True Vine Ministries’ “Men of Iron” Program Helps Youth

Back row, from left to right: Bryce Manuel, Darius Falcon, Armani Wright, Jovonni Temple, Dennis McCinton; Front row, left to right: Kamal Frazier, Asante Dunn, Jacari Ward, Balall Nasher, Christopher Grigsby, Ajani Patillo.

Adults with no uniform, left to right: Duane Hodges, Pastor Clyde Ignont Jr., Lawrence Simien Jr. and Pastor Zack Carey; Adults in uniforms, left to right: Christopher Pilot, Ken McCullum, and Charles Colston.

By Ashley Chambers Men of Iron (MOI) is an organization that seeks to provide a positive influence for young boys in Oakland, Seeing the lives of young Black men taken away by countless homicides and incarceration, six deputy sheriffs started the program in 2007 in response to the lack of positive male role models in the community. The program “develops their minds, bodies and souls, through the martial arts and a military-based program,” providing a solid foundation of discipline, structure and respect for boys ages 6 to 12, according to the organization. As an independent entity connected to True Vine Ministries under Pastor Zachary Carey in Oakland, the program has helped boys mature into responsible young men and change their outlook on life. “Our goal is to give back. We teach them to be able to deal with everyday problems, that there’s a way out,” said Kenneth McCullum, MOI program director. Reciting the group’s oath, the young boys commit to “honor God, love the brotherhood, respect all people, and accomplish something in life that will make their family and ancestors proud.” Over a period of time the attitudes of young people become more positive, McCullum said. Agreeing, parent Kelly Anderson has seen the change in her son, who has been been in the program for two years. “He’s blossomed a lot, learned how to be responsible for his actions, being accountable for what he does and, overall, has come a long way, being in the program,” Anderson said. “It’s important for young men to be educated and able to give back to someone that has given you something,” she continued. Through mentoring and examples of leadership, the program encourages boys to focus on education and think about their life goals. “Kids really need [something] to keep them on the right road, to stay focused and make the right decisions,” said Coretta Gamble, an MOI parent whose son has participated in the program for three years. “[MOI] shows him how to be a leader, not a follower. It means a lot to me because he doesn’t have a father figure in his life; he [now] has a good male role model, someone that he can look up to. It has really changed him for the better,” Gamble said. Many of the parents agree that Men of Iron has been a beacon of light in the lives of many young men and continues to guide them in the right direction. For information call (510) 325-4001 or email Imanofiron@gmail.com.

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