TheGrio’s 100: Dale Long, pledging to change history by serving as Big Brother

TheGrio's 100 - Dale Long has a big family. A 34-year volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Dallas native has mentored six Little Brothers from adolescence to adulthood...

Dale Long has a big family. A 34-year volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Dallas native has mentored six Little Brothers from adolescence to adulthood. A White House ceremony where Long was awarded 1989’s Big Brother of the Year marked his first 20 years of mentorship. Since, he’s participated in ceremonies of another type – the weddings of some of his once-little Little Brothers.

Dale Long is making history … by mentoring Little Brothers to be men. Long first casually volunteered at “Big for a Day” — a trial day of companionship that connects prospective Big Brothers, adult male mentors, with 7-to-14-year-old Little Brothers. One baseball game later, and he was hooked for life.

Big Brother-hood has its privileges — 18 months of mentorship has shown to make “littles” half as likely as their peers to skip school, 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, and 33 percent less likely to hit someone. In short, BBBS has proven to prevent high-risk behavior, due, in part, to the program’s structured nature and annual six-hour training for its participants.

After mentoring six Little Brothers, Long has watched littles earn diplomas and tie the knot — an affirmation of the effect he’s had as a positive male rode model. For Long, the prize comes from overcoming statistics. Texas, with an African-American population of 11 percent has an African-American prison population of 44 percent, but Long likes to say his littles got “a diploma in their hands instead of handcuffs.”

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What’s next for Dale?

Long is dedicated to recruiting 10,000 African-American volunteers to BBBS – a program in which there are 780 African-American boys on North Texas’s waiting list alone and approximately 8,500 nationwide. This shortage of volunteers led to Long’s recent expansion of the Barbershop Mentoring Initiative, a collaboration with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. to encourage African-American males to volunteer by recruiting from barbershops on weekends.

In his own words …

“In order to be a man, our boys have to see a man,” Long told The North Dallas Gazette in 2008.

On black history …

“As an 11-year-old, in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, I was victimized in the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church,” Long told theGrio. “I refuse to let the ultimate sacrifice of life unfortunately given by my friends, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair to be in vain. These ‘four little girls’ all died tragically gaining national attention becoming the turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. During the funeral recessional of three of the four, I briefly peered into the eyes their eulogist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., leaving an indelible impression upon me. These epiphany experiences brought me to the realization at an early age that my life was spared for the purpose of service to humankind. I truly believe this. Mentoring is my cause, my gift.”

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A favorite quote …

“Being men, we must put aside childish things and answer this challenge of qualitative worth to meet the times” – Alpha Founder, Vertner W. Tandy

A little-known fact …

Dale Long is the only person who has received the National Big Brother of the Year award and Board Member of the Year award in the program’s 107-year history.

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