A Little Positivity: New Jersey Mom Celebrates Son’s High School Graduation With Huge Billboard Ad

The dismal education statistics for young Black men are all too familiar, especially in cities like Camden, New Jersey, where poverty, crime and poor access to quality schooling are de rigueur. And all too often, Black achievement is devastated by the harsh bias of low expectations.

But 18-year-old Aljelani Igwe of Camden defied expectations Friday, when he graduated from Leap Academy University Charter School. So proud was his mom, Ovella O’Neal, that the single mother of six purchased a billboard ad to celebrate the achievement, according to ABC News.

The Huffington Post writes that Aljelani was surprised by the billboard, which bears his photograph:

The single mom of six says her happiness is in part from the fact that Igwe has been able to succeed despite his surroundings. According to CQ Press’ 2013 Crime Rate Rankings, Camden has the highest crime rate in the United States. It also has a low graduation rate, with two in five high school seniors failing to graduate in 2014, according to South Jersey Times. O’Neal created strict rules in her household like prohibiting Igwe from having a girlfriend.

She also limited his cell phone use, in order to keep him from getting distracted, CBS Philly reported. Her guidelines seemed to have worked and she says her son stayed on the right track.

Aljelani was accepted into the chemical engineering program at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, and is thinking about joining Army ROTC in the fall, reports ABC 6.

Congratulations and good luck, Aljelani!

SOURCE: ABC News, the Huffington Post, ABC 6 | VIDEO CREDIT: ABC


America’s Poorest City? Obama Reveals Why He Picked Camden, NJ To Announce New Police Initiative

Free Community College: The Best Idea Since the GI Bill


One summer about a million years ago, when I was 18, I went to community college to take some classes to transfer back to the university I was attending. At the time, I didn’t think much about the experience or what a place like that meant to the people who took those courses with me.

The classes, one in English and another in speech, as far as I was concerned were “cake” courses that I could breeze through without paying much attention, and focus on my everything else going on in my mid-adolescent life. Truth is I aced both classes without much effort.

SEE ALSO: Will President Obama’s Community College Plan Undermine HBCUs?

Looking back now, there was much more to that place than I realized, and it meant much more to the people sitting in those classrooms with me than I thought back then.

So a few weeks ago, during his State of the Union address, President Obama talked about opening the door to free community college for anybody who wanted to go for two years. It could potentially get millions halfway to a bachelor’s degree, giving them advanced skillsets and training to move the economy forward. It could lift millions more out of poverty and in all probability reduce incarceration rates and recidivism rates for African American males in every urban community, where they are targeted for lockup.

With this proposal, Obama may have come up with the best idea for young men and women in this country since the G.I. Bill.

The likelihood is that you are far too young to remember the effect of that piece of legislation, but historians credit it with changing the nation’s economy and future. Originally called the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, returning veterans from World War II used its benefits to obtain education that they would otherwise not have been able to afford, placing them in positions for higher paying jobs, advancing productivity and ultimately creating a middle class explosion that made the United States possibly the most dominant economic power in global history.

According to the Veterans Administration, by the time the original GI Bill ended in 1956, 7.8 million of 16 million World War II veterans had taken advantage of its benefits.  Even today, 400,000 men and women are in school right now, thanks to the benefits of the 1986 Montgomery GI Bill, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.


So let’s move it up to 2015. The generation that benefited from that act have largely passed away, now part of history themselves. The generation of young people now are in the same boat, with many unable to afford higher education and many of those that do have decades of debt strapped to it.

As much as 44% of all undergraduate students attend community college in this country, more than ever before. That means the demand for this type of education to obtain skills training or as a stepping stone to a four-year degree is high. People clearly see that education is the path to advancement, and in urban areas, where money for school is scarce, for an untold number of brothers, it can mean the difference between gainful employment and hanging out on the block every day.

Numbers from the U.S. Department of Education tell us the black male college graduation rate is about 33.1% and that’s of the brothers that do make it to college. About 1.4 million are currently enrolled in post-secondary education. Of the 4 million blacks in this country that hold a four-year degree, 1.9 million are black males.

Studies have shown that in many of these cases, black men defer their education because of cost and debt, among other factors. If there were legislation that would subsidize education at the community college level, it would take that pressure off many who would otherwise be looking at the front door, then the pavement.

If the GI Bill took millions of young men and turned them into individual economic engines, powering a the world’s largest ever middle class, think of what legislation that gives people two years of free education in our technological economy could do. Imagine the next Twitter, Apple, or Virgin Atlantic being started by someone who went to community college off this idea.


That summer long ago, the people I sat those classrooms with came from a diverse background. One man was a plant worker taking daytime classes. Another was a nurse’s aide who wanted to go on to a four-year degree. Still another was an ex-crack dealer who was searching for a permanent way out of the game. And another was a mom who had become pregnant in high school and had to drop out, but had obtained a GED and was looking to move forward. Others were college students like me who just wanted to take summer classes.

SEE ALSO: K-14? President Obama Proposes Tuition-Free Community College

I remember that going to that school and obtaining an associate’s degree meant the difference between advancement for them and languishing where they were with a lack of opportunity and perhaps hope. Something I didn’t even take that seriously was precious to my classmates and, to be honest, I had a new respect for them by the time it was over.

After the summer session classes ended, I never saw any of them again. My sophomore year had begun and college swept by in what now seems the blink of an eye. It’s possible that some of them stopped going, but it’s just as possible that they did well, much better than they would have if the school wasn’t there for them.

Given the chance, lots of people in our communities who have little or no access to education after high school might advance the places where we live and maybe even provide jobs if a boost like this became available.

Madison J. Gray is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based multimedia journalist specializing in urban issues and criminal justice. He writes for NewsOne on the subject of Black males in America. Follow him on Twitter @madisonjgray.


Ted Gustus, Coaching Legend and His Formula for Transforming a Young Life


Photo courtesy of Ted Gustus

When Ted Gustus was a boy, he found his mother dead, lying on the floor of their railroad flat in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant. In the background, Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” was playing.

Both of them, mother and child, were affected by her alcohol abuse. But Gustus was no victim. Simultaneously, he experienced a death and a birth of sorts.

That adverse circumstance, Gustus said was what pushed him toward a lifelong commitment to bettering his community, eventually becoming one of New York’s most legendary high school basketball coaches, youth mentors and educators.  Among those who have been under his tutelage are Detroit Pistons’ champion John Salley, Dallas Mavericks’ All-Star Rolando Blackmon, and actor Duane Martin among many others.

I met Gustus, 61, whose coaching resume stretches back 43 years from John Jay College of Criminal Justice to several NYC high schools, at a youth event in Brooklyn and later had a chat with him.  He told me about his experiences which he chronicles in his book “Confessions of a M.A.D. Black Coach.”  He explained to me why breathing the same life into the world around him — particularly with the African American boys he has coached — is important.

NewsOne: Coming from your background and the things you’ve had to face, what led you in this direction?

Coach Gustus: That last breath my mother took, it actually was her breath to transcend into another whole eternal life, but it also was the breath that was breathed into me and it just totally changed my life from that point on. We all have an opportunities to breathe life into our communities, as individuals, as a people. So just as we lose life, we can also breathe life into them. My whole goal has been to get out and do that.

NewsOne: So what got you involved in athletics?

Coach Gustus: I played basketball starting in ninth grade. I was introduced to basketball by a schoolteacher at Junior High School 57 and that was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me because I needed some structure, I needed some discipline. I needed all those things because I didn’t have my father around, and sports was able to provide that for me. From there, I went on to Canarsie High School where I played ball and went to city championships. But at around 17 years old, I started forming my own basketball teams and my whole goal was to improve the quality of life for young men. That was the start of me empowering young men.

NewsOne: Yes, you’ve said you started forming your own teams as an alternative to gang violence.

Coach Gustus: Exactly. In fact, when I started the teams the gangs back then were the Jolly Stompers and all the other different types of gangs. Basically I said I’m not getting involved with that. In junior high school I was around gang activity, but once I got introduced to basketball, I saw a team as similar to a gang. So I created these basketball teams. I created the Ditmars All-Stars Basketball Team back in 1973 and in a park I grabbed some guys and started coaching and mentoring them. When I started I had 10 or 12 and before you know it I had about 100 young men I could never get rid of, and that became the story of my life from that point on.

NewsOne: But you were a city basketball champ. Didn’t you have aspirations of going to the NBA?

Coach Gustus: My coach at Canarsie High School, Mark Reiner, was another person that breathed life into this concept of me going out and being a community-minded person. Just like any other ball player, I wanted to go to the NBA, I wanted to play professional basketball, I wanted to go to top schools. I was a very good basketball player. He says to me: “Teddy, I know you want to play NBA ball, I know you want to go to the top college, but your community really needs you.” He’d seen how I worked with kids even while I was playing ball in high school and said “your community needs you to really do that, and I want you to take that into consideration when you decide on colleges.”

NewsOne: So at what point did you realize that you could be a haven for young people who hung around you?

Coach Gustus: NBA referee Derek Richardson wrote a passage for my upcoming book. He said when he was a kid coming up and he had all these issues going on with his family, he was approached by gang members. I [then] approached the gang members and told them that the guys who were a part of my basketball program are off-limits and I didn’t want them recruited. These were my guys. He said for the first time, the gangs never came anywhere near him and he felt protected. So protection is very important. How do you give protection? By being consistent, meaning you’re committed and caring on a regular basis. And that’s what they see, my Three C’s: Commitment, Consistency and Caring.

NewsOne: We all know that coaches are surrogate parents in many cases. Are you comfortable in that role?

Coach Gustus: I’ve always been very comfortable in that role. I understood at a very early age the power a coach has in our communities. I came up with a 12-step game plan to help transform “boys in the hood” to responsible young men in the neighborhood. It allows for the coaches to exercise the power that they have over our community. One of the most powerful people in our communities are the coaches. I know people tell us to run away from sports, we spend more hours in sports than we do our studies. But if we could impact the leaders and give them the tools to help transform these young men, that’s where it starts.

NewsOne: These boroughs are rough places to grow up for a boy. How do you develop a narrative that tells them to straighten out?

Coach Gustus: One thing about our young people is that they don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Before you teach them, before you teach them basketball, try to teach them in the school system, once they find out that you care then you become that once source that they connect to and it never changes. Then you begin to help change and shape their lives. However, you have to be right as well. When I was a younger coach, I went to every basketball clinic [by] John Wooden, a masterful coach—and I’m not just talking about basketball. His coaching skills are tremendous life-wise. Phil Jackson, tremendous life skills. These guys taught life skills that were greater than the game of basketball. This is how you create a space for our young people to transform.

Madison J. Gray is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based multimedia journalist specializing in urban issues and criminal justice. He writes for NewsOne on the subject of Black males in America. Follow him on Twitter: @madisonjgray


Webinars For Those Who Mentor And Teach African American Male Youth



As a mentor of African-American male youth in the community, one of the things I’m constantly looking for is information and resources. But whether you’re a coach, counselor, part-time teacher or all of those things in one, there’s hardly enough time to look for ways to get what you need to improve what you’re giving  your kids.

Fortunately, we now live in the Internet age, and much of what is discussed is shared through social media; that makes it easier to participate in discussions, seminars and webinars that focus on Black male achievement. So, here are four videos that do just that:

Echoing Green is an organization that supports people who helps groups of people small and large develop. Among the many fellowships they sponsor, one of the main ones is a Black Male Achievement Fellowship that annually offers $80,000 in stipends for people committed to innovating in family, education, mentoring and college prep among other areas.

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MUST READ: The 52 Percent: What Are The Motivations Behind Black Boys, Graduating High School?

The University of North Carolina School of Education has a well-stocked online research page for educators and provides resources that help teachers to do their jobs. In this video the institution focuses on librarians and their preparations to meet the literacy needs of K-12 Black boys. It focuses on what educators and others need to do to close literacy gaps.

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MUST READ: First Ladies Obama, Bush Push Girls’ Education

We all wrestle with how to administer discipline to Black boys when they are in our care, particularly in a school or mentoring setting. Dr. Joseph E. Marshall, Executive Director of the Omega Boys Club in San Francisco shared his ideas on how to do just that without doing any harm. This webinar gives some very valuable facts and resources and it is really quite encouraging.

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MUST READ: Unemployment, Education And Political Power In Ferguson [VIDEO]

The Council of Great City Schools gave a webinar series throughout this year. This particular presentation speaks on countering failure rates among Black boys in urban school districts, how schools can promote success, school culture, and specifics on male development.

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These are just four excellent presentations on foundational organizations for those providing for the developmental needs of African-American males. But I’m interested in your feedback here. If you know of links or resources for educators and others in the mentoring field, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below


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Unemployment Rate Sits At 11 Percent For Blacks, New Gains For Men

unemployment benefits extension 2014

Last week, the United States Department of Labor released new jobs numbers for September. While Black unemployment decreased slightly, there has been growth in job placement for Black men overall.

RELATED: Unemployment Rate Falls To 6-Year Low At 5.9 Percent

There is still a staggering lack of jobs for Blacks, and the unemployment rate for Black men rose to 11 percent last month. However, there was a gain of 68.5 percent of Black men employed or looking for work from 67.3 percent, which is calculated by the labor force participation rate. Of all the major work groups, Black men were the only group to show that its labor force participation rate increased.

In comparison, White men’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent from 4.8 percent last month with a lowered labor force rate of 71.9 percent after sitting at 72.2 percent.

What this signals is that Black male job seekers are making greater strides in changing their predicament.

The unemployment rate for Black women now sits at 9.6 percent last month after sitting at 10.6 in August. White women’s unemployment rate stayed the same at 4.8 percent. There were slight gains in jobs and women looking for work among both Blacks and Whites.

The numbers are matching a steady trend of joblessness reduction and growth within the economy. Job seekers are confident again that they’ll be hired, thus increasing participation rates. Last month, the national unemployment rate hit its lowest in six years after marking 5.9 percent after sitting at 6.1 in August. In the past month, over 200,000 jobs were created.

SEE ALSO: Dr. Cornel West: President Obama Doesn’t Belong On Same Shirt With MLK, Malcolm X

Black Males in America: Too Serious A Topic For Lighthearted Television

Huey Newton

Had to dig deep on this one.

While giving thought to this year so far, I thought about the number of controversies surrounding Black men, ranging from the police shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., to the abuse scandals in the NFL to the consistently increasing Black male murder rate in Chicago to the resignation of Eric Holder that have all been in the news cycle. I figured it was time for a throwback to see what this same conversation was like a generation ago.

So I found a January 15, 1988, taping of San Francisco station KPIX-TV’s “People are Talking,” a morning show not unlike many shows of the day whose basic formula was an audience that applauded on cue, semi-interesting guests and a host or two that asks non-threatening questions. In this instance, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was the topic, but the producers of the show got far more than they bargained for.

The guests on that show that day were then-UC Berkeley professor and activist Ishmael Reed; educator, scholar, and author of Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys Jawanza Kunjufu; and Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton in one of his final public appearances.

The show focused on the image of Black men in our society as a topic and opened with a rundown of Black statistics that have not really changed in 26 years. The first segment focused on comments made by sports analyst Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder about Black athletes in the NFL. Despite the uproar that eventually led to Snyder’s firing, Newton actually called the comments “pretty accurate” based on what is now called selective breeding practiced by slave owners.

From there, the topic got further and further from Dr. King and then arrived at how Black men are perceived and treated in America. Before long, Newton, Reed, and Kunjufu had complete control of the show and hosts Ann Fraser and Ross McGowan (and possibly a shocked director) seem to be in way above their heads.

Probably the most-poignant part of the entire show was when Newton talked about what happened to the Black Panthers: how they were dismantled and spied upon and how Newton himself was the subject of a witch hunt — to which Fraser naïvely responded, “You scared people, Huey.”

The exchange really signified how Black males are educated, perceived, and punished, which is much more than this country acknowledges. In fact, these issues deserved a more serious forum than two feel-good talk show hosts could ever give it.

Maybe Mike Brown and Ramarley Graham happened because people actually think racial issues can be solved over the course of an hour, a few cups of coffee, and big hair.

There is a lot more to this show than I’m telling you here, but please watch it in its entirety below and learn. Much of it talks about the racial history of the Bay Area and the struggle that ensued. So for the subject matter that was discussed, there couldn’t have been a worse platform than an ’80s morning show. I mean, my God, you’re talking about racial profiling, and a few minutes later, cue the cheesy saxophone.


But frankly, campy theme music notwithstanding it’s a rare piece of television history.

Kunjufu most recently authored the 2011 scholarly work Understanding Black Male Learning Styles and is still a well-known speaker on the university circuit and his works can be found at africanamericanimages.com.

Reed runs the online publication Konch and most recently authored 2012’s “Going Too Far: Essays About America’s Nervous Breakdown.”

About a year and a half after this show aired, Newton was killed in a botched drug deal in the same neighborhood where he once organized community and youth programs.

“People are Talking” went off the air in 1992 during the ratings war when “Oprah” took over.

Madison J. Gray is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based multimedia journalist specializing in urban issues and criminal justice. He writes for NewsOne on the subject of Black males in America. Follow him on Twitter:@madisonjgray



The Pull Your Damn Pants Up Challenge…You Down?

Yes much like the ALS challenge, Malik King has created a challenge to young black males, but is it warranted?  Watch the CNN debate with Dr. Marc Lamont Hill that will have you asking, “Is that really the problem?”

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My Brother’s Keeper: The First Six Months

My Brother's Keeper

In February, President Barack Obama announced an initiative to respond to the economic, employment, and educational disparities that young men of color face as they enter their adult lives. He said the five-year, $200 million cause would be “an interagency effort to improve measurably the expected educational and life outcomes for and address the persistent opportunity gaps,” and he called it “My Brother’s Keeper.”

The President said he would form a task force stretching across the federal government to determine what is working for these young men, where they are hindered, and how the public could get involved with opening the doors of opportunity in areas where they are lacking.

So it’s been nearly six months since the announcement, and I’ve decided to take a look at it: Where are things now? How is the program growing? What does it need to be successful? What has happened so far?

SEE ALSO: First Ladies Obama, Bush Push Girls’ Education

Well, the first  thing the Obama administration looked for was a task force report, which was released in late May and authored by Broderick Johnson, assistant to the President and cabinet secretary, and Jim Shelton, deputy secretary of education. The task force spoke with thousands of people throughout the country and found many not-so-secret facts, including:

  • 23.2 percent of Hispanics, 25.8 percent of Blacks, and 27 percent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives live in poverty, compared to 11.6 percent of White Americans.
  • During the summer months (June-August) of 2013, just 17 percent of Black teenage boys (ages 16-19) and 28 percent of Hispanic teenage boys were employed, compared to 34 percent of White teenage boys.
  • While only 6 percent of the overall population, Black males accounted for 43 percent of murder victims in 2011.

The report went on to outline the opportunities to turn these and other statistics around short term and long term. It also included action plans hat can actually be done to address these problems, such as establishing national indicators, supporting cradle-to-college-and-career strategies, ensuring access to high-quality early care and education, and reforming the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Since that report, the White House announced that 60 of the largest school districts in the nation have joined the initiative, according to the New York Times. These districts represent about 40 percent of all African-American and Latino boys who live below the poverty line. The Council of the Great City Schools is coordinating the effort with school systems from Albequerque to Toledo. One of their pledges is to report regularly on the progress of their work.

Meanwhile, during a July town hall meeting, Obama spoke to an audience in Washington on the direction of My Brother’s Keeper and announced commitments from companies like AT&T, which is giving $18 million to support educational and mentoring programs targeted at socioeconomically vulnerable young men, reports MSNBC.com. The College Board is investing more than $1.5 million toward putting young men of color in advanced placement courses by the time they graduate. Discovery communications says it will also commit more than $1 million toward original programming that breaks down stereotypes affecting men of color.

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Finally, the White House itself announced new commitments from groups like the NBA, the National Basketball Players Association, and the National Basketball Retired Players Association announced a five-year commitment to My Brother’s Keeper and will support a public service announcement geared at recruiting 25,000 mentors for disadvantaged youths.

In addition to the many other related activities, AmeriCorps is partnering with the USDA‘s Forest Service to provide $3.8 million in resources for both AmeriCorps grantees and member organizations of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps to connect youths with forest restoration skills and career opportunities.

Also, the Corporation for National and Community Service and the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention are putting together a $10 million AmeriCorps program called “Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps.” The goal is to “enroll disconnected youth in national service programs as AmeriCorps members over the next three years.”

So the list of commitments is long and impressive for My Brother’s Keeper, and opponents of it cannot say that the federal government has spent a dime on it because it facilitates funding through corporate and private philanthropy.

But what is needed now is for local organizations and small non-profits to get the opportunity to be a part of the initiative.

These groups have been working on creating the same types of openings for young men of color long before the Obama administration announced My Brother’s Keeper. A letter written by officials with 100 Black Men of America Inc. to the Office of Juvenile Justice objects to a particular requirement for grant funding from My Brother’s Keeper. The rule states that organizations must have chapters in at least 45 states to qualify for such funding and that eliminates a broad swath of African-American volunteer and non-profit organizations from funding they desperately need to do this work.

100 Black Men is right.

Corporations are not the only ones that can make a difference, in fact they are far less capable than the people on the grass roots levels and in the communities who are working out of recreational centers and church basements to create change in neighborhoods where there is little hope outside of these groups.

The Obama administration would do well to change this rule and open up opportunities to partner with the corporations and philanthropists for funding to make the intentions of My Brother’s Keeper successful.

So let’s check back in six more months to see exactly what kind of progress has been made. If you have any idea of what you’d like to see done or what challenges lie ahead that should be addressed, please leave them in the comments’ section below.

Madison J. Gray is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based multimedia journalist specializing in urban issues and criminal justice. He writes for NewsOne on the subject of Black males in America. Follow him on Twitter: @madisonjgray

Black Men: A Graphic Look At Where We Stand

Thanks to the Internet, there’s no shortage of graphic images that can illustrate almost any statistic that we can come up with. So lucky for us, since African Americans are so well analyzed in this country, there are charts that can explain where Black males stand on achievement and opportunity that point out to us where we’re going.

RELATED: The School-to-Prison Pipeline: How Our Educational System Creates Inmates

Looking around, you can find some interesting figures, not that you have to believe everything you read, but many are backed up with sound scientific data and a lot of it can change your perception of where Black people, particularly males, stand.

The chart below was created by Ivory A. Toldson, who is now deputy director for the White House Initiative on HBCUs, while he was at Howard University. Always decrying the notion that there are more Black men in prison than in college, he did the homework and found that notion is completely wrong. In fact, although Black male incarceration is disproportionately high, there are hundreds of thousands more enrolled in degree programs.




This Bureau of Labor Statistics graph shows us a clear view of where Black males are most likely to be employed. It actually shows a parity in three fields: management and professional, production and transportation, and service jobs. However, Black men still are behind Whites and Asian Americans in management and professional jobs — the fields that capture the highest salaries.




And this directly correlates to Black boy mobility. While it’s true that where you started in life doesn’t necessarily determine where you’ll wind up, statistics show some sobering numbers when comparing Black boys and White boys. These charts reported on the Brookings Institution website earlier this year, taken from a Pew Institute study, shows the percentage of White men and boys reaching each socioeconomic quintile, or grouping….



…and where Black men and boys wind up shows a significant difference. Basically this is saying that by more than 44 percent, White males who are born in well-to-do settings tend to stay there, while about 40 percent of Black males who are born in economically disadvantaged situations tend to stay in the same place.


So how does this look on a nationwide map? Where are these pockets of inequality and how do they compare with the rest of the country? Well, thanks to The New York Times, we can take a look at two maps and make the comparison. On the map below, you can see which areas have the lowest upward mobility (shaded in red) and which ones have the highest (shaded in blue).



Now take a look at one more map from the U.S. Census Bureau and you’ll see how that looks when placed next to where the Black population in the United States is most dense. In other words, the areas of the lowest upward socioeconomic movement are where Blacks are more likely to live.


Now, being a student of Maggie Anderson’s philosophy of the need for increased business ownership as a solutions model, I feel there should be an emphasis on increasing, supporting, and stabilizing firms that employ African Americans and perpetuate other Black-owned firms, hence placing Black men on payrolls and removing them from prison rolls. So BlackDemographics.org took a look at how many firms we have and what there were doing.


So last decade there was a serious jump in the number of businesses we have, perhaps the most since before the Civil Rights years.But as the website says, 94 percent of these firms are sole proprietorships or partnerships that have no paid employees. That means less productivity and less income for us as compared to other groups, as expressed in this graph.


We could spout statistics and charts all day long, and yeah with most people it just results in more rhetoric and less action. Believe me, there are tons and tons of people who immerse themselves in the former while never thinking about the latter. But on the other hand, good data is always the foundation of proactivity. So when you do want to take action you can back it up based on what you’ve learned.

When it comes to Black men, finding out statistically where we stand can improve on the chart below going forward into the 2020s, for which again we must thank Dr. Toldson.



SEE ALSO: Father’s Day Reminds Us Why Networks of Dads Are Important

Madison J. Gray is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based multimedia journalist specializing in urban issues and criminal justice. He writes for NewsOne on the subject of Black males in America. Follow him on Twitter: @madisonjgray

10 Tweets From The Brothersphere



These days the “Twitterverse” is inescapable and who can believe that just a decade ago the term “tweet” was still associated with birds. But lucky for us all, the universe created by the microblogging site can be broken down into smaller worlds, hence the concept of “Black Twitter.” Well, this week, let’s break it down even further into what I’d like to call the “Brothersphere,” which is just a way of looking at thought leadership among African-American males, particularly those who focus on achievement or progressive concepts. Consequently, here are 10 on Twitter that I thought gives us a good entry in to this small, but growing world of social media discussion among Black men.

SEE ALSO: Hard Bop Jazz Icon Horace Silver Dead At 85


The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans wants you to know the story of Leonard Galmon who is on his way to Yale after rising from some precarious circumstances in his New Orleans neighborhood.


Larry E. Thomas, CEO of Thomas Mentorship Academy in North Carolina, feels grassroots community programs should be better funded.


Educational speaker and author Baruti K. Kafele is giving instructions to school leaders on how to empower Black males in the school system.


Ta-Nehisi Coates (pictured), whose article, “The Case for Reparations,” for The Atlantic has elicited heated debate over the topic looks three decades in to the future.


SiriusXM radio host Joe Madison points out that health insurance through the Affordable Care Act is fairly inexpensive for most Americans.


Former NAACP chief Ben Jealous challenges us to live for freedom today.


Dorian Burton, Harvard University education scholar and co-founder of TandemEd, a Harvard educational innovation lab focused on urban communities, touts the possibilities of turnaround for Black boys. (And check out his essay on what America’s greatest lie really is.)


Actor and vocalist Tyrese Gibson, whose Facebook videos have been making viral web rounds, is keeping the inspiration hammer swinging.


Here’s Columbia University professor Chris Emdin, who is showing students how to combine science and hip-hop, talking about giving teachers the right tools.


And finally, NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, a supporter of S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education is offering a Flipbook on how to implement the learning philosophy.

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The 52 Percent: What Are The Motivations Behind Black Boys, Graduating High School?

black male high school graduation rate


This week, an American ritual will repeat itself. Something that within the past century has morphed into a rite of passage for armies of adolescents, who with this tradition, will declare social adulthood.

It happens the moment they put on the cap and don the gown. It becomes complete when the proud stroll across auditorium stages and gymnasium floors are finished with a handshake and a “congratulations” from a weathered educator.

It’s high school graduation season.

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Parents will throw open houses, grandparents will give gifts, elated diploma holders will go on wild “swingouts” to celebrate the happiest moment of their lives so far.

But there’s a segment of the population that won’t be coming to the party, opting instead to ignore what could have been for a variety of reasons, be it poverty, disinterest in school, maybe an inability to pass 12th grade, or a combination of these and other things.

By a large margin, Black boys are not making it to their graduation parties and overall have the worst graduation rates of all groups.

A study released by the Schott Foundation for Public Education in 2012 shows that the four-year graduation rate for African-American males is 52 percent. Only a little more than half of all our Black young men get to participate in this initial American ritual. The future typically does not bode well for the other half.

The other half, those Black males who drop out sometime before graduation, are more likely to be unemployed. According to RemappingDebate.org, the rate is about 51 percent.

That half also has a higher chance of seeing the inside of a jail or prison: Research from the Brookings Institution shows that a Black man without a high school diploma has a 70 percent chance of being incarcerated.

I don’t think I have to tell you that jail and dropping out never did a thing to help the Black community.

But the other side of that are the 52 percent that do sit in an audience with their peers waiting for their names to be called and for the party to begin. What gets a Black boy to that point? What makes it a foregone conclusion to him that he will be graduating high school? Most importantly, whatever that is, how can we replicate it to increase the number?

For me it was an assumption on the part of my parents, everyone around me, and most importantly, myself, that the day would come. But I was also in an environment of people who at least graduated high school if not college. As a kid, I remember almost every summer, I went to a graduation ceremony for some relative who was taking that step. So there was no question in my mind that it would happen for me one day as well.

Still, other kids had different motivations for graduating. We all wanted to see our parents’ proud faces; we wanted to prove to the world that we could take that first step in to adulthood; we wanted to continue with our education from this point. But it was also the motivation of years prior to even entering high school that provided the impetus for most of my peers to make it through those four years.

So I talked with Mark Moore, who teaches middle schoolers and also coaches at Detroit’s Allen Academy. He told me that the formative years prior to entering ninth grade add up to the goal of getting a Black boy through high school. But a major key is also having Black male teachers as well.

“If you see someone in your class who looks like you, talks like you, that can relate to you, you’re more inclined to give it your all than for someone who doesn’t,” he said. “That I can testify to.

“I’ve only had seven Black male teachers in my life and they could get me to do anything because we shared that symbiosis.”

But he lamented the shortage of Black males in the teaching profession, something in which he is not alone. Less than 2 percent of the nation’s teachers are male and African American. But he says along with the key of having a teacher a boy can relate to, he must also be introduced to things outside of his environment and ultimately be given a sense of self-awareness.

“For Black male teachers, that’s been the struggle with Black boys. It’s challenging them to think about who they are,” Moore explained. “It’s to create a shock value to show them there is something other than what they are used to.”

It would be hard to assume that each one of the 52 percent of Black boys who do make it through high school all came out of the same formula for success. Some may never have had Black male teachers. Others may never have been exposed to things outside of their communities, or had any notion of self-awareness.

But on the other hand, there is clearly a motivating factor that got them to through high school and the things Moore described clearly make a difference. At the same time, for many of the guys who wear dress shoes, shirts and ties while grinning in gaudy photos, the singular motivation is the non-negotiable expectation of everyone in his environment that he will accomplish graduating high school.

When that happens, your son, grandson, nephew, or kid neighbor might not tell you this, but when nobody notices, he does look in the mirror and says: “I’m proud of myself.”


Study: Half Of African-American Males Arrested By Age 23

crime and delinquency study black men

Half of all Black males in the United States have been behind bars by age 23, according to a new study published by academic journal Crime And Delinquency.

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Analyzing data from 1997 through 2008, the study found that 30 percent of Black men have experienced at least one arrest by age 18, while 22 percent of White males that age have been arrested.

The number rose to 49 percent of Black men by age 23, with White males coming in at 38 percent.

And according to the U.S. Census, Blacks only make up 13.1 percent of the population while Whites make up 77.9 percent.

The rates shift when analyzing White and Black females: At age 18, 12 percent of White females have experienced arrest. That number was 11.9 percent for Black females and 11.8 for Hispanic females. By age 23, 20 percent of White females, 18 percent of Hispanic females, and 16 percent of Black females have been incarcerated.

The high arrest rate among Black males can haunt them for years to come, said Robert Brame, a Criminology professor at the University Of South Carolina who lead the study.

“A problem is that many males – especially Black males – are navigating the transition from youth to adulthood with the baggage and difficulties from contact with the criminal justice system,” Brame said.

“Criminal records that show up in searches can impede employment, reduce access to housing, thwart admission to and financing for higher education, and affect civic and volunteer activities such as voting or adoption. They also can damage personal and family relationships.”

Researchers behind the study want to use the data to examine how race and gender affect arrest rates among youth.

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