Saturday, January 21, 2012

2012-01-21 "Oakland hearing focuses on boys and men of color" by Jill Tucker from "San Francisco Chronicle"
A standing-room-only crowd of elected officials, religious leaders, community activists, educators and children filled a downtown Oakland auditorium Friday afternoon to address the needs of young men and boys of color and the obstacles they face in their schools and on the streets.
Addressing high incarceration rates, unemployment, violence and dropout rates is an "enormous" task, said Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid. The focus needs to be on creating job opportunities, saving lives and giving men and boys a sense of hope to achieve, he said. "We cannot lose any more young men to the violence that occurs in our streets."
The hearing of the Assembly's Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color in the Elihu Harris State Building, was chaired by Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, and included speakers from health agencies, schools, and community organizations who testified about successful programs as well as barriers to success.
"Boys and young men of color in California face triple jeopardy: They grow up in poor families, live in poor neighborhoods and attend poor schools," said Junious Williams, chief executive officer of the Urban Strategies Council. "These barriers make it very difficult for them to rise above their circumstances."
The scope of the problem - the statistics about African American and Latino males - is clear, said Dr. Tony Iton, senior vice president for Healthy Communities at the California Endowment.
For example, a black boy in Oakland, on average, will die 15 years earlier than a white boy born in the hills, he said.
"We can reset the odds," Iton said. "We need all hands on deck."
The loudest applause of the day was reserved for children and teens who spoke during the hearing.
Indigo Byers, 12, called for policies that recognize the diversity of needs within schools and communities.
"The policies are made for the perfect child," she said.
She also argued for the removal of police in schools, a presence that does more to intimidate children than protect them.
Kimante Smith, 18, of Oakland Kids First, asked for more programs that promote leadership and teaches boys to be better men, and "not a statistic."
Several speakers addressed the need for job training and employment opportunities, including the spending of tax dollars to do the public's business in communities with the highest rates of men and boys of color.
"Fifty percent of African American men are unemployed," said Olis Simmons, president and CEO of Youth UpRising. "How is that possible?"
Speakers noted that research shows that an African American man who graduates from high school adds $681,000 extra in tax dollars for the state over a lifetime, and a male Latino high school graduate generates an additional $451,000.
"Young people are one of our greatest assets and the best indicator of our state's future prosperity and health," Iton said. "The future of California is tied to the future of boys and young men of color."

Attendees register in the Elihu Harris State Office Building where state and local officials will meet to discuss how to improve life chances for young men of color on Friday, January 20, 2011 in Oakland, Calif.
Photo: Dania Maxwell / Special to The Chronicle

Minister Keith Muhammad participates in an Assembly committee hearing on the status of young men of color.
Photo: Dania Maxwell / Special to The Chronicle

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