By Phillip Jackson

October 17, 2006

After 30 years of rising enrollments, the low number of Black students applying to and enrolling in American colleges and universities is shocking.  While this does not bode well for Black students attending college today, it predicts an absolutely disastrous future in the next 10- to 20-years for the Black community.  Instead of more Black doctors, lawyers, educators, accountants, business managers, technologists, social workers, and engineers, the Black community will have more government dependent, unskilled and unemployed workers.  This current educational meltdown will have a catastrophic effect on the Black community.

Earning a college degree today creates the same level of opportunity for students that earning a high school diploma did 15 years ago.  And yet, fewer and fewer Black American students are applying to, enrolling in, attending, and graduating from four-year colleges.  Without a college degree, these students, especially males, are sentenced to low-paying jobs, under- and unemployment, street-corner hustling, illicit activity, prison, and shortened life-spans.  Black male students with college degrees are the potential economic engine that powers the Black community.  The lack of outrage and response by the Black community to Black students not going to college and the impending consequences is the real travesty.  

A study by ACT, Inc., with cooperation from the Council of Great City Schools, suggests that this trend is not caused by disinterested students.  Disturbingly, the study finds that: "Urban college-bound minority high school students have high educational ambitions, but many lack the college-planning information and support they need to make informed choices on how to realize these ambitions." 

Using the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) as an example, their Black freshmen enrollment has plummeted from a high of 12% of the freshmen class before Proposition 209, which negated race as an admission criterion, to a low of 2% for 2006.  This means that only 96 Black freshmen will enroll in UCLA this year, a university of 38,500 students. This trend of plummeting enrollment is being played out across the United States at flagship universities in Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, Indiana, Louisiana and Florida [1].  Additionally regional, small and private colleges are also losing Black enrollment.  Equally, or maybe more disturbing, is the fact that high-quality, Historically Black Colleges and Universities are recruiting non-Black students to shore up their lagging Black student enrollments [2].

Scholarships, by themselves, are not the answer to this problem.  Many civic groups in the Black community give scholarships to students. Unfortunately, these scholarships do not usually translate into more qualified Black students attending college.  While the cost of college is prohibitively expensive, this money might be better spent investing in the higher education pipeline that is working to produce a larger pool of high-quality Black college applicants for all colleges.  If students don't aspire to, aren't ready for, don't have access to, or don't know how to apply to, enroll at and succeed in college; scholarships, alone, won't solve the problem of diminishing Black enrollments.

Black communities cannot depend on colleges to recruit Black students.  This is not their mission.  Nor can the Black community leave the college aspiration and application process only to local high schools.  Getting Black students to apply to, enroll in, attend, and graduate from colleges must become a grassroots activity supported by the whole community, not just the local high school.  Community- and faith-based organizations must pick up this banner of college enrollment or watch the Black community fall back to pre-1960's educational levels while the rest of the world zooms forward in the 21st century. 

The Black Star Project, an educational reform organization in Chicago, has launched Destination College 2007 in memory of Silas B. Purnell, a man who helped more than 55,000 Black students across the country enroll in colleges in his 34-year career.  We are preparing Black students in grades 6 through 12 to go to college.  In the coming years because of this project, we expect thousands more Black students to enroll in colleges across the country who would not have enrolled otherwise.  

For this effort of increasing Black enrollment in college to be successful:

  • Parents and families must become chief advocates for student college enrollment
  • All members of the Black community must ensure that young students learn to value education and commit to going to college
  • Federal, state and local educators and policymakers must improve the k-12 process for preparing students for college work
  • Elementary schools must improve the basic skills of Black students in kindergarten through 8th grade
  • High schools must better prepare Black students with rigorous course work and high standards
  • Colleges and universities must adopt policies that holistically evaluate Black students who apply to their schools, not just using GPA, ACT or SAT scores
  • Elementary schools must start the college awareness process in 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grades
  • Community and faith-based organizations must create an expectation among Black children and their families of college enrollment, attendance, and graduation
  • Colleges and universities must provide mentoring, nurturing, and academic support for new Black college students
  • High schools must partner with responsible community- and faith-based organizations to help secure college enrollment for Black students.

 

[1] "JBHE Completes Its Count of Black Students and Faculty at the Nation's 50 Flagship State Universities," The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.  Internet, available: http://www.jbhe.com/features/51_survey_stateuniversities.html
[2] Blitzer, Wolf, "Enrollment of white students on rise at historically black colleges." Internet, available: http://cnnstudentnews.cnn.com/2000/US/05/18/black.colleges

By Phillip Jackson

 

published February 12, 2010

In 2008, black America placed most of its political capital, spiritual energy and financial resources into electing the first black president of the United States. Black community leaders - political, spiritual and media - led us to believe that electing a first black president was a natural extension of the civil rights movement.

They were wrong. In fact, electing the first black president might well have ended the civil rights movement. Black America mistakenly traded the future of its young black men for a black president.

Young black men in America are beyond living in a "state of emergency." Many of them range from "barely surviving" to "no longer existing." This tragedy can be seen in prisons and jails across America, where black men make up 50% to 80% of prison and jail populations although we are less than 7% of the total U.S. population.

Despair also can be seen in our families, where more than 70% of our children are born into single, female-headed households, and in colleges and universities, where black male populations on many major college campuses total a mere 1% to 3%.

Granted, these were all problems before the first black president took office; however, the bottom line is that this president has not committed himself in any way to directly address these issues.

In so many ways, the energy used to support a first black president was energy that should have been used to educate black children, rebuild black families and economically revitalize black communities. As a way of saving our struggling communities, black America took a gamble on supporting a first black president. But we lost.

Over and over, the black community has reached out for help from this first black president, and over and over, he has said, "No!" This first black president has been clear that his job is not to help black Americans but to help all Americans.

All Americans do not need the same help that young black men need. We need only walk down any city street in almost any predominantly African-American community to see residue of the human wreckage of millions of young black men nationwide.

Few leaders - those same political, spiritual and media leaders who advised us to campaign for this black president - engaged in proactive measures to prevent this "silent genocide." The mass destruction of young black American men has been effectively ignored by almost everybody - the government, the media and much of the philanthropic community. And even most black faith leaders stand by and watch this preventable, ongoing, horrific loss of our young black men.

Too few of us are asking: Who are young black women going to marry? Who will be good fathers to tens of millions of black fatherless children? Who will anchor strong families in the black community? Who will build and maintain the economies of black communities? Who will young black boys emulate as they grow into men? Will black America be a viable and valuable community in 20 years?

This demise of black America is happening in front of our eyes because so few of us - black, white or other - really care about these young black men.

Electing America's first black president seems to have cleansed the conscience of most Americans for destroying many past generations of black people. What a cruel hoax to believe that if a black man can become president, then young black men do not have any problems that America is obligated to address.

Correcting the problems of young black men in America will require a comprehensively structured, sufficiently financed, professionally managed, ethically led and committed multi-pronged effort to systemically address and shift the cascading negative outcomes for black men and boys. Simply telling black men to "man up" will not work.

The real shame of this catastrophe is not that America can't save young black men; the shame is that America won't make the effort to save young black men! Compared with massive government bailouts and frivolous expenditures, the resources required to save America's young black men are minuscule. Saving young black men is an investment in America! A successful effort to save young black men must also address habits, attitudes and behaviors of these youth that have pushed them to the precipice of irrelevance, obsolescence and nonexistence.

To date, precious little has been put in place to stop the ongoing destruction and annihilation of young black men. When our first black president has been asked about helping black men in America, his retort, "I will do what is best for all Americans," is woefully insufficient to address the endangered status of millions of black males in America.

The president must do the best for both, not just for America. In fact, doing what is best for young black men is what is best for America!

 

 

Lynching Young Black Boys without Ropes and Trees

Now they are lynched with schools and prisons, but the results are still the same.

By Phillip Jackson

September 25, 2014

 Recently in Chicago, a city where only 9% of 8th-grade Black boys read proficiently and where thousands of Black boys have been killed and maimed over the past few years, the MacArthur Foundation passed out "Genius Awards" to people who were musicians, authors, scientists and poets. In their way, the MacArthur Awards congratulate and reward people who are not working to educate and save the lives of Black boys. Essentially, they are saying, that in this American city, the one they call home, educating and making young Black men productive citizens is not valued.

The MacArthur Foundation speaks for America. America has a reputation for helping people all over the world. We have soldiers stationed in dozens of countries and we invest hundreds of billions of dollars in countries worldwide. But in the streets of most American large cities, police shoot down young Black men with alarming regularity (about one every 28 hours); tens of thousands of young Black men die every year in an undeclared "ghetto war"; hundreds of thousands of young Black men are annually ushered into the prison system of America; and millions of young Black men and boys are under-educated and mis-educated in American schools. These realities constitute a sophisticated, 21st -century form of lynching young Black men and boys.

Such genocidal treatment of any population should gain international attention including sanctions by the United Nations and massive national and international petition drives led by human rights groups. But because these are young Black men and boys in America, little is said or done to change this horror. And Black America, by its inaction, remains complicit in these horrendous outcomes for young Black men and boys! Most Black church and business leaders, educators, and elected officials are silent as this gargantuan-scale human tragedy continues unabated.

American schools are systematically slaughtering the minds and spirits Black boys. Chicago is not alone with only 9% of 8th-grade Black boys reading proficiently. Louisville, Atlanta, Houston, Austin, Philadelphia and Los Angeles share Chicago's ignominy with 9% of 8th-grade Black boys reading proficiently. Unbelievably, some cities are worse including Baltimore, Dallas and San Diego, 7%; Washington D.C., 6%, Detroit, 5%, and Milwaukee and Cleveland, 3%. In America, only 10% of 8th-grade Black boys read proficiently. This failure to educate Black men and boys is America's unspoken shame.

Nearly 150 years since slavery ended in America, Black America must accept the reality that no help is coming to transform the plight of young Black men and boys! If our young men are to be saved, it will be because the Black community saves them. If our young men are taught to read, it will be because we teach them to read. If our Black boys develop into strong, positive, productive, globally competent Black men, it will be because Black America makes it happen. And we should expect no help from foundations like MacArthur.

the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's, Black men and boys were lynched in America with ropes and trees. Now they are lynched with schools and prisons, but the results are still the same.

By Kenneth Braswell, David Miller and Phillip Jackson

January 22, 2010

On Sept. 25, 2009, the body of Derrion Albert, a 16-year-old student, was found on a Chicago street corner. His vicious beating -- he was punched, kicked and struck with 2 by 4s -- left an indelible mark on our psyches. His death reminded many of the 1954 murder of Emmit Till in Money, Mississippi, though Till's assailants were white and the suspects in this case are black.

In New York City's first murder of 2010, a 21-year-old father was stabbed to death on a Brooklyn street, just hours into the new year.

Both deaths show the need for decisive action. Newspapers publish story after story of black and brown boys and young men murdered each year in our inner cites. These incidents expose the nihilism, benign neglect and acts of cowardice masquerading as bravado, that permeate so many of our communities where there is an absence of positive male role models.

In issuing his 2010 National Mentoring Month Proclamation on Jan. 6, President Barack Obama outlined the growing need for trusted adults to step up and mentor children. We are excited and happy that the President has made a call to address a critical void in our communities, but it is up to us to sign up and connect with the thousands who have heeded similar calls over the years.

The call is urgent. We must encourage an extra push of responsible men who can assist in providing stable environments for boys and girls outside of their immediate family.

Today, it is reported that boys receive up to 70 percent of the Ds and Fs given to all students, and create 90 percent of all classroom discipline problems. According to a Schott Foundation report, "Given Half a Chance," some alarming educational trends involve young black male students. Their 2005/2006 national graduation rate was 47 percent. That means that most black male students did not graduate with their cohort.

These startling school-related statistics, coupled with the increasing number of children growing up without fathers, are creating a permanent underclass. This underclass can be measured by studying the escalating rates of community violence, economic isolation, poverty and substance abuse.

In cities like Chicago, father absence has hit African-American communities with the force of a hundred Hurricane Katrinas. It is decimating our communities and we have garnered no adequate response to it. This reality highlights the need for communities to engage in projects that make black men better fathers, better husbands and better community leaders.

Obama's call to action to fathers in general, and to black fathers specifically, means governmental support and leadership from the highest level to address the social annihilation of black men. That plight has been ignored for so long.

It is inconceivable to think that we can continue to raise healthy children if we are unable to reconnect fathers with their families.

Although many responsible fatherhood and mentoring organizations are doing great work, more can be done. We encourage responsible men of color particularly, who have been able to serve their families and communities well, to consider making the extra commitment to become mentors.

We are just a few voices, united by our concern for our young black men. We are reciting the need to increase our efforts for the well-being of our children. Please join us as we increase awareness about the need for mentorship and responsible fatherhood in our families and communities. The future of our children rests in our hands.

*********************************************************************

Kenneth Braswell - Executive Director Fathers Incorporated (www.fathersincorporated.com) & Author of When The Tear Won't Fall & Gentle Warriors

David Miller -  Co-Founder Urban Leadership Institute (www.urbanyouth.org) & Co-founder of Raising Him Alone Campaign (www.raisinghimalone.com)

Phillip Jackson - Executive Director of The Black Star Project (www.blackstarproject.org) 

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