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Local teens determined to defy grim report about black males in Florida

with 3 comments

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.”


3 Responses

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  1. I am very disappointed in the blame game blacks play. We talk about police and the penal system as the only solutions to high crime and delinquency among blacks, especially young black men. These discussions are unenlightened, and do not address the real issues facing black youth, especially black young men, who seem to be directly responsible for violent offenses against themselves and members of the greater community, as well as for the rise in property crimes.

    What is even more disconcerting about black leaders is that they fail to address the systemic reasons for black delinquency. Some of these factors that explain the rises in crime are that many groups live in communities with poor systems of education, no access to higher arts, little access to economic opportunity and financial empowerment, own little or no property and have less capital to invest in independent business ownership. Not to mention the deterioration of the black family, and the irresponsible way in which they over-populate cities, yet they have no resources to take care of themselves.

    Why haven’t black leaders mentioned the failure of families within black communities and rising birth rates among unwed blacks, who do not have the mental or financial resources to raise children. These children later grow up into lives of crime and delinquency. Why aren’t our national policy-makers, holding these unwed men and women responsible for over-population and high crime rates? Why don’t we have laws against over-population; people who cannot give children a solid foundation and stable home life should not be allowed to give birth to babies who later end up on the streets, committing crimes and terrorizing law-abiding people.

    Let’s wake up and start talking about the real issues. Maybe if we stopped trying to police and, instead, addressed some of the systemic issues facing certain communities, we’d get to the core of the problem, and make a positive impact for blacks, and the problem of black over-population (i.e. irresponsible procreation).

    Policing does not address core problems. It’s like trying to corral an infestation of rats without attacking the rat den.


    August 7, 2008 at 4:07 pm

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    December 29, 2008 at 2:55 pm

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