America’s black youth are significantly held back by dismal employment prospects in a tough labor market and an unfair prison system, among other factors, according to a study released yesterday by Hart Research Associates for the Children’s Defense Fund.
The findings were announced at the National Press Office in Washington, DC, and were shown over live stream at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (BSRC), before an audience of community leaders, children’s rights activists and school children.
“The nationwide employment crisis will weigh heavily on black youth as they enter the labor market with less education and full-time work experience than their white counterparts,” said CDF President Marian Wright Edelman at the press conference.
The study also cited violence, inadequate schools, negative cultural and media influences, drugs and addiction, fractured families and teen pregnancy as other reasons behind black children’s lack of employment opportunities.
Following the broadcast at BSRC, Emma Jordan-Simpson, executive director of CDF’s New York office, led an open discussion of the study’s findings. Parents and leaders raised questions of how black youth, and communities in general, could further empower themselves.
Some named projects that were working to provide solutions, such as Hilton Cooper, Program Director of the City Challenge Program, which provides an alternative to youth incarceration, and a woman named Angelique who offers a tutoring and prep program for middle-school students.
Some of the kids present seemed unhappy and confused hearing adults talk about what was supposed to be their bleak future.
“Why do people see us as kids growing up without parents, on the streets, doing things we’re not supposed to do, when they could just see us as regular kids,” asked a 12-year old Eagle Academy student named Eric, who says he wants to study at Harvard University.
The principal of public school Eagle Academy, Rashad Meade, said that schools can serve as a bridge leading to opportunities, if families aren’t providing what children need to succeed.
Colvin Grannum, president and CEO of the Restoration Corporation, remarked that a more positive attitude is necessary for progress to occur.
“Even though there’s success in our community, there’s a tendency not to magnify what works,” he said.
He explained that the Restoration Corporation already is working to address the two main issues raised by the studies– unemployment and incarceration. To date, the Corporation supports the Bedford-Stuyvesant Early Child Development Center, a literacy program, and a college readiness program, Grannum said.
Council Member Al Vann also highlighted the importance of these efforts.
“We must refocus our efforts to ensure that our children have every opportunity to achieve their dreams. The commitment of organizations like the Children’s Defense Fund and Bed-Stuy Restoration has been established. Now it is time for the community at large to unite in the effort to confront this crisis,” said Mr. Vann.
Ms. Jordan-Simpson said the conversation was only the beginning of solutions-oriented community working group, as the CDF plans on contacting all the attendees and acting on the study’s findings.