Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Filling the void left by absent fathers

Alberto Garcia (left) helps boys think about what it means to be a man. They were gathered at the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs’ Barreto Club in Humboldt Park. The conversation sometimes involves his numerous tattoos. “I have a lot of friends on my body,” he says.

     “What’s a real man?”
     Alberto Garcia writes that question and two others on a whiteboard in a social room on the second floor of the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs’ Barreto Club in Humboldt Park. Facing him are a dozen boys — eight 8 to 11 years old; the other four are teenage mentors.
     “I want you guys to think really deep,” says Garcia, 27. “Three questions. No. 1, male stereotypes. No. 2 is, ‘What is a real man?’ Then a mural idea. If you had a blank wall, or could put up anything. That breakout session starts now.”
     They divide into two tables to discuss the topic. At one, Shacole, 13, and takes the lead. He quizzes each younger boy in turn.
     “What is your definition of a man?” he asks the kid next to him.
     “Somebody who pays the rent,” answers Malachi, 11. “Who has a good living and a job. Takes care of himself.”
     They bump fists. Shacole turns to the next boy.
     “What is your definition of a man?”
     “Working hard,” says Tawan, 11. “Helping others.”
     “What is your definition of a man, Avian?”
     “Someone who cares, first of all, about yourself,” says the boy, also 11. “Respect everyone. Caring. Not just a man’s job to make all the money.”
     Shacole adds his own perspective.
     “Caring, self-respect,” he says, ticking qualities off on his fingers. “They don’t beat on people. It’s not the man’s job to make ALL the money.”

To continue reading, click here.


  1. Before I had my own children I made the attempt on a personal level to fill the void left by absent fathers.

    I was a volunteer with the Cook county juvenile department and mentored in a big brother style twin boys who were in trouble with the law at the age of 12 and whose father had died in a fire when they were toddlers.

    They were in a gang and their mother was struggling with substance abuse problems.

    I was part of their life for over 10 years until one of them ended up in prison for carjacking and the other one died of an opioid overdose, New Year's Day 2002.

    I remember going to a banquet where other mentors were there with children who had grown up to be successful adults and were being honored.

    It didn't Quite turn out that way for my boys.

    Thankfully my biological children have turned out a lot better.

    It gives me great sadness to think about Sam and Dan but I really gave it an effort and it's tough when they're already deep in the game.

    You need to get involved when they're really young to give them a real chance to find success.

  2. These kinds of stories don't always have happy endings. The ones they show on the nightly news always have such uplifting and inspiring conclusions. Unfortunately, that's not how Real Life works. Sorry about the way it ended up for you and your boys.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.