Blacks urged to vote and help black children excel

I want to address two points in this month’s column, one dealing with my usual rant on voting, the second concerning a plea for black adults to come together to help our children find their way.

I remain steadfast in my call for black people to head to the polls Tuesday. It is, quite frankly, a slap in the face to African-Americans who sacrificed and died in the 1960s so their descendants could exercise this basic right.

Early voting was in April, and organizations such as the Community Mobilization Coalition will provide a ride for you to get to the polls. Contact New Bethel Baptist Church at 330-747-2125 if you need a ride. The church will contact a coalition representative to arrange transportation for you depending on what side of town you live.

Candidates for the 58th Ohio House District, the 7th District Court of Appeals, Mahoning County Probate Court and the 13th Congressional District are on the ballot.

If you live in Youngstown, you can decide whether to allow fracking in the city limits.

And don’t forget that Mahoning County officials seek to make a half-percent sales-tax renewal a continuous tax.

If you live in Trumbull County, there is a county commissioner and probate court race to vote on if you are a Democrat, and don’t forget there are several school levies on the ballots in both counties.

One letter writer to The Vindicator pointed out he makes sure he votes to guarantee his right to complain about the way government operates.

It makes no sense to whine about the way your school district, and state, city, village or county government is run if you fail to vote.

A second issue of equal importance is how the black community can rally together to resolve a nagging problem: how to save black children, particularly males, from the continued slide into hopelessness and despair.

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows we have much ground to cover to ensure that all kids — especially children of color — are positioned to thrive. This is especially true for Ohio’s black children, who fared among the worst in the U.S. in the report.

According to an email I received, the foundation works to develop solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow.

The foundation report showed Ohio’s black children scored among the lowest in the nation — 274 — on an index based on 12 indicators that measure a child’s success in each stage of life from birth to adulthood.

Only five states had lower composite scores — Wisconsin, Mississippi, Michigan, Louisiana and Arkansas.

The indicators were grouped into four areas: early childhood, education and early work, family supports and neighborhood context.

To see the full policy report, go to the website, go to the search prompt, and type in “Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children.”

There are local efforts underway to reach out to help black children reach their goals, but it appears more help is needed.

Inspiring Minds in Warren, under the leadership of founder Deryck Toles, meets a critical need to help underserved youths get the confidence, skills and experiences that will allow them to achieve scholarships, educational goals and careers.

At an Inspiring Minds gala last month, Toles told the audience one of the reasons young people say they wish they could do more with their friends is that there are few opportunities for young people to do constructive recreational activities in Warren.

“When are we going to give them the opportunity to do the right things?” Toles said. “That’s on us.”

That rings true in Youngstown as well. The Boys and Girls Club on Youngstown’s South Side tries its best to provide those recreational activities. As does Warriors Inc. on Market Street.

The Youngstown Afterschool Alliance also is working with seventh- and eighth-graders at East High School to raise their academic scores and provide recreational opportunities.

I had lunch last month with Dr. Rashid Abdu, best known in our community for his work to establish the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center at St. Elizabeth Health Center on Youngstown’s North Side in honor of his wife, who died of breast cancer in 1994.

But Dr. Abdu also has been involved in a mentoring program for many years, especially dealing with young black males.

He gave me a copy of an outline for the Dr. Earnest Perry M.D. Outreach Society.

Dr. Perry, of Liberty, who died in 2010 at age 74, was a well-known and respected black surgeon, a mentor, community activist, former Youngstown State University trustee and an advocate for educating black youth.

The society’s mission was to “identify high-risk children and their families within the black community and to help them reach their full potential and realize their self-worth.”

I looked at the society’s 15 projected goals. Among them: establishing a mentoring program for students in grades one through 12; helping minority students engage in community projects with the help of parents and volunteers; and helping students find role models to foster motivation, pride and the desire to excel.

I admitted to Dr. Abdu I had never heard about the society. He said it never started because there was not a commitment from successful, professional and business leaders from the black community to get involved.

He said he still remains ready to participate in organizing the Perry society, but he needs help from those in the community who will commit to being a part of the solution.

I told him I would get the word out.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at

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