WASHINGTON - A new report released today shows the vast majority of America's Black community, seven in 10 adults, view these as tough or very bad times for Black children and many see poor Black youth falling further behind. As the country remembers the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr., 40 percent of Black children are born poor. In the fourth grade, 85 percent of Black children cannot read or do math at grade level and later almost half drop out of school. A Black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime. On January 13, Marian Wright Edelman, president, Children's Defense Fund and Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO, Harlem Children's Zone, will release two studies and announce the goals of a new crusade to confront the crisis facing Black children.
This important new research conducted by Hart Research Associates for the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) on behalf of the Black Community Crusade for Children (BCCC) found two issues have risen to the top of serious concerns the Black community faces. An overwhelming majority, 85 percent said unemployment presents serious challenges to Black communities and children today.
The criminal justice system's unequal treatment of Black Americans is another issue perceived to be a devastating problem. Most Black adults believe the criminal justice system is doing more to hurt than to help Black children. Half of the young people surveyed say that ending up in jail or prison is a very serious problem for the Black young people they know.
Majorities of Black adults believe that half or more of all Black children will experience the following events before reaching adulthood: racial profiling from law enforcement, getting in trouble with the law, serving time in jail or prison, and being denied important opportunities because of their race. Serious problems identified by Black Americans in a similar study conducted by Hart Research 16 years ago continue to plague Black communities today, such as failing schools, negative cultural and media influences, violence, drugs and addiction, fractured families and teen pregnancy. Black youth are generally more optimistic about the future than adults.
A complementary new study by Andy Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, found the American dream and employment opportunities vanishing for many Black young people. In 2010 the unemployment, underemployment, and hidden unemployment rate for Black 16 to 29-year-olds was 40 percent, and 43 percent for Black males. The large number of young Black adults not working full-time jobs will severely limit their future employability, earnings, and ability to support their families.
The BCCC, co-convened by CDF with Dr. John Hope Franklin and Dr. Dorothy Height, was quietly launched in 1990 to combat one of the worst crises the Black child and family faced since slavery. Now as the crisis has deepened BCCC leaders are calling on the Black community to stand together for all children. Key Black leaders representing millions of Black stakeholders have taken up the challenge, including nine Black faith denominations, and will recruit others to action to save the Black child and strengthen the Black family.
"We must act with urgency, vision and courage to combat the growing racial and class segregation in America. We must close the achievement gap; reweave the fabric of family and community; and build a loud and effective adult voice for children," said Geoff Canada. "We must shut down the cradle to prison pipeline and replace it with an expressway to college and work," said Marian Wright Edelman. "We know what to do to provide all children a healthier, fairer and safer start in life and the chance to reach successful adulthood," Edelman continued. "We now must create the public will and effective Black community voice to expand what works to all children and get it done."
Over the past two decades, BCCC's successes include the CDF Freedom Schools® program; the Harlem Children's Zone; youth leadership development programs which have trained 20,000 young leaders; economic empowerment work in 77 "Black Belt" southern counties; and the placed-based policy work of PolicyLink.
BCCC will strive to counter the toxic cocktail of poverty, illiteracy, racial disparities, violence and massive incarceration that is sentencing millions of children to dead end, powerless and hopeless lives and threatens to undermine the past half century of racial and social progress.
Marian Wright Edelman and Geoffrey Canada, joined by other black leaders, will announce commitments for the second phase of BCCC on Thursday, Jan. 13th, 2011, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. CDF will release the results of both studies. The press conference will stream live on Black Radio Network.