Neighborhood group hosts weekend BBQ to recruit young men to serve as mentors for youth in urban core

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KANSAS CITY, Mo.  -- A neighborhood group is recruiting African-American men to serve as mentors for young people in the urban core.

100 Men of Blue Hills is hosting a barbecue this weekend at Seven Oaks Park in their search for role models.

The group says more black men need to step up and play active roles in changing the culture of violence in their neighborhoods.

"Most of us involved are young men who have been through transition ourselves," said Andre Thurman, who joined the effort. "We know what it's like to be involved in violence and crime and what not. We also understand it's an opportunity, especially right now."

Some young men who used to be idolized on their blocks for being arrested and spending time behind bars now are becoming part of 100 Men of Blue Hills. Former gang members are using their leadership skills at the street level to show the next generation that they can be successful in life without resorting to bloodshed.

"There are many avenues, but to pick that right avenue is the challenge," said Mark Porter, leader of the group. "We are trying to help them filter that challenge toward the right avenue. Try us and see if it works. I feel that I can guarantee you won’t go back, once you go this way with 100 Men of Blue Hills."

These men are all volunteers. They're digging into their own pockets to try to make their neighborhoods better places to live. And although they don't have jobs to offer teens, they say they can show young people how to recognize talent in themselves and earn a living as entrepreneurs, being in business for themselves.

If they find more men to serve as positive examples of clean living, the 100 Men of Blue Hills say they can prevent disputes and conflicts from turning into crimes.

To learn more about the campaign, the group is inviting everyone to a free picnic at noon Saturday, June 11, at Seven Oaks Park located at 39th and Jackson.

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