My audacious idea is simple: To create a culture of caring to support the positive development of African American males in Baltimore City.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, a noted 19th Century writer was once quoted as saying “imitation is suicide.” Emerson’s quote personifies what is happening to a large segment of African American males both young and old in the city of Baltimore. Too many African American males in Baltimore City are being socialized to think that disrespect, drug dealing, and gang affiliations are the keys to life. The widely acclaimed HBO mini-series “The Wire” is evidence of this phenomenon.
It is no secret that Baltimore City struggles with enormous challenges toward improving the quality of life among adolescent and young adult African American males. The recent murders of Zach Hallback, a 17-year-old student organizer with the Algebra Project, and Edward Smith, a 14-year-old student at Connexions Leadership Academy, underscore the need for collective action and community-wide approaches to improve the life chances of African American males.
If we truly care about elevating the status of African American males, as well as addressing the hopelessness and despair among a growing segment of African American males, it can no longer be business as usual, “imitation is suicide.”
My recommendation would require the business and the faith communities to exercise leadership and a call to action. I recommend that 10 corporations, city agencies, faith based organizations, etc., in the city of Baltimore each adopt one of five middle and five high schools to begin focusing specifically on improving the life chances of 50 African American males in that school per year. Each partnering agency would make a commitment to support the initiative for 5 years. This process would include: recruiting and retaining African American men to participate in ongoing group mentoring activities, career exposure (by having these young men visit the companies that participate in the initiative), exposure to trade occupations, college tours, and providing incentives for improvements in the areas of achievement, school attendance, and personal development.
What will it take for the citizens of Baltimore to realize that African American males are worth saving?