The Ascension ProjectThe Ascension Project

Current Reports from the Field

The current series of essays posted in the second quarter of 2015, reflects a broad-range of considerations and thoughts. Raising boys up to be men of honor and grace is central to much of the work that The Ascension Project has tried to promote since its founding in 2010, and this collection supports further this very important premise. In compiling this current series, much attention has been placed on the absence of fathers and while there have been recent studies to suggest that this phenomenon is really not that pernicious and in many cases over-stated in terms of its relevance, The Ascension Project believes that this absence does, in fact, have significant consequences on the lives of both boys and girls who grow up without a “Dad” and on the families who can longer identify an ancestral lineage that includes  fathers and other males who have helped to shape, secure and anchor the development of their children.

Although not the intended consequences of U.S. public housing policies and social welfare networks that were fashioned and constructed in the 1960’s, we now have families who are experiencing their second and third generations without the meaningful and productive involvement of men in their lives. Similar patterns have unfolded in several other countries. Native populations throughout North, Central and South America are deeply divided and separated from their male ancestry. The systems designed to segregate communities, and in some instances annihilate them, were fashioned during Europe’s colonial exploits in the New World and then replicated across the globe – systems that  still fester…open wounds that continue to infect and spread the disease of inequality and social marginalization.


Maryann Hedda and Mary Lanning speak to this crisis in powerful and very personal ways. Many of their observations are difficult to accept – how could so many have been drawn into such terrible dysfunction! Women like Ms. Hedda and Ms. Lanning provide real hope and meaning to the lives of those who are still seeking purpose, belonging and identity.

Jonathan Foy, Principal of Eagle Academy’s flagship school in the Bronx, provides tangible evidence that by focusing on ritual, connection, brotherhood, kindness and service boys, and particularly U.S. urban boys of color, can secure new trajectories of competency, familial and community engagement and success. These principles have broad and international implications.

Dr. Steven Middleton, Director of Leadership at the Kings School in Sidney Australia, reminds us that the stories, spaces and symbols we use to promote the development of character are as essential as any other curricular component a school, institution or business might employ and if these representations don’t include men of honor and grace, then our efforts will do little to lead boys to appropriate expressions of manhood. We all have tools at our disposal and Dr. Middleton encourages us to use what is far too often ignored.

Brad Zervas, Founder and Director of The Ascension Project explores his life-long work with urban boys and comes to understand, through the eyes of urban girls, that the consequences and failures of so many of our boys and men have much deeper and destructive implications than he had previously thought. His journey is both discovery and road-map – a view into a world that many more of us need to witness.

Treda Collier reminds us that Black men in America struggle deeply, often silently and in ways that are misunderstand and rarely acknowledged.

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