Virtual Voices

Tied To Greatness and more

Religion

There are exciting new approaches to rescuing at-risk urban youth, targeting dress and self-image. One of these is Tied To Greatness. This program "uses the power of positive male role models, the influence of fashion, and the symbolism of the necktie as a point of manhood and maturity to remind young men about the importance of personal image, and to encourage each participant to make different choices about his future." Their effort reconnects "young men of color to their rich history of men who dressed well, carried themselves with dignity, and accomplished great things in society."

Tied to greatness employs the following strategies:

  1. Saturate and educate young men with images and stories of positive, influential Men of Color to combat the negative stereotypes in their environment
  2. Teach them the power and importance of a strong self image, as provided through the principles taught in books like, Redefining the Male Image: A Look from the Inside Out
  3. Teach them to "tie a tie" as a ritualistic right of passage which will ignite personal pride in appearances and build inner self esteem
  4. Encourage each young man to stay in school, receive his high school diploma and embrace a new image through our pledge
  5. Provide each young man with a copy of the "Tied to Greatness Pledge" so that they will remember the verbal commitments they made to live a better life
  6. Give the young men a tie that they can keep for future special events

This new effort also re-engages a important theme that goes beyond clothing: that their core identity is found in their Creator. Program founder, Alex Ellis says, "As Christians we have an inside tip, we know we are made in the image of God. What an incredible thought. This means no matter how I am shaped, how much money I make, or my ethnicity, I am a reflection of the Creator."

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At-risk young black males need a different image of what it means to be a man that moves away from sloppy, unkempt appearances displayed wrinkled khakis pants, sagging jeans, over-sized t-shirts and well-meaning bohemians. At Ellis's 3-hour seminars inner-city young men are paired with real life role models who initiate mentoring, display dignity and respect by wearing suits, and teach the boys how to tie a necktie.

There was a time in our recent history when black men, regardless of their income level and in spite of living in a dehumanizing society, presented themselves as men deserving respect by wearing respectable clothes. Much of this was lost in the 1960s.

Tied To Greatness needs churches and parachurch organizations to rally behind them by finding godly "Men of Color" in suits to connect with inner-city youths and share with them a powerful truth: "The way you adorn yourself on the outside is simply an expression of all that lies within." The program hopes that as at-risk inner-city boys are mentored by these men, and are shown that self-image begins and ends with God, they begin to cultivate an imagination for what that means for them to be great men. Tied To Greatness could rescue hundreds of young boys from self-sabotage.

Anthony Bradley
Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King's College in New York and serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is author of Liberating Black Theology. Follow Anthony on Twitter @drantbradley.

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