Men from Morehouse College
At the exact same moment that 30,000 people were marching in Washington, DC chanting, “No Justice, No Peace” in support of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and other victims of police killings, a 15 year-old Black boy, Demario Bailey, was being shot in the chest for his jacket by other Black boys, under a viaduct on the south side of Chicago. He died. In 2012, there were at least 313 murders of young Black men and boys by police, security guards and vigilantes, which pales in comparison to the estimated 15,000 black-on-black murders of mostly young Black men by other young Black men almost every year. Where is their justice? Where is their peace?
God bless all of the protestors who have donned “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts and mimicked, “Hands Up – Don’t Shot” scenarios in cities and towns across this country. However, their actions alone will do almost nothing to change the plight of the masses of young Black men in America. Young Black men in America are the most despised, stereotyped, disregarded and feared people in this country; more likely to be poor, more likely to be undereducated, more likely to be unemployed, more likely to live without their fathers, more likely to be locked up in prisons, and more likely to be murdered than anyone else in America. Unjust incidents that shock our sensibilities are easier to mobilize around than are the all-pervasive, deeply institutionalized, systematic injustices that Black males endure in their lives every day.
Usual and easy responses to the plight of Black males in America always include historic indignation, protest and demands that raise public awareness—the stuff “moments” and not “movements” are made of. However, what is lacking is a comprehensive, well-conceived, sustained response, which requires massive community building efforts, direct-actions with and on behalf of Black men, and a redirection of dollars from incarcerating Black men to educating and developing Black youth. Together, these actions will develop and support Black men and boys in becoming strong, positive, powerful, contributing, compassionate and courageous American citizens.
Even if American police, security guards and vigilantes do not murder another Black man ever, the existing socio-economic, educational and institutional factors in America will continue to destroy young Black men and boys at an ungodly rate. Unless and until these horrendous life-force crushing energies against young Black men and boys are positively transformed, their lives in America will continue to be a hellish catastrophe.
Even President Barack Obama got caught up in the symbolic frenzy of responses by requesting congressional support for $263 million to train police forces across America and for body cameras. Yet, the moment-by-moment, spirit-breaking forces nourished by the social/economic policies coming out of Washington, DC (and the states) continue to cement Black men’s positions at the bottom of the American social, economic and education structure and at the top of the mortality, incarceration and unemployment indices. It’s a wonder that any Black man can “breathe” in America with these kinds of obstacles to overcome!
Black Male Achievement is the much-needed, missing and best response to the issues of Black men and boys in America. On January 19, 2015, the Coalition for Black Male Achievement will mentor 50,000 young Black men and boys in 200 cities—towards survival and success in America—as part of the Martin Luther King (MLK) Mentor Day initiative. The mentors are Black men and the curriculum is based on Black Male Achievement and human excellence.
Please visit www.blackstarproject.org to get your city and your young Black men involved or please call 773.285.9600. The best way to improve the conditions of Black men in America is not simply to protest them, but to change them.
Phillip Jackson is founder and executive director of the Black Star Project in Chicago.