I was supposed to go see Geoffrey Canada, founder and creator of the Harlem Children’s Zone on a Wednesday. When my friend and I got there, he had already finished speaking. I’ve been a fan of the Harlem Children’s Zone since I discovered it about 5 years ago. I was amazed at what they were able to for the young people and their families in Harlem, helping people end generational poverty by addressing not only their educational needs but the social & community problems that they were having too.
Two days after that event, I received an invitation from the Children’s Defense Fund for an invite-only meeting/conference hosted by Geoffrey Canada and others. The meeting is called the Black Community Crusade For Children and it is a meeting of the minds to explore how to address the following statistical realities for black children in America.
Each Day in America for Black Children
1 child is killed by abuse or neglect.
4 children or teens are killed by firearms.
24 babies die before their first birthdays.
103 children are arrested for drug offenses.
104 children are arrested for violent crimes.
236 babies are born at low birthweight.
311 babies are born to teen mothers
329 babies are born without health insurance.
434 children are confirmed as abused or neglected.
442 public school students are corporally punished.
650 public school students drop out.
761 babies are born into poverty.
1,282 babies are born to unmarried mothers.
1,363 children are arrested.
6,916 public school students are suspended.
- Over 80% of Black children cannot read or do math at grade level in 4th, 8th or 12th grade – if they have not already dropped out of school – a sentence to social and economic death in our increasingly competitive and globalizing world.
- Only 12% of Black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38% of White boys, and only 12% of Black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44% of White boys.
- 50% of all Black boys fail to graduate from high school. In college, Black men represented just 5% of students in 2008.
- A Black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 and a Black girl a 1 in 18 chance of going to prison in their lifetime.
- Black children are four times more likely than White children to be placed in foster care; are more than three times as likely to be suspended; are almost twice as likely to be unemployed; are five times as likely to be arrested for violent crimes; and are more than four times as likely to be detained in a juvenile correctional facility.
- Between 1979 and 2007, the annual gun death toll for White children decreased 54 percent but increased for Black children and teens 61 percent.
- In the century after 1881, more than 3,440 Black persons were lynched, most of them Black males. More Black males 15-19 years old – 3,496 – were killed by gunfire between 2005 and 2007.
- More Black children and teens died from gun violence in 2007 – 1,499 – than all the military deaths in Afghanistan since our engagement in that war began nine years ago. Between 1979-2007, 41,456 Black children were killed by gunfire.
- At a time of crippling deficits, states are spending on average three times more per prisoner than per public school pupil. New York state spends $210,000 a year to house mostly Black nonviolent inner city children in upstate New York prisons with a 75 percent recidivism rate. New York City spends $14,615 a year per public school pupil and $600 a night to lock children up in an inappropriate Bronx youth prison before they are found guilty of any crime. Almost all are children of color and some are as young as 10 years old.
- The U.S. is the world’s leading jailer and 40 percent of its incarcerated population is Black. Poor children of color, especially Black males, are being criminalized at earlier and earlier ages; arrested on school grounds under “zero tolerance” school discipline policies – for nonviolent offenses that used to be settled in the principal’s office. Some are 6, 8, and 10 years old.
I am filled with a sense of wonder that despite missing that conference, I will still be able to hear the insight of Mr. Canada. My passion to help young people, especially those of African descent is still very much in my heart. I experienced a sense of wonder, that the stars were aligned to make this happen.
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