Dec. 1, 2007 — Many Virgin Islanders have expressed concerns about where island youth are headed. Some men acted on that concern Saturday.
Fathers and surrogate fathers, along with their boys, gathered Saturday at a workshop on involvement, togetherness and love.
"Since returning from Iraq recently, I realized my son is my number one priority," said Brian O'Reilly. "I need to be there for him — he is more important to me than anything."
The "Men's Carousel" workshop was a hands-on program giving the opportunity for learning and father-son interaction.
More than 90 men and boys attended the workshop with 38 of them actually fathers and sons. The individual workshops were held in classrooms at the St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC). Larry Francis, a teacher at the center, led a class in drafting and architectural design.
Frederico Brown introduced the group to the business of upholstery and Ulric Benjamin gave a talk on auto repair.
The boys also got a hands-on approach to gardening. They planted their own plants under the direction of Kendall Petersen of the St. Croix Farmers in Action.
Chef Anton Doos, of the food services and culinary arts department at the center, gave cooking instructions. The center's Parent Advisory Committee put on the workshop.
Acting as surrogate fathers to some of the boys were members of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. The goal of the fraternity is to do community outreach for at risk young men.
In a conflict resolution session, fraternity brother Arthur Petersen, former commissioner of agriculture, got a group discussion going on how dads need to tell their sons they love them.
Psychologist Etherero Akinshegun gave a rousing and, at times, emotional talk on raising sons, male bonding and the treatment of women. He told the men in his group session they have to show boys how to grow up to be decent young men. "Some boys watch dads raise fighting cocks instead of them," Akinshegun said.
Akinshegun, a psychotherapist at Queen Louise home, said later in an interview, "This is where my heart is, fathers and sons, men and boys."
The boys and men had a dominoes tournament with prizes awarded. There were door prizes and gift bags given to each of the boys. Lunch was prepared by the Good to Chew students from the food services and culinary arts department at CTEC.
Carolyn McKenzie, chairman of the St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center Parent Advisory Committee, said they collaborated with V.I. PUSH (Parents Uniting Schools and Homes), the police department, Lutheran Social Services and The Village — V.I. Partners in Recovery. Members of the V.I. National Guard led the conflict-resolution seminar and also acted as surrogate fathers. McKenzie said the workshop was a dream that came to fruition because of those collaborations.
"I personally don't believe a woman can raise a boy alone," McKenzie said. "Boys need positive role models and men have to step up."
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