By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma City chapter of Save Black Boys, led by Montele Wesley, opened its doors in August 2017. An all-volunteer, 501c3 nonprofit organization, Save Black Boys specializes in mentoring young Black boys, youth and men in urban areas.
The brainchild of Kevon Gulley, an author, lecturer and activist from Compton, California, Save Black Boys was founded in October 2014. Based in Los Angeles, several chapters have opened throughout the country.
“The goal of SBBOKC is to provide a safe space for young, black, at risk youth in the Oklahoma City area,” said Wesley, the group’s founder and director. “We want to educate these young men on how to navigate the hurdles society will put in front of them, teach them life skills, work on their emotions, and mental health.”
Jasmine Anderson, of KOKH Fox 25, reported that each Friday the boys gather with their mentors to go on field trips focusing on youth leadership, mental health, science and technology.
“They give me so much energy, every week… and I just see myself in so many of them,” Wesley told Anderson.
Born in Los Angeles, Montele grew up in Oklahoma City graduating from Putnam City West High School. After completing his service as a specialist in the US Army, he decided to start the Oklahoma City chapter.
“The evening was devoted to an examination of the arbitrary and racist nature of the death penalty,” said event host, Dr. Elizabeth Overman, Professor in the UCO Political Science Department and vice chair of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “The underlying and rattling issue is the execution of innocent individuals.”
Wesley recalled, “I had previously shown the boys the Julius Jones story back in July. We watched all 3 episodes and then I had the boys write letters to Julius about what they learned from it, and their own thoughts on his situation. He wrote back to every boy in my program individually, which I truly appreciate.”
Wesley currently works with twelve boys in the program ranging from 7 to 17 years old.
“I brought them to the UCO screening because as a mentor to the boys I didn’t want Julius’ story to seem like a TV show,” Wesley continued. “I wanted them to know how real this situation is and how close to home it hits. That Julius easily could have been me, or potentially in the future, one of them.”
Wesley, and mentor A.J. Smith, along with five boys from the SBBOKC program entered after the screening had started – all wearing black t-shirts bearing the Save Black Boys logo. The boys intently watched the two-hour screening and participated in the Q&A session that followed.
“Going to the UCO screening allowed the boys to see, touch, talk, and feel the complete situation.” Wesley said. “Not only were they able to hear Julius speak during the screening, but while on break from the screening, they were able to speak to him personally.”
Julius’ sister Antionette phoned Julius during an event break because the boys wanted to thank him personally for writing to each of them.
“Talking to the boys after the screening… they truly loved everything about the event,” Wesley said.
“Our motto is we are in the business of building young men. These goals are the core of the program and events like the UCO screening helps us get to that goal,” Wesley added.
Partnering with Los Angeles County, Gulley built the organization based on all the things he missed in his life as a kid, reported Brian Carter of the Los Angeles Sentinel.
Gulley says the organization “takes a realistic approach to life by teaching young Black youth how to deal with real life situations.”
“To watch your vision grow across the country is a big deal,” Gulley posted on Facebook. “Save Black Boys Oklahoma City director Montele Wesley is carrying and holding the tradition and hard work we do to a higher standard. Great things are coming from this chapter.”
Gulley created eight points of focus for the Save Black Boys program: Career & College Preparation; Group Counseling; Sex Education; Driver’s Education; Negativity Detoxing; Single Mother Awareness Readiness Training (S.M.A.R.T.); Gang Intervention and Prevention; and Community Service.
“Save Black Boys is the only program of its kind and we will continue to stand alone until people with matching energy and hearts come aboard,” Wesley said.
To support the organization’s ongoing projects, SBB t-shirts are available to purchase online for $11. To find out how to enroll your child in the program, contact a SBB staff member at [email protected].
To donate, volunteer, or for more information, visit saveblackboysokc.org.