‘Promises Kept’ a Toolkit for Raising Black Boys

Promises Kept-Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and In Life is the companion book to the documentary American Promise Project that explores black male achievement gaps. When two black boys get accepted to New York’s prestigious Dalton School, we witness the promises and problems of thriving and surviving in an elite school. It became very clear that no matter how wealthy or poor you are, if you have a black son, you will see gaps in almost every area of his life from school test scores to his emotional, social and physical wellbeing. This book is essentially a toolkit on how to raise your black boys for success with provocative chapters like: “You Brought Him into this World, Don’t Let Other folks Take Him Out: How to Discipline Our Sons for Best Results” and “Protect Him From Time Bandits: How to Teach Our Sons to Manage Their Time.”

Why do achievement gaps happen to our boys? These are some of the questions asked and answered by the film and book. Written and produced by an Ivy League-educated black parent team Joe Brewster, MD (Harvard), and Michele Stephenson (Columbia) with Hilary Beard, this book provides strategies and lessons learned.

The documentary filmed two boys–the couple’s son and his best friend– from grade school to Dalton, home, the Clinton-Hill/Fort Green Brooklyn community and various activities. Some viewers scoffed at the parents for treating the children as an experiment for their film. But what emerged was a raw portrait of life inside of two very engaged black families and their efforts to instill the light of learning.  As we witness these little boys become young men, we can see that despite everyone’s best efforts, their potential for success is constantly eroded by forces all around them. Thankfully, today, the boys are both college sophomores.

I commend this book for the quality of its research, analysis and accessible writing. This is the first “how to” book on raising black boys that I ever read. I suspect that some parents and caretakers will wish they had read it before raising their grown sons. Not many parents can film their children’s daily lives to create a documentary. But these parents did.  They did us a favor. This was another wake-up call!  Teachers, we must not give up on black students! Black parents and community, we must continue our vigilance! If we take a pass on our son’s education, the most likely place for black boys with no grounding in family, education or positive community, is the penal system, according to most experts. Click here for book excerpt.