With high dropout, unemployment and incarceration rates, more than 50 organizations convene to develop action plans to address a disturbing trend.
Numerous organizations intent on reversing alarming disparities in school dropout and incarceration rates among Black males gathered in Philadelphia recently for a Call to Action Summit. The event was sponsored by the Presidents’ Round Table of African-American CEOs, a group of Black community college presidents. Summit participants were tasked with developing concrete action plans to remedy what many call a Black male “crisis.”
“The Presidents’ Round Table thought it was critical that we bring individuals together to make certain that we recognize and understand the critical need for us to move,” said Dr. Charles A. Taylor, convener of the Round Table and president of Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Va. “I don’t want to be here five years from now and continue to talk about the crisis. … We have all the statistics, we have all the research, now is the time to stop talking and start doing,” he added.
Dr. Andrew Jones, Round Table secretary and Dallas County Community College District vice chancellor for educational affairs, added context to the discussion in his remarks before the assembled crowd, which included community college presidents from across the nation. “In most of our major cities in this country, less than 50 percent of African-American males graduate from high school.
In some cases, 80 percent of the state prison population is African-American males,” Jones said. “We know that it’s not the kind of thing to lay the foundation for healthy economies, a healthy society and a safe society. We’re here today to help us galvanize our efforts and make sure this never again becomes typical,” he added.
During the summit, participants were divided into six groups tasked with developing recommendations on how to address various key components of the Round Table’s African American Male Initiative. The groups developed action plans on establishing a central clearinghouse of best practices among Black male initiatives nationwide, identifying funding resources, enhancing data collection and collaboration, launching effective marketing campaigns, and influencing public policy to respond more effectively to the numerous challenges facing Black males.
In his address, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D) reported that more than 50 percent of Black males in Philadelphia high schools drop out, and nearly 60 percent of Hispanic males drop out.
Nutter said high dropout rates only help feed Philadelphia’s violent crime rate, ranked highest among the 10 largest cities in the United States. Critical to stemming crime is boosting access to education, Nutter added, outlining his reasons for proposing a $4 million community college funding increase.
“Not by the dollar amount, but by the percentage, community colleges will receive the largest percentage increase of any department or agency that the city funds because I do actually believe in putting our money where our mouths are,” he said.
City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Wayne Watson, who is leading the public policy component of the Round Table’s African American Male Initiative, said prisons and community colleges are the primary institutions serving Black males but that “definitely should not be the case. And if this commission is successful, we will identify short-term goals over the next five years that will bring some policy impact on Congress and on the presidential candidates to hold them accountable to addressing the urban crisis.”
Ed Brooks, a summit participant and student at Cedar Valley College in Lancaster, Texas, said setting up mentoring programs like Big Brother on community college campuses is “very important.”
Nutter echoed those sentiments, urging summit participants to “better communicate with some of these young guys about what this is all about.
“They see us now at the success level but they need to know us and hear from us before we got to be however successful we are,” Nutter said. “My experience is when we go out and talk to these folks and we break through all the tough-guy stuff, they have the same fears and the same doubts and the same concerns that many of us had a long time ago that we kind of forgot. They need to hear our stories.”
In excess of 50 organizations and federal agencies were represented at the summit. Among them were Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., the National Alliance of Black School Educators and the National Black Child Development Institute.
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