For many Black male students, there exist a number of systematic barriers to success even before they reach college – and continue through their education. To combat this phenomenon, Howard’s program, the Men of the Mecca Initiative (MMI) has been striving to help provide the tools, resources and experiences necessary for success on campus and beyond.
“Community and belonging are foundational elements of success for many of our male students and we want to create a safe environment where students can build, grow and develop freely. They need spaces where they can simply exist without feeling the need to wear the mask that so many of us where every day,” said Calvin Hadley, senior advisor to the president for strategic initiatives and founder of MMI.
The program began when President Frederick approached Hadley about researching and evaluating what could be done to help the male population on campus given the known circumstances surrounding Black males nationwide. The Men of the Mecca Initiative is designed to elevate their personal well-being, improve academic and professional development, and increase their civic engagement.
Black males often encounter a plethora of historically rooted obstacles in the classroom and out that hinder their ability to succeed to their maximum capacity, including the ability to graduate high school and continue into college. MMI was designed to identify the unique needs of the Black male population and create an infrastructure of support around them.
MMI’s first area of approach was surrounding mental health and removing the stigma associated with it. Programs include kicking off the academic year with a “Burning of Fears Ceremony” in partnership with Rankin Chapel; a Barbershop Talk Series, in which various campus partners engage in conversation with group members in a safe and comfortable setting; and community service projects and engagement. The Men of the Mecca also have a student lounge, weekly study sessions and tutoring access.
Success will ultimately be determined by recruitment, retention and graduation rates among men at Howard, but equally important are the things that can’t easily be measured like: sense of belonging, state of well-being, and the ability to seek help when needed. Hadley hopes that MMI will illuminate the unique needs of the Black male population on Howard’s campus and nationwide.
“I dream of a day where male students come to Howard specifically because of its unique ability to serve their needs and propel them toward success,” Hadley said.
Article ID: 1251
This hour-long “Chat & Chew” activity is a collaboration between the Office of Vice President for Student Affairs and the Office of University Communications that connects students and University leadership in an informal way.