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 - Founder and Chairman of The Black Star Project (www.blackstarproject.org)