Steve Harvey, the Daytime Emmy nominated host, comedian, top syndicated radio personality (airing locally on 105.7-FM) and best-selling author, was back in Dallas at his ranch for his 5th annual Father’s Day Weekend, hosting 120 teenage boys, who are without fathers for his annual Steve Harvey Mentoring Program Camp for Young Men. During this time Mr. Harvey granted The Dallas Weekly’s Managing Editor Jihad Hassan Muhammad an exclusive One on One interview
JHM: As a child growing up in Cleveland did you ever imagine you would be in this type of position to make a difference in the lives of young men?
SH: No! Absolutely not! This wasn’t my mission. My dream was to be one of the premier stand ups (comedians) in the country. That’s all I ever asked God for. Now his plan for me was much greater. My plan was to tell jokes until I was 68, then I was going to retire. I didn’t see myself with a boy’s camp or none of this. So that just goes to show you God’s plan is always better than yours.
JHM: You seem to be the hardest working man in the business right now; television, radio, movies. With everything you have going on right now do you feel like it’s necessary that you do work in the community to take you to the next level?
SH: Well this is one of the most important works I do. I think God put me in the position to do all of those other things to do this. I have taken the fame he bestowed upon me and I use it in a way that would be beneficial to some young men who otherwise may not get opportunities to sit with some positive men who can show them what manhood is really about.
I am grateful for the opportunity myself. This camp is not just for boys, but it’s for me too. It helps me be better. It helps me try harder. It helps me work harder, because I know I got so many cats counting on me. If I don’t come up with the money, what are these 120 boys going do? I come out here every year and say I’m not going to spend this kind of money next year and I end up spending more than I did last year.
Then I come out here. I meet some kids and I fall in love with them. I hear their stories. It’s way more than their father (being) missing. It is some stories out here, some real situations. I got a kid, his father died last night. We got him in grief counseling. We more than mentor. It’s a lot of stories out here. I got a mother out here with her son. They’re homeless. So when they finish this week, they don’t have nowhere to go. I got a lady that left work to save her son, bringing him down here. She got permission. But too many consecutive days missing, they fired her. If they don’t care about our boys, we got to. And this is our job anyway; this is our responsibility, especially in our community. The government is not coming. It’s not their job; they are not going to save us.
JHM: You talked about accepting responsibility. They’re a lot of entertainers, athletes etc., who have come to this camp to help. What do you have to say to those who haven’t and could do something to help the community?
SH: I don’t really look at it like that. Guys tell me all the time, Steve you doing some great work. If I can be of any assistance call me. Well, what I got to do to be calling you? You know we over here. You got a newspaper. You don’t see the problem? You don’t see them murders going on in Chicago? You don’t see what’s going on here in South Dallas? You not familiar with the gang problem in LA, the Crips and the Bloods now in New York? Why I got to call you? You already know what’s happening. So if you want to help, here we are. I don’t make phone calls. I refuse to do that. I don’t have time. I could be talking to one of these boys instead of calling a celebrity.
The ones that do come, I appreciate them. The ones that don’t, I ain’t mad at them, cause I have never been turned down by a celebrity because I don’t ask. A lot of them have foundations and programs; but the ones who don’t, they got to come out cause we got to save these boys. We got to save our sons. It is not an option.
JHM: Give an example of someone who just by seeing your example, said I will be there, I want to help.
SH: I get that all the time. It’s a ball player (who) came out here from the Seattle Seahawks that I just met today. I got a frat brother. He came out. I got another frat brother born on the same day as me who owns 6 Mooyah Burgers around town. He came out here yesterday and fed all of the kids for free. I didn’t ask him. He said I got this. When I do get the call, I open up my door. I mean come on man. It’s plenty to do. We need two things out here. We need more men and we need more money and that’s all to it. I don’t need another lady out here to do nothing. What else do we want them to do? They paying all the bills. They working. This is up to us now. All I need is men and money. Men and money; and, if you ain’t got no money, you still a man. I go to these churches and ask for volunteers. In front of their pastor, they raise their hands. Then on show day I can’t find them. I quit going down there to them. The men that come from the mosque, the men that come from the churches, the men that come from the league that’s who I work with. They all welcome. I accept everything. This ain’t no religious camp. My faith ain’t got to match up with yours. It’s just one God. Call him what you want to call him. You just got to call him. What you call him is no business of mine. I say whatever floats your boat. Do what you do. In the end, who am I? I can’t say to another man what you doing is wrong. I don’t have no time for that. It all seems to work for me. So whatever your faith is, I’ll take it. Minister Louis Farrakhan, that’s my brother right there, I love the Minister. I love what he do.
JHM: I know you say women have done enough. That woman who has her son who needs help now, what advice do you have for her?
SH: She has to find a suitable male role model. There is no substitute for a male role model. It’s got to be an uncle, a cousin, a grandfather, a member at the mosque, a member at the church, cause I don’t care what you do, you can turn your boy into a good citizen, polite, a good student, God fearing. You can turn him into all of that. But what you cannot turn him into is a man. So how can a woman teach a boy how to be a man? That’s what wrong with our society today. It ain’t enough men teaching boys to be men. So now they are forming their own ideas about it.
Now, because our videos are so sick with violence, they are getting inundated with violent thoughts. In the video game when you get killed, you get another life and wake up with more energy. So they shoot and kill a person in the video game. They don’t understand the finality of that. Then they may go shoot a friend, shoot their enemy in real life. But in none of the video games, do you go to prison for murder. Then we allow the lyrics of our music to inundate the minds of our youth. We allow a lot of this. It’s my generation’s fault anyway. If we had taught some of the rappers what manhood really was and pulled their coat and disallowed some of that gangster thing, some of this wouldn’t be happening today. So now those of us who know better, we got to teach better. That’s what I feel it really is.
JHM: What would you say to that person who says, “You got all that money. I don’t have any. What can I do to help? I don’t have anything?”
SH: Well, I have paid for the ranch, I done paid for all the equipment. I got all the fish in the lake. I got the fishing rods. I ain’t never asked anybody who comes out here for a dollar. I pay it myself. Okay? But what I need is men. And manhood ain’t got nothing do with your financial structure. See. I been a man for a long time. I didn’t have anything for a long time. But I was still a man though. Now I’m just a man with some means now and I ain’t no better man than you, him or any of these other men out here. It’s men out here who make $200 who know exactly what manhood is. What I care? I ain’t never asked no man who comes out here to bring me a check. I asked them to come out here and spend some time with these boys. Give them a number that they can call so they can run something by somebody before they act on it.
I got a boy out here right now. He’s in my program in Atlanta. I drove up on his mother outside crying, begging him not to go. His partner called him who had been stabbed. He’s about to go get revenge and go shoot the people who did it. I talked him out of it. He says, “Mr. Harvey I ain’t scare of dying.” I said I know. It easy to say you ain’t afraid to die. Death is just a fleeting moment. It’s quick. So I say, son three things could happen. You can go over there and end up in prison. The next worst thing that could happen is you could get killed. He asked, “What’s the third worst thing?” I said you can get shot in the neck and paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of your life. I called his friend and talked him out of that revenge thing. I could get him to the mentoring camp. That boy came back the next day. That boy is now a junior counselor here and he’s at Alabama State University. I got boys going to SMU, Delaware State on a full ride to Morehouse. I got boys who came here and changed their lives.
I got a boy who was beating his mama. She would come home and put dead bolt locks on the door to keep him out, because, if she comes in and he’s taking money out of her purse, he would hit her. I had him out here last year. He was failing every course. We been tracking him and now he is a B student. His mother sends us notes all the time saying, “I can’t believe my son is the most polite courageous boy now.” She cry tears of joy all the time. So the program works. What that got to do with money? We need more men and men of color too. That’s what we need.
JHM: What is the last thing you would say to the community to get them understand the importance of everyone getting involved?
SH: We can solve this problem ourselves. But it’s going to take real men to solve it. It’s not a female problem. In our community it’s a male problem. Too many of us have chosen the wrong ways to exhibit our manhood. Too many of us have been mis-directed about what it is to be a man. Too many are not trying to be men at all. Too many of us are behind bars. So those of us who are not, we have to do something about this. We got to change the way these boys are thinking and acting. We do that and we will hit the jackpot.
JHM: Who would be your greatest example of a man?
SH: My father, Jesse “Slick” Harvey. He died when I was 43, and taught be more about manhood that I ever knew and only with a 3rd grade education. He taught me real simple stuff. He said “Son the best thing you can do for poor people is not be one of them.” I hear my father all the time saying everybody that come with you can’t go with you. You got to shake them friends that ain’t on the same mission you on.
So I tried to make a little money. I had 38 solid years of poverty though. So I was drenched in it pretty deep. I’m an expert at poverty. So if they take all this from me, I’m gone get it back. I know how to come back, I know how it’s done and I learned the secrets. I got to tell you though, woo hoo, people say money can’t buy you happiness. Poverty can’t by you nothing though. I just got tired of the 1st of the month being that time when you almost get an ulcer. I’d be 5 days late with the rent. By the time I would pay the late charges it’s the 15th. Two weeks later they talking about the rent again, I was like I just paid ya’ll. I’ve been through that whole cycle and it’s better now. (Harvey laughs)
JHM: The Dallas Weekly thanks you for all that you do for our community.
SH: You’re welcome Black man; my pleasure.