U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) has been active on Black male issues on Capitol Hill.
Members of the Obama administration and Congress met to discuss issues and challenges faced by young Black males during a forum on Feb. 11. Organized by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the Ron W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University, the Howard University Student Government Association, the Howard chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, and others, the forum, “The State of the African-American Male: A Dream Deferred?” took place at the Howard University School of Business Auditorium.
Former Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek (D), a visiting scholar at the Ron Walters Center, said it is critical that America talks seriously about the problems of Black males. “When you talk about African-American males, you are talking about Americans who have made contributions to our country,” Meek said.
The forum was divided into panels that dealt with education, the criminal justice system, finance and young males.
Ivory Toldson, deputy director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, participated in the education panel. Toldson said stories about Black females outnumbering Black males in higher education institutions at ratios as high as 20-1 are not true. “The real ratio for Black females to Black males on college campuses is 1.54 to 1,” Toldson said. “Coppin State University has the highest ratio of three females to one male. Black males are definitely represented in higher education.”
Toldson said most Black males in higher education attend community colleges, online or distance learning institutions, and for-profit colleges instead of the traditional four-year schools.
Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Emmanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) talked about the criminal justice system. Davis said the U.S. has the biggest incarcerated population in the world and that Blacks are a large part of it.
“Black people make up about 14 percent of this country’s population and yet 51 percent of people in the criminal justice system are Black,” Davis said. “In order for Black males to deal with the criminal justice system, there must be reform of the system to make it fairer to poor people and people of color, and educate African-American males on how it works.”
Norton said she started the District’s Commission on Men and Boys several years ago even though she is a “card-carrying feminist.” She said Black males, with the support of Black females, must come together to solve their own problems for the good of the community.
Cleaver said Black males are under attack in America but must continue to persevere and not give into hopelessness.
Kelvin Boston, a financial journalist, and retired Fannie Mae Chairman Franklin Raines said in order to thrive in America, Black males must become more responsible in their personal finances.
“Black must have economic independence and not be dependent on others for their livelihoods,” Boston said. “During the Great Recession, which took place from September 2008 to the end of 2009, Whites had some financial challenges but Blacks were economically in a depression. Blacks lost 50 percent of our net worth during the Great Recession.”
Boston said that presently Blacks are 40 percent unemployed or under-employed and to fight that, they must have a life plan, financial plan, and a business plan or a second income independent of a full-time job.
Raines said that with financial discipline, young Blacks who attend Howard University now, can save $500 a month when they finish school and in 40 years, retire with $1 million in savings.
“I know it sounds hard, but it can be done,” Raines said.
In the panel on young Black males, Anthony Driver, director of political and external affairs for the Howard University Student Government Association, said it seems that America’s capitalistic system is designed to keep Blacks in a certain economic status. “No matter how high you get, you could be Barack Obama,” he said,” you can be pulled down.”