In the past we’ve labeled youth in a ways to describe those in peril. “At-risk” and “endangered” have become synonymous with black male. There is something very impractical with singling black men as a means to solving a problem. By the time a young person as been ascribed the label, he or she is by definition disconnected, lost or engaged in negative activity. The goal should always be to prevent losing children to violence or early school departure – not deal with the aftermath.
In addition, the clear and ever present consequences of system failure suggest that the labels are misplaced. Whenever, I hear that school aged children (15-24) are involved in violent crimes, I ask ‘didn’t that person belong in school or college?’ Did the parents know his or her whereabouts? Shouldn’t he be working or interning?
The individuals who perpetrate these crimes are too young not to belong to an organization or association. From this perspective, institutions’ inability to hold on to our youth reaps deadly results. Schools, recreation departments and employers must be rewarded and penalized on the basics – keeping students in the building. Let’s call this “holding power.”
Instead of labeling and further marginalizing young people, we can start to measure and reward institutions’ holding power. There are community-based organizations that are filling the gaps and holding on to males. The Urban League of Greater New Orleans, Youth Empowerment Project, Children’s Defense Fund, Kingsley House, Café Reconcile, Liberty’s Kitchen, Puentes, The Rethinkers, Total Community Action, Covenant House, Family Service of Greater New Orleans and others are invested into holding the youth that our mainstream institutions have not.
The Loyola Institute of Quality and Equity linked up with The Angle to highlight organizations that are holding on to black males. These organizations see beyond a label and view people as people. More importantly, this edition highlights how people can transform themselves when they are treated with dignity and respect.
See and hear from the Transformers of New Orleans. Real people; Incredible action.
- Andre Perry, Ph.D.