OBSERVER STAFF REPORT
Issues impacting African American men and their families will be discussed at a historic and groundbreaking bipartisan national conference in Washington, D.C. The State Of The African American Male conference will take place Nov. 14-15, and will kickoff a national yearlong dialogue on strategies and programs to combat the following issues:
* 32 percent of African American males are unemployed.
* 40 percent of African American males are in the criminal justice system, either by being on probation, on parole or in prison.
* Many African American boys are on the low end of the literacy scale and dropping out of school.
* Many Black men die earlier of diseases that are treatable.
U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis, of Illinois, has called this meeting of national leaders, major organizations, policymakers, grassroots representatives and scholars to underscore the challenges confronting a large number of African American males, and that retard their struggle in becoming useful citizens in American society.
"We are concerned with the continuing plight of African American men who are seeking work and cannot find it, who are ill served by the American health services sector and who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system," Congressman Davis said in announcing the conference.
Joining Congressman Davis as co-conveners of the conference to be held in the Library of Congress and the Rayburn Building will be Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League; Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement Colored People; U.S. Congressman and Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Elijah E. Cummings; U. S. Congressman William J. Jefferson, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; Weldon J. Rougeau, president of the CBCF; Dr. Frederick Humphries, president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity; Gregg Reeves, president of Blacks in Government; Thomas Dortch, president of 100 Black Men of America, Inc.; Father George Clements, founder of One Church One Family; Dr. James E. Savage, president-elect of the Association of Black Psychologists; George Garrow, executive director of the National Organization of Concerned Black Men; and the president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Harry C. Alford.
The conference will feature some of the most knowledgeable and credible spokespersons, from a wide spectrum of experiences and training, who will layout and examine the forces contributing to the dismal plight of too many of the nation's African American males.
"We seek to better understand some of the historical, psychological, economic, and social challenges that retard the upward mobility of far too many African American males," said Dr. Bobby W. Austin, program chair of the conference. "In our yearlong dialogue we plan to assess the impact of the larger society, and the role they should play in helping Black males overcome some of the barriers."
"During this period we will also develop an action agenda, which that encompass philosophical, organizational, and programmatic best practices that have proven track records in helping boys become successful men," he said.
Reeves also weighed in with his support, adding, "The status of African Americans in all levels of government service represents the cornerstone of our work. We therefore stand in solidarity with this coalition in attempting to get at the root of the issues that so adversely affect Black men and their families."
Father Clements recalled that the ancient Latins were just as interested in their male population.
"Evidence of that concern is found in an ancient encryption which says: 'mens sana in incorporate sano' - a healthy mind inside a healthy body. All males must see this reality in the forefront of their existence."
Dr. Savage echoed his organization's support, saying, "The Association of Black Psyhologists is organized in part to protect and promote the well-being of the African American male psyche. We emphasize primary prevention within our implementation of research, theory and practice. We therefore support the conference and yearlong dialogue as both timely and of critical importance at this moment in our nation's history."
Morial, former New Orleans mayor, closed out by saying. "As I stated in my keynote address at the Urban League's 2003 annual conference, we must declare 'Empowerment Time' for the Black male. While many are high achieving, too many Black men are drifting into the underclass of joblessness and hopelessness. They are both perpetrators and victims of gun-related violence, and are living their lives believing that manhood is defined by the ability to injure or damage another man - rather than helping another man. It is time - Empowerment Time - to develop ideas and craft solutions to recerse this alarming trend ... and provide Black males with tools for renewal, revival and resurrection."
On Friday, Nov. 14, the opening session will introduce prominent scholars, researchers, theologians and others in the Montpelier Room of the Library of Congress. These opening discussions will introduce and outline some of the problems affecting African American males from a religious, psychological, sociological and political perspective. The speakers will set the tone for the Saturday sessions.
Following the opening conference in Washington, D.C, the conference conveners plan a minimum of four regional meetings - beginning in January 2004. Congressional Black Caucus members and their co-conveners will host these regional meetings. The efforts will be designed to yield strategies and resources for new and ongoing efforts in support of African American male development.
Dr. B.W. Austin, former founder and president of the Village foundation and former director of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation National Taskforce on African American Men and Boys, chairs the conference program and planning committee. The staff person for the committee is attorney Richard Boykin, chief of staff to Congressman Davis.
Free your mind, and the rest will follow.