Jesus that helped my ancestors is here to help us now. We desperately need to get the Word of God to the young people. We have to get out to them—we have to do practical things, like going to the elementary school and mentoring them / picking them up for Sunday school; because we have to get the message to them.
Bob: You know, when my kids were little and I was teaching them that it’s wrong to tell a lie,—
Bob: —the culture pretty much agreed with that.
Dennis: It reinforced it.
Bob: And they would say: “Yes; that’s right. Lying is bad.” Today—well, you have to define what a lie is, and there might be circumstances under which it’s okay. You take that—with lying—and you apply it with—well, I was teaching my kids that sex should be for marriage.
Bob: A young person today—I’m imagining, if you sat down with a 12-year-old and said, “Have you ever stopped to think that sex should be for marriage only?” they’d look at you like, “What planet are you from?”
Harold: Absolutely. My daughter—who was raised in my house, with prayer every morning before they went to school—came home and she said to me—she said, “Dad, if you’re gay, you know, you’re born that way.” I about fell out off the chair: “How could she get that idea?”—you know, she had been raised in my home.
So yes; the culture is impacting our children and our grandchildren now. I just believe that we should fight harder. We should pray harder, fight harder, teach harder.
Dennis: Well, and these broadcasts are all about that—to equip parents and give parents the courage to speak into their own children’s lives to give them a sense of moral direction / spiritual direction, help them understand what it means to be a man and not a woman, what it means to be a woman and not a man, and also to point moms and dads beyond their own families to the boys and girls in school, where it’s a ready-made ministry that the TALKS Mentoring program talks about—to take three children once a week for 30 minutes and have some of these conversations that you’ve laid out. You have all kinds of books filled with talks / discussion points that kids desperately need to hear today.
Harold: Yes; yes.
Dennis: Take us into one of those talks, and let’s unpack it.
Harold: Gaining an understanding of your orientation is important; because who will provide with objectivity/fairness when dealing with yourself and others?
This is possibly my most popular comment in the book, because that’s what I see in all ages. People have not dealt with some of the issues and scars that they had, growing up. I’m in my 60s, and I’m still unpacking garbage from my formative years.
A funny story—my dad, who lived in the country—Fayette County, up in the hills—they didn’t have a dentist. They just had Mr. Johnson, who kind of did those things. He told me this story millions of times. He would tell me about how he went to Mr. Johnson’s house, and how Mr. Johnson took his huge hand and he put it in his mouth…; and when he would tell the story, he would frown up, reliving it.
One day, he was in his 70s, and he told me this story again. He’d told it many times; and as he was telling the story, he stopped and snapped his fingers—he says, “That’s the reason he was sweating, because he had just come out of the fields!” I thought to myself, “If this 70-year-old man is giving clarification on a childhood pain—
Dennis: Right. [Laughter]
Harold: —you know. We have people in their 30s, and 40s, and 50s, who’ve not even started to investigate their pain. We have a lot of work to do to help people.
Bob: Well, we do; and you know, we’re involved with couples, trying to work through marriage issues. Today, most people getting married—if they used to bring suitcases into their marriage—today, they’re bringing foot lockers in—
Harold: Wow; absolutely.
Bob: —in large measure, because of the sexual activity that they’ve brought with them into the marriage relationship. In fact, you wrote a book, just out of your frustration about the whole issue of marriage. As a pastor, you don’t want to marry anybody anymore; do you?
Harold: No. People come to me—and they’re smiling and they’re happy—and they say, “We want you to officiate our wedding!”—like I’m supposed to jump up and be all happy. No—the title of the book is No. “I do not want to officiate your wedding, because there’s so much pain associated with it.” You know—they look at you—they say, “Yes,” / they go through everything. They give you the impression that they understand; and then, they will separate and not even call you!
They will not have said: “Pastor, we’re getting ready to leave each other. Do you want to talk us?” They’ll just do it.
Dennis: So you haven’t given up on marriage—in fact, the subtitle of the book is A Pastor’s Commitment to Marriage.
Dennis: You’re just talking about preparing this couple for something other than a ceremony.
Harold: Yes; something other than a little short fling basically. I really want to do more counseling—I want to do more to prepare them. If I’m going to marry you, it has to be a little more important—it has to be important to you / the longevity has to be important.
Bob: You know, I’m thinking back to, again, a decade or two ago. There were big movements around teaching kids to “Just say, ‘No,’ to sex”; and then, there was the “Say, ‘No,’ to immorality,”—the purity rings and the True Love Waits programs. In our culture today, the average person, who’s getting married, hasn’t waited.
I’m thinking the average 16-year-old girl has, at least, half of her friends who are not virgins anymore.
Harold: Right; right.
Bob: And she’s scratching her head, going, “Where’s the payoff?”
Harold: Yes; yes.
Bob: So if you’re sitting down—or your wife is sitting down with her—or you’re sitting down with that 16-year-old boy, who’s going, “All my friends are telling me I must be gay, because I’m still a virgin,” how are you going to tell them that this really is for their good?
Harold: Well, the first thing, I’m going to let them know that there’s an enemy that wants to destroy you. The way the enemy works is that he tries to affect us, early on, in life and capitalize on it later. Sexual activity early in your life—he’s going to capitalize on it later. I counseled a couple who were divorcing because one of them had called somebody else’s name in the heat of passion. They were married, but they were getting divorced.
You should go into marriage with a blank slate.
I tell people: “On your honeymoon, you should say, ‘What are we going to do?’ ‘Well, I don’t know. Let’s try this / let’s try that.’” It should be new and refreshing for everybody—that’s God’s design; you know.
I always give the kids the science of sharing bacteria. You know what I mean? When two people have sex, they have sex with them and everybody else that’s in their bloodstream. Sex gets in their bloodstream, and everybody else you’ve had sex with in your bloodstream. I give them the ugly truth about bacteria and everything and try to encourage them that God’s design is for you to have a wonderful first time with your spouse.
Bob: Do you see young men and young women responding to that today?
Harold: I want to say that I’m on a university campus. I know lots of virgins on the college campus there—they’re still there, and they’re Christians. They go to the support group they’re in—InterVarsity [Christian Fellowship], Campus Crusade®, and other stuff—they get in their support group. They’re still there.
But you look at the ones who aren’t, and the ones who are hurt. See, Dennis, it only takes one hurt child to hurt me.
Harold: I focus on one. You know, I think about the fact, when you help somebody, you’re helping somebody’s child—somebody’s grandchild / somebody’s sister—
Dennis: Right; right.
Harold: —and that’s the way I look at people. I look at everybody like Jesus died for them. I’ll be in a crowd—and I’ll point out somebody that’s just unseemly and odious in some way—and I’ll say, “Jesus would have died for that person if they were the only one on planet earth.” All these children, every one of them, is special to the Lord; and we need to consider their hurts and their pains.
Dennis: Let’s talk about issues around sexual identity / gender identity today; because that’s obviously a point of tremendous peer pressure in junior high, high school, beyond.
Harold: Yes; wow! I’m very biblical—I just do the biblical perspective. It’s become a fad right now. When I was in high school, the big deal was to go to the prom with a white girl. But you know, we’re still talking boys and girls—so I think they’ve taken it to a new level. I think we need to provide them with the truth—not be ashamed—I don’t go into it apologetically. I’m just very clear and I tell them: “No; God’s not happy with that. It’s going to hurt you in the long run, and there’s no future to it,”—
—because there is no future in it.
I go and explain to them—when I was coming along, I was in bars and clubs; and it was everywhere—same-sex relationships was everywhere. All those people that I know, the majority of them no longer with us. It’s a high-risk lifestyle for males, and nobody talks about that. It’s a very violent lifestyle for men; nobody talks about that. So it’s something that I’m straight with—I tell the truth about.
And even in my church, I often talk about the fact that I’m married to the most beautiful woman in the world. I tell the deacons, “Now, when I say that, you’re supposed to say, ‘Me too.’ You’re supposed to raise your hand and say, ‘Me too.’” [Laughter] In my church, we celebrate masculinity. I talk about female femininity and how wonderful it is. See, what needs to happen is—we need to do that. We need to talk about how wonderful female femininity is. We need to talk about how wonderful married sex is. Everybody has the idea that it is boring. We need to celebrate how wonderful it is, and nobody’s telling the boys.
People are afraid to say it; but as Christians, we have to tell the truth and tell them in love.
Bob: I know, as you are involved in mentoring, there is a disproportionate number of black young men that you’re working with.
Bob: It seems to me, today, that racial tension / racial issues have kind of looped back around and have re-presented themselves in the culture. For awhile, I thought we were making progress!
Harold: Well, the human heart is deceitful above all things. I’ll tell you a funny story—as I sit here, this is hilarious. I remember, 30 years ago, I was listening to a radio program like we’re making right now. I heard a white pastor talk about the fact that the race issue is just sin. I got frustrated with him—I said: “He’s copping out. He’s not dealing with the real issues,” and this, that, and the other. I just kind of turned it off, and I was frustrated. But now, 30 years later, having read the Bible a few times and had a few—know a little bit about me and human nature—the racial issue is just sin, and it’s convenient.
I’m sitting here, looking at Dennis in the face, and if I wanted to call Dennis a name, the first and easiest name for me to say is, “You White-so-and-so,” because he’s white. It’s just—you know. But if Dennis—if you have to call Bob a name, you’re going to have to be a little more creative than that. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; but you’re talking about what’s in a human heart.
Harold: Yes; yes.
Dennis: It does divide us. So what kind of conversations are you having with young people today in school about addressing the racial divide?
Harold: We talk about love. Love is the greatest force in the world. One of my most favorite groups in Champaign, Illinois—is a gentleman by the name of Mike Webber, who mentored three boys—one Latino, one black, and one white. When they got together, they weren’t even that crazy about each other. He mentored them all the way through high school; and at the end, they were the best friends.
So, you know—let me share something with you. I’m a former musician. One day, we had what’s called a mis-booking—that’s when the booking agent does not look at the picture—he just sends the band out. He sent us out to a Dewdrop Inn on the side of a hill in West Virginia.
At the time, we had four black guys and a white drummer. So we go to the Dewdrop Inn. I go to the door and I tell the guy, “We’re your entertainment for tonight.” He says, “I’ll be blankety blank, blankety blank, blankety blank, blankety blank if you are.” I showed him a contract with his signature on it, and he reluctantly let us in.
We went in and the people saw what was coming in—all white audience—the only thing black in there was the shoes. They put their heads down: “This is our Friday night. It’s ruined! Motown is here,” and they were just totally, “Give me a double. I’m done,”—you know. They were totally done for the evening. We set up our instruments and everything. We told them who we were, and we told them that we’re their entertainment. They were looking at us like, “Oh!”
And then, I picked up the guitar; and I went [making guitar sounds]: “Der, der, der, derr, derr, derr, dom, tickety-dom, tickety-dom.” [Sounding like Johnny Cash]: “I hear the train a comin’—it’s comin’ ‘round the bend.” [Laughter] And do you know? They begin to jump up and down, and whoop and holler, and dance and yell, because—what had happened? What did I do? I literally stepped into their world. Johnny Cash was their world—we did Johnny Cash.
We were, all of a sudden, their best friends in the whole wide world—we had a wonderful evening!
The ability to—what?—step into somebody’s world. I don’t care who it is—I don’t care who it is. If you can develop the ability to step into—I have white friends / male friends, who have the ability to step into a young black friend’s world, and they have done wonderful things toward helping them. So that goes in any direction / any direction. I mean, that applies for anything and everything. Salespeople know that; but I think we forget it, as Christians, in our attempt to meet the needs of people and to witness to people.
That’s my answer to the racial problem—I love on white people with the love of Jesus. That’s what I do, and I don’t have any problem with anybody.
Dennis: So what is—and maybe you’ve already answered this question—but for a white person, who’s stepping into a young black boy’s world / a young black girl’s world, what should a white person know as they attempt to engage around their world?
Harold: Well, the first thing I would tell them—we go in with a structure—where the children agree to listen, they agree to cooperate, they agree to read and just think.
We start there, and then relationships develop. We don’t start with relationships. We go in and we say, “Why are we here?” The kids say, “To take care of business.” We say, “What is the business?” They say, “Wisdom.” We say, “Let’s get busy”; and we start reading and sharing wisdom. That’s how we start. We start with business. We don’t start with touchy-feely “I love you,” because that’s fake. I don’t love you—I just met you!
So let’s start with the business relationship. The business is wisdom—we interact; and over time, feelings develop and come forth. Some of these people—it’s really interesting—I see grown people, all over town, who were in the mentoring program; and they will tell me, “I’m still talking to my mentor.” They grew out of the mentoring situation into friends. I’ll say this: “Always go with love in your heart. The love of Jesus knocks down all types of barriers. It’s the only force—it’s the greatest force in the world. When you do that, you have an entree—you’re in.”
Bob: I would think one of the tough things you’re going to run up against, trying to influence young men and young women, is the fact that they hear you for a half hour a week; but they hear their peer group 24/7 on Facebook®, on Twitter®, text messages. The peer influence today—peer pressure’s always been an issue—but it’s never been as constant as it is today. Even if my kids are home, spending time with the family, they’re still being influenced by their peers through their devices.
Harold: Right; absolutely. My philosophy is: “Let’s give them the truth; because in the end, the truth is always going to win.”
I remember—I was with three boys. I said something to them; and then I said to them, “I’m going to be redundant here,” and I said it again. Then, a couple of minutes later, I said, “I’m going to be redundant again,” and I said it again. A couple minutes later, I said, “I’m going to be redundant again.” The boys said, “He’s going to say it again!” We can’t fear being redundant!
Harold: And we have to drill it, and drill it, and drill it—just like we hated to hear—they hate it to hear—but they need it when that day comes that they need that information.
Dennis: What is parenting but being redundant?
Harold: Oh! I don’t know what it is!
Dennis: I mean, seriously— we used to think we were raising juvenile delinquents—because our kids had so much sibling rivalry. We were trying to teach them how to ask for forgiveness, how to grant forgiveness, how to be reconciled with each other—it was over, and over, and over.
Dennis: It was relentless.
Dennis: But it is the way we pass on real skills to young people.
Harold: I think about the people that mentored me. Mr. Pratt was my first boss—300 pounds / six-foot man—and he would get in my grill, man. I still see him, from time to time, on certain concepts.
My son was about to get in a fight on campus, and he said he saw my face—that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen.
We have to fill those voids—and be the Mr. Pratts and be the other people that children, literally, see when they confront a situation. What could be better than providing them with a paradigm, an answer to a challenge that they’re going to face?
This is what I would like to say to all kids: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or the gazelle; when the sun comes up, you better be running. [Laughter] You better be running, and life is about running.”
Dennis: It is.
Bob: And part of our hope, in having you join us this week and be a part of these programs, is that folks, who are listening, who have a half hour a week that they could invest, will hear what we’re talking about and say: “If I just had some outlines, I could—I could talk with kids.
“I could help get them pointed in the right direction. I could go counter to the culture and maybe win them toward what the Bible has to say about things.” That’s really what you’re trying to do with the TALKS curriculum / the TALKS Mentoring Leadership Program that you’ve developed.
And let me take just a minute here, Dennis, and let our listeners know that they can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and we have a link to Harold’s website. There you will find the curriculum that is available for elementary, for junior high, for high school—for both boys and girls—and other resources designed to help you be able to take the material and become a mentor to half a dozen young people in your community. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; and we hope, if you have any inkling that this might be something God’s calling you to do, that you will check it out online. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
Dennis: And, Bob, I’m so glad you’ve explained how our listeners can tie into the TALKS mentoring program. Harold, I just appreciate you, your faithfulness, and how you have hung in there with young people. How many young people do you think you’ve mentored in your lifetime?
Harold: Wow—hundreds—hundreds in the structured setting—but also in the juvenile detention—and just loving all kids everywhere—it has been quite a few.
Dennis: And your favorite?
Harold: My favorite kid?
Harold: Wow! I don’t know if I have one—I love them all—I don’t know if I have one. But I will say this—I was going to Chicago one time, and I stopped to get gas. I went in to pay for my gas. As I was coming out, a young man walked up to me, clean-cut black guy. I didn’t remember him—they always think you remember them. He says, “I want to thank you for what you did.” He said, “I’m 21 years old, never been in trouble, and I’m going into the Navy in two weeks.” That made it for me. I was done—you could stick a fork in me. [Laughter]
Bob: I want to do something that Dennis always gets to do, because I just think this makes sense right here.
Dennis: After 25 years—
Bob: I have never done this; have I?
Dennis: —you have never done this!
Bob: And you know what I’m going to do.
Dennis: Our listeners know what you’re about to do—I do!
Bob: So, here’s what we want to do. You’ve had young men come back and look you in the eye and say, “Thank you for how you invested in my life.”
Bob: I’m going to give you the opportunity to do that same thing.
Bob: But we’re going to just imagine that your dad is here in the studio with us.
Bob: And we’re going to leave, and it’s just you and your dad. Let’s imagine this might be the last time you had a chance to have a conversation with him—
Harold: Yes; okay; okay.
Bob: —talking straight to him, what would you thank him for?
Harold: Yes; yes. I want to pretend he’s sitting right there. I’d like to say:
Pops, I love you. I appreciate you walking before me in integrity. I appreciate all the days you got up at five o’ clock to go to work; and you worked and came back after dark.
I appreciate how you loved my mother and taught me, through example, what I needed to do.
I appreciate you persisting in a very difficult world. In spite of our poverty, you maintained food on the table. Sometimes, it was difficult; but I just want to thank you.
Now, that I’m a man, I’m taking what you did a step further. I want you to know that you have a grandson / a great-grandson; and we rise up—we call you “Blessed.” We celebrate you: “You’re the man! You’re the man!” I appreciate you, and I love you.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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