GLENN DALE, MD (WUSA9) -- The epidemic of teen murders here in Prince George's County has left a lot of us in despair.
If we knew why this was happening, one principal said, we would have stopped it by now.
But lots of people are searching for solutions, including Walter Kirkland, who has formed a new chapter here of 100 Black Men. "What you see is what you'll be," Kirkland says of the volunteer group that sets out to give young African American men role models.
The Centers for Disease Control says homicide is the second leading cause of death for all young people... it's number one for young African Americans.
"These kids, many of them, don't believe they're going to live past 30 years old," says Kirkland. "I can see how someone would take someone's life, because they're frustrated, they're in dire straights, and there's no where to go."
Kirkland says 100 Black Men screens volunteers, and then uses them to offer young men "life skills, presentation skills, survival skills, how to communicate."
Kirkland says he knows what its like. He was raised by a single mom in a poor neighborhood, but won an athletic scholarship to Rutgers, and that put him on a path to help others. "I identified two kids that call me on a regular basis, just for a phone conversation. to say, 'Hey Walt, I'm ok.' These kids are hungry, these kids are struggling. These kids are juniors or seniors that are trying to find someone to grab on to. And they just call me to talk men things."
Kirkland's own son, 11 year old Chase, admits he's scared. "It makes no sense at all. Over shoes. For real?" But says having his dad around makes him feel protected. "He's been like my role model."
And Kirkland says volunteers can offer the same help to other young men without dads around. "They see a guy in a suit, a guy who's approachable. And they just grab them.
Pin stripes or prison stripes is one of the mottos of 100 Black Men.
Kirkland says they are look for more mentors -- and mentees -- and if you want to be part of it.