Can Young Black Men Be Saved? - Page 5 of 6

Can Young Black Men Be Saved?

males because of racial profiling.

Grassroots efforts, she says, to overturn these types of policies must happen at all levels. The Congressional Black Caucus could be instrumental in drafting federal guidelines that are not biased against black males, and community groups must mobilize and approach city officials and their state legislatures to abolish such measures.

Due to the limited resources of lower-middle-class black communities, collaborating with like-minded organizations, agencies, and politicians is imperative. “They may not be organizations you would collaborate with all the time on all issues,” argues Simms, “but where you can find common interests and secure allies, you get more support.”

Rev. Bill Howard of Newark, New Jersey-based Bethany Baptist Church formed a successful collaboration to diminish gang activity in his community. The church leadership decided to adopt the Essex Residential Community Home, a juvenile justice center where incarcerated teenagers are sent as they approach the end of their sentences. In this setting, the young men receive life-skills coaching to prepare them to re-enter mainstream society. Howard created the Uth Turn (pronounced Youth Turn) program, which he says is “dedicated to assisting young people in turning their lives around.”

After some political networking, Howard’s Bethany Baptist Church launched the program in September 2004 with strong financial support from the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission and state Attorney General Peter Harvey. “We coach them on setting goals, time-management skills, math, and writing tutoring, socialization for work (appropriate dress, how to deal with supervision at work), and dealing with family situations,” says Howard. “We have also taken them to museums, musical events, and brought in speakers to help them understand different dimensions of life.”

If the progress of Jonathan Pollard, 20, is any indication, the Uth Turn program certainly deserves support. Pollard, originally from Irvington, New Jersey, was a member of the Crips and served two and a half years for armed robbery before entering the program a year ago. He used Uth Turn’s tutoring services to complete his high school education and improve his communication skills. Pollard showed so much promise that he was hired as a part-time counselor and receives financial assistance from Bethany to attend Essex Community College. His long-term goal: attend law school at Rutgers University and pursue a career in the correct
ions field.

Kevin Powell advocates starting a national dialogue among major black organizations to discuss the black male crisis. The conversation has already begun with the 21st Century Foundation, NAACP, and The National Urban League holding informal talks about funding programs that support young black males.

In 2004, Powell began his “State of Black Men in America” 10-city tour. It helped fuel discussions among political and grassroots leaders and has given rise to Powell’s latest proposal: “The Black Male in America: A National Conversation,” a conference in which Powell will rally the support of a coalition of black businesses, communities, and philanthropic leaders to tackle the problem.

Brimmer has a broader vision: the creation of The National Council