American Renaissance

Congressmen Address Plight Of Black Males

Tara Deering, Chicago Tribune, Jun. 15

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and other black Illinois congressional leaders are forging ahead to create an action plan for improving the depressing statistics that have long defined the plight of African-American males.

Half of African-American males in Illinois between the ages of 20 and 24 are neither in school nor working. More than 85 percent of juvenile parolees and 60 percent of adult parolees are black males, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Of the 500,000 black males in Chicago, nearly 30 percent live below the poverty line, U.S. census figures show. More than 60 percent of black males have dropped out of high school in Chicago since 1995, and those statistics won’t change unless something is done, black leaders said Monday.

“Our problems and our challenges are America’s problems and America’s challenges,” said U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who is helping organize a conference to probe the issues facing African-American men and boys. “The time is now to construct a comprehensive plan of action to address the state of the African-American male.”

Blacks from all walks of life will gather to come up with recommendations for getting African-American males on the right track at the Chicago Region State of the African-American Male Conference on June 25 and 26 at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren St.

The conference is one of four being held nationally that will culminate with a report this fall suggesting solutions to the plight of the African-American male.

Davis remembered being called a sissy by his classmates because as a young boy he was often found with his nose in a book. Too often, he said, African-American males become discouraged about learning because they don’t have positive role models in the school, at home and in the community to overcome peer pressure.

“If boys see only women teachers at their school, what else are they supposed to think . . . that education is not for men,” Davis said.

School districts must make a concerted effort to recruit more African-American male teachers, and more money needs to go to education, he said.

In addition to unemployment, education and incarceration, black males face health issues that put them at greater risk of developing prostate cancer and they are more likely to die earlier of heart disease and HIV/AIDS, Rush said.

Skip Land, head of A Safe Haven, a substance-abuse center, said community leaders must also address substance-abuse prevention because nearly 70 percent of people in prison have addiction problems. “Alcohol and substance abuse is killing not just African-American males, but our communities,” he said.

During the conference, Davis said he and other congressmen will collect ideas from people in the community on what they think ought to be happening to effect change, which he hopes in turn will be the start of a larger movement.