Each tie was color coordinated with a button-down collared shirt and arranged neatly on a table.
There were dozens of them.
Striped ties and paisley ties. Long ties and short ties. Blue ties and orange ties. Ties with checkered patterns.
Each would go to the boys and young men in attendance at Saturday’s conference at East High School, as a parting gift and final lesson in a day full of lessons about growing from boys to men.
Walk in a room wearing a hoodie and baggy jeans? You’re already stereotyped a thug.
But walk in a room wearing a shirt and tie?
You’re taken seriously.
You’ve got a plan.
“It’s our way of showing there’s power in the necktie,” said Jackie Mines.
Mines is president of Helping Families and Children of America, which organized Saturday’s third annual “Boys to Men Youth Empowerment Conference” along with Buffalo Public Schools.
The tie ceremony concluded the daylong event that paired the more than 75 boys with adult mentors for a day of workshops.
The goal, Mines said, was to provide the boys with sound advice on life from positive male role models – teachers, community leaders, business professionals, coaches, men of faith. Each will be paired with one of the boys – who ranged in age from 8 to 18 – and asked to check in on them at least six hours a month, Mines said.
Many of the boys don't have fathers in their lives, Mines said.
“All of our young men need this. They need connection with powerful and positive men,” Mines said. “They may have role models – but not the ones we want them to have.”
In one room, Marck Abraham encouraged the young men to persevere even if they don’t have a father in their life.
Down the hall, Bashan Hedge talked to the boys about making the right choices that will keep them out of trouble.
And in another room, Khalil Cottman spoke about the trappings of social media, cautioning about what they put on Facebook and Twitter.
“My mother brought me,” said Devan Gates, 13. “She thought it would be a good learning opportunity – and it was.”
Devan said he could relate to the mentors and their message.
“I learned that when people tell you you can’t do anything, don’t listen to them,” Devan said. “Keep doing what you should be doing in life.”
Navel Moyegun appreciated the message on manhood.
“To be a man means you have to be responsible and provide for your family,” said Navel, 15.
School Board Members Sharon Belton-Cottman, Theresa Harris-Tigg and Barbara Seals Nevergold were in attendance to moderate and offer a few remarks.
It wasn’t easy for all of the boys to get up on a Saturday morning and spend the day in a classroom, but they were attentive.
“This is how Saturdays should be spent,” said Cameron Hall, a supervisor for student support services in the Buffalo school district. “Not walking up and down your neighborhood looking to do something.”
The conference concluded with distributing the neckties during the “Rites of Passage Ceremony,” conducted by Samuel Herbert.
“When you’re wearing that tie,” Herbert said, “you’re sending a message out to anyone that sees you.”