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Black men seek community solutions



Published: Sat, December 3, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

I received an email that had this statement in its subject line: “Black Men Across America Organize.”

It was sent to me by Kenneth Braswell, executive director of Fathers Inc., and it called my attention to a November event that addressed issues of black male achievement in 15 selected communities across the country.

Representatives from these cities participated: Albany, N.Y.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Baton Rouge, La.; Chicago; Cincinnati; Jackson, Miss.; Louisville, Ky.; Milwaukee; Newark, N.J.; New York City; Omaha, Neb.; Peoria, Ill.; Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

According to its website, Fathers Inc., established in 2004, serves as a leader in the promotion of responsible fatherhood and mentoring. The agency’s international, national and local mission focuses on remedying the impact of father absence.

Braswell wrote that under the inspiration of Muhammad Ali’s “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; rumble young man rumble” rallying cry, representatives from those major urban cities came together in their own communities to address issues of black male achievement.

“We spend an awful amount of time laboring over the sobering and tragic statistics facing black males,” Braswell wrote. “As black men, we are way overdue to do something about it and to stop just talking about and waiting for someone to rescue us.”

Braswell is right. Black men have to solve their own problems.

I often have pointed out in this space that black men have to take responsibility and be accountable for their actions.

I wrote a column earlier this year on six young black men from the Mahoning Valley who vowed to hold one another accountable and strive to make a positive impact on society.

Reporter John W. Goodwin Jr. and I attended a positive discussion in March at Lucky Penny’s lounge in downtown Youngstown on the underpinnings of violence in the city and ways to combat it.

Braswell wrote that double-digit unemployment rates, incarceration, health disparities, low educational-attainment figures and violence are just a short list of items to be addressed for this population of men.

The email stated that in September in Louisville, Ky., Open Society Foundations hosted more than 75 leaders from around the country who gathered to address how they would mobilize efforts using the spirit of the Muhammad Ali center in that city and his legacy of principles.

According to its website, Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. “The Foundations place a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities,” the website says.

Another voice in the email was that of Phillip Jackson of Chicago, president of The Black Star Project, which Jackson founded in 1996 to improve the quality of life in black and Latino communities of Chicago and nationwide by eliminating the racial academic-achievement gap, according to the organization’s website.

“Much of why this work is so critical can be seen right here in Chicago where more black children died from gunfire in 2008 than Chicago soldiers died in Iraq,” Jackson wrote. “In addition to high levels of violence, 50 percent of all black men between the ages of 16 and 64 years old are jobless. These numbers are devastating our families and destroying our communities; and not unique to just Chicago.”

Indeed, in Youngstown most of the victims in the city’s 23 homicides this year were black males.

In addition to the November day-of-action planning, there also was a video conference to introduce and share information and explore solutions with a core group of men participating from each city.

Afterward, a report will be compiled that encapsulates strategic goals and tactics to address the multiplicity of issues facing the nation’s black males, Braswell wrote. The solutions to the issues of black males in America will be distributed nationwide, he said.

The Mahoning Valley has an organization called 100 Black Men of Greater Youngstown/Warren that supports many of the same principles as the Black Star Project and Fathers Inc.

The organization, founded five years ago this month, has mentoring, education and health and wellness programs available.

You can contact the group by going to its website at www.100bmogyw.com, go to its Facebook site, or call 330-333-2813.

I hope to contact Braswell later to find out the results of the report and share them with you.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. You can contact him at ebrown@vindy.com


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