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Men's Carousel Focuses on Male Role Models

Jan. 18, 2009 — The focus Sunday was on men and boys, fathers and sons, young men and positive male role models, at the Second Annual Men's Carousel.
The daylong free program, sponsored by the Career and Technical Education Center at the St. Croix Educational Complex and V.I. PUSH, featured workshops on parenting, self-defense, peer pressure and conflict resolution, wood carving, auto mechanics and more.
And two workshops on cooking. That might not seem to be a male-oriented session, but the presenters made the point.
"Some people don't think men can cook, but men can be as good cooks or even better than women," said Cyril Levine, a center staff member who taught a morning session on making Belgian waffles. Part of the lesson involved learning to adapt to changing circumstances. When Levine's waffle iron wouldn't heat up, he quickly pulled out several frying pans and hot plates and announced that he would teach the gathering how to cook "Belgian pancakes."
Levine, who learned cooking at a French culinary school, also emphasized other rules about cooking that apply to every day life – safety, cleanliness and organization.
"Organization is the key to success," he said as he carefully laid out his ingredients and tools, "in the kitchen and in everything else."
Levine also threw in an impromptu lesson about turning trash into treasure. Waiting for the butter to melt in the microwave, he took the discarded butter wrapper and, with a few deft folds, turned it first into an origami crane with flapping wings, then into a lovely flower. The roomful of boys smiled in surprise.
The Men's Carousel is designed to both give fathers and sons a positive, fun activity to share, and to give boys on St. Croix who might not have a strong male figure in their lives a positive male role model, according to organizer Carolyn McKenzie.
"Too many of our young men are being raised in female-headed families, said McKenzie. "Who's teaching our young men how to be men?"
No matter how strong and talented a woman is, McKenzie said, "she can't know what it's like to be a man."
All the boys in attendance who did not come with a father or adult male were partnered with a mentor for the day. The program did the same thing last year and some of those relationships have continued, McKenzie added, although creating a permanent mentor relationship was not an intentional part of the program.
While the program was full of activities, including a lunch and a dominoes tournament, the attendance was down from last year. The program had to be rescheduled twice, once because of Hurricane Omar and once because of a flood of conflicting activities. Also, last years Carousel was held on a Saturday. McKenzie said she had fielded several comments that people who belonged to churches that celebrate on Saturday couldn't attend, so this year they scheduled it on a Sunday. But the Saturday worshippers didn't show up in the numbers they'd expected. Lesson learned for next year, McKenzie said.
"The need is still there," she said. "We'll be a little more thoughtful in the timing next year."
Still, the approximately fifty people n attendance and the presenters from the technical center, the V.I. Police Department, PUSH and other organizations were enthusiastic.
"We want it to be okay for me to own their feelings as men," said Dr. Etherero Akinsegum, who gave the opening presentation.

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