Local teens determined to defy grim report about black males in Florida
by Gregory Lewis
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
David Reece Jr. is sitting in a City Furniture training room on a Saturday morning reading a report about black males in Florida, and he’s not happy.
“African-American males are at the bottom of everything,” he says. “In low-income African-American communities, the incarceration rate is high. Health care is not good, and the dropout rate …”
His voice trails off and he shakes his head.
Last year, the state Legislature asked a council to study the circumstances black men in Florida face from the cradle to the grave. The Florida Council for the Social Status of Black Men and Boys found black males suffer disproportionately from high dropout and incarceration rates, low standardized test scores and chronic poor health.
Thirty-six teenagers in the 100 Black Men of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s Leadership Academy read the council’s report, spent eight weeks discussing it and then thought about their own futures.
Dennis Wright, president of the local 100 Black Men group, said the men wanted the boys to see for themselves what kinds of futures were predicted for them. Four of the boys shared their thoughts:
Jerome Blair, 18, a 2008 graduate of Coral Springs High School
His family: Lives with his mother and two younger siblings. When he was 3, Jerome lost contact with his father.
His neighborhood: Growing up, he lived in a tough Fort Lauderdale neighborhood. He avoided gangs by leaving for school early and getting rides home with friends. On weekends, he was in church.
His future: He will attend Broward Community College in the fall semester but hopes for a track scholarship from Nova Southeastern University. He wants to major in criminal justice.
On the report: “I saw it as a total opposite of me. It made me respect my family background. My mother raised a black boy into manhood. She showed me love and told me I didn’t have to be like everybody else.”
Jarvis Hannah, 14, eighth grade, New Renaissance Middle School, Miramar.
His family: Lives with his parents, a brother and a sister.
His neighborhood: He lives in a new development in Miramar that is considered safe.
His future: Jarvis wants to be a businessman like his father.
On the report: “I was surprised at how black kids are dropping out because they lacked reading skills.” He said he did not see himself represented in the report. He said he is thankful he had the guidance of a two-parent home and a father who advises him.
Jonathan Jackson, 15, sophomore, Dillard High School, Fort Lauderdale
His family: Lives with his parents, two sisters and a brother. He seldom sees his father, who works 12 to 16 hours a day. His mother has tried to keep tight reins on him and surrounds him with positive role models, such as members of the 100 Black Men, and church activities.
His neighborhood: A tough neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale with negative influences and crime. His mother was raised there, too.
His future: Jonathan’s immediate goal is to make the football team and improve his grades so he can get into college.
On the report: Jonathan said the report was one-sided, dwelling only on the negative aspects of the lives of black males. “I know a lot of black males doing good,” he said. “I know they got all these statistics, but they should have come to the schools and neighborhood where we are to talk to us.”
Reading the report made him change his attitude toward school and teachers. “I used to talk a lot in class. I’m more attentive … now.”
David Reece Jr. 15, freshman, Zion Christian School, Deerfield Beach
His family: Lives with both parents and a sister.
His neighborhood: A diverse, middle-class, safe neighborhood with minor juvenile crime.
His future: He wants to go to Harvard University.
On the report: “I found it very interesting how black men are seen by others, how people think about me. It’s made me read more. I’ve been reading books about African-Americans. I just finished reading Vernon Can Read by Vernon Jordan.”
Written by Symphony
June 23, 2008 at 5:22 pm
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