Wise & Young

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Each One Teach One

Each one Teach One

One thing that I always wanted was a mentor, someone who I could get advice from, learn from their experiences either professional or personal. When I was in college they had this group called Akoma Circle, which was to peer mentoring for black freshman and transfer students, I tried joining, but I was told that I really don’t need a mentor because I already had a plan, and I was working towards it. Now get this, I was asked to be a mentor for sophomores and juniors when it was my first yea. Honestly, it pissed me off b/c I felt that I was getting the short end of the stick b/c everyone thought I always had it all together which to a degree was the case, I’ve always worked towards my goals, had a strategic plan and stayed with it, and more often than not especially back then I achieved those goals.
Then I went to into the working world and I tried to get a de-facto mentor when I worked on the Hill but that didn’t work out, mainly because I was part of the “IN” crowd, one of those kids who went to an HBCU, or came from a family that had connections. So that didn’t work out for me. Then when I worked at an international consulting firm, I was in the process of securing a mentor and she was actually really knowledgeable, friendly, easy to talk to, and she was the one who hipped me how people in the know get jobs and network in DC. She worked at this place called Africare, which is the largest and oldest non-profit organization for aid to African run by African-Americans. So what she told me to do was to call these three people, who just so happened to be high up in the organization, drop her name, and ask for an informational interview. At the time, I had heard that of informational interviews, but not as a way to land a job but merely to gain information on the job field. So I did what she told me to, and I came in hand with my resume, to make a long story short, they were trying to find a place for me at the organization and basically said hey go back to school get a masters and come back to us, and you’ll have a job. Now, see this was the very first time, that anything like that had ever happened to me, and why did it happen b/c I had someone who was trying to help me in a manner similar to what a mentor helps a mentee.
Now to expand this concept to the gay life, there are a good amount of guys who have a gay father, from my understanding it is usually a guy who has been in the gay life longer than someone else who is new, like a neophyte, and gives them advice and helps them out. A friend of mine and I were talking, and saying how it would have helped us tremendously to have someone like a gay father that we could have learned from their mistakes and their experiences, instead of making them on my own.
But what kills me is that I’m not someone people think needs help, or ever have an inclination to try to help. There were times where I was asking for help and advice and people are unwilling to help me, why, b/c they think I am joking or patronizing them. When is it going to be my time to get a mentor, or is my role to be the mentee?

Just my thoughts


  • I won’t go there professionally…but in the gay life it is sometimes difficult to find a mentor for two reasons: 1. Some older men want to “hit that” young perky thing and 2. some gay men are trying to accept getting older and see the younger gay men as threats. As I’ve mentioned a million times, the gay life is equivalent to the model’s life – when you’re young and hot it’s cute for you, but when you begin to age (especially if you were HOT in your day) it’s hard to be genuine with the younger community. That said, in my day (and I’m def older than you) we sometimes were mentored by folks that in turn expect something from us – usually physically…a drunken moment in the moonlight, etc. We took the knowledge we needed and eventually either cut them off or were able to convert these mentor-mentee relationships into lasting ones. All this to say that you may have to accept a few things in your search for a true gay mentor:
    1. Stop equating mentors in the gay life with professional mentors. Unfortunately, the two are very different and the latter is not likely to put their tongue up your ass on your way up the ladder. (okay…vulgar, but you get the picture)
    2. From the sound of it (and pa, take this as mentoring, not shade) you may come across as a know-it-all, rather than a confident brotha. Let’s tone down our, “Yeah, I know I have it together and have always stuck to my plans, but…” to a more “Looks can be deceiving; I can really use your mentoring. I am far from a complete package” [insert smile and warm giggle here] You get more bees with honey…. You remember that saying. Well, folks don’t want to feel that you’re not really asking for their help but are in a position to analyze any info they give you.
    3. Make yourself available and don’t expect Johnnie Cochran… that’s right pa, it turns out that some of the best mentoring I’ve received hasn’t come from scholars, corporate giants or sitting justices… some of the greatest life-preserving advice has been from your average Joe gay man of color who has taken the time to let me know (in his own humble way) what they wish they could’ve done better and where they experienced some serious disasters. Besides, it’ll really give your esteem a boost when they reflect on how they weren’t half as beautiful as you are, so they feel you have a leg up on the deal! (LOL)

    It is difficult being a young gay man of color without respectable and dependable mentors, but – trust me on this one – make yourself available and be genuine and you’ll get it all in return. Sure, you’ll have to be humble sometimes and tolerate some odd or inappropriate come-ons every now and again, but it’s worth it for the long term gain.

    Keep your head up and just think… even today your older brethren are showing you some love and providing some mentoring… 

    Keep passin’ the open windows…

    By Blogger Cocoa Rican, at 1:25 PM  

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