June 27, 2016
In the past few years, much of America has woken to a fact that African-American men and boys have known all along. All too often in our great nation, the promise of safe, healthy, and hopeful communities is not being realized for African-American men and boys.
The need to do something about that fact is urgent and must be addressed now. Recently, an important step in that direction took place in Birmingham, Alabama, where Cities United convened its third annual meeting. Cities United is a network of mayors from more than eighty-five cities who are committed to working together to develop innovative solutions and programs aimed at reducing violence and increasing opportunities for black men and boys across the country.
Using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s memorable phrase “The Fierce Urgency of Now” as its theme, the meeting brought together mayors, law enforcement officials, youth, relatives of victims, and community and philanthropic leaders to discuss ways to reduce violence in our communities and highlight promising approaches aimed at improving outcomes for African-American men and boys.
We know, all too well, that the leading cause of death for African-American men and boys between the ages of 10 and 24 is not accident or illness, but homicide. In fact, black males suffer homicide rates more than four times the rate of all other men and boys in the United States. And although African Americans comprise about 13 percent of the American population, they make up, by some estimates, more than 37 percent of the prison population.
These troubling statistics are the result of longstanding inequities, deeply entrenched poverty, and a failure to value and invest in black men and boys as contributing, productive members of society.
As leaders of cities and foundations, we know that government, business, communities, and the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors are key stakeholders in the success of this work and that we all have an important role to play in making all of our communities vibrant places of opportunity for African-American men and boys.