NEW BRITAIN – When protests and marches against police brutality intensified over the summer, Jasmine Moore said the fear for her son when he is out by himself was heightened by the ongoing tension.
“I get scared when he’s walking on the streets with his friends because he’s a tall Black kid and sometimes people don’t know he’s just a child,” said Moore, 38, a New Britain resident. “He gets asked why he’s out and people fear him. I don’t want the consequences of stereotyping to impact his life and take away his power to live a good life.”
Her son, Kyon Wynter, is 15 years old and attends University High School of Science & Engineering in Hartford, with aspirations to perhaps become a teacher someday. Because her son is shy and reserved, Moore said she felt it was imperative for him to have positive male influences in his life.
“Being a single mother, that can be challenging,” said Moore, who explained while Kyon’s birth father is involved in his life, he doesn’t have a regular presence. “My own father, Kyon’s granddad, has a close relationship with Kyon. But he needs someone closer to his generation.”
From National Mentoring Month in January to celebrating Black History in February, Moore said it is important for her child to have a mentor who he can see himself in. She reached out to Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters, a state-wide mentoring organization based in Hartford, and they were able to match Kyon with a “Big Brother” who was a perfect fit for the teenager.
“Facts have shown that experiences and opportunities are different for people based on race, she said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality, which is why I was adamant for Kyon to have a Black mentor and learn from his experiences.”
“I’ve seen too much from what the men in my family has been through. I just want Kyon to be guided through the eyes of someone who understands what he might be up against,” Moore said.
When Kyon matched with Jarius Brown, a programming coordinator at ESPN and former New Britain resident, Brown said it was a no brainer to say yes to his new “Little Brother.”
“When I first met Kyon, he was really shy. But I found out that we both love sports, so I knew that was a way to get to know each other,” said Brown, who is armed with a variety of experiences, including playing quarterback for Dartmouth College and interning with the Miami Dolphins and Under Armour, the sports equipment company.
Before the pandemic, Brown would take Kyon to local parks and play ball, do training sessions, and just chat.
“Kyon wants to be a [college football] player. I’ve been there before so I’m able to show him how to get there, the work ethic he needs and expand that work ethic into different aspects of his life,” Brown said. “He’s really smart and knows what he needs in a mentor. We would talk about his grades, his schoolwork, and just anything he wants to talk about. He takes my advice seriously and I hope I can be someone who he can always rely on.”
As the nation celebrates Black History Month, Brown said there is an extra layer of importance now to shine light on African American history and start dispelling racial stereotypes.
“We’re known too often for being athletes, being rappers, or being incarcerated,” Brown said. “It’s important for people to see us doing things outside of those stereotypes and challenge those outdated perceptions. Yes, I played sports, but I also transitioned into different kinds of work and I know those experiences can help me become a better role model.”
Taking inspiration from his own father, Brown said he was a mentor to a lot of people in the community.
“He helped anyone who needed it and I try to recreate that in my life,” he said. “I hear stories about how important he was to other Black kids, men and women. Having seen that firsthand, I want to be able to do that for other Black kids too.”
Feeling incredibly grateful for Nutmeg and Brown, Moore said she loves that Kyon has a Big Brother and hopes the relationship will help her son to have a well-rounded viewpoint on life and its opportunities.
“He’s starting to come to the point where he has to think about where he wants to be when adulthood comes,” she said. “He has to control his life. But as he grows up, I don’t want him to live in fear. So I’m thankful of all people who care for him and glad that Jarius is just a phone call away.”