Recently, the Annie E. Casey Foundation published a report entitled “Race For Results: Building a Path to Opportunity For All Children. This report – like so many others – reinforced through empirical data what we already know…..Not only do Black youth face tremendous barriers to success, but they face more of them at a greater rate than ANY other category of youth! The report studied 12 various factors and used results to develop a possible index score of 1000. African-American youth ranked the lowest of all youth studied, with an index score of 345 out of 1000.
Highlights of the Report
Among other things, the report finds that:
- 66% of Black students graduate from high school in 4 years
- 17% of Black 4th graders scored proficiently in reading
- 14% of Black 8th graders scored proficiently in mathematics
- 72% of Black adults aged 19-26 in school or working
- 26% of Black adults aged 25-29 who have an associate degree or higher
- 37% of Black children live in two-parent households
- 50% of Black children live in low-poverty neighborhoods
The U.S. Government’s Findings
The U.S. Government’s last Civil Rights Data Collection (2011-1012) found that Black students are punished more severely and routinely than their white counterparts. According to the survey, only 5% of white students were suspended from school annually, compared with 16% of Black students. School suspension typically leads to less instructional time and more opportunity for young people to get involved in wasteful and counterproductive activities.
This government study additionally suggested that Black students are more likely than others to receive instruction from new and less experienced teachers.
And while neither report addressed this, Black youth in america have the largest rate of teen pregnancy, incarceration, and uncompleted high school education.
Clearly Black youth, and by extension, Black people are in a very disturbing situation. Certainly we can address this in a number of ways. Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced a special initiative for Black and Latino males a few years ago. President Obama announced his My Brother’s Keeper initiative this year to also address the issue of disadvantaged Black boys.
I am no elected official or person of great wealth or status. But I am an educator, activist and writer. And my way of addressing this issue is to equip our youth with the habits, skills, and attitudes they need to be successful an empowered. This is the inspiration behind my new book, Truth For Our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens.
To be clear, anyone can have a sudden epiphany and write a book and then work feverishly to promote it for material gain. On the contrary, I have been educating Black and Brown youth (and their parents) for decades and have taught parents how to advocate for their children in public school and rid schools of incompetent and uncaring administrators. I also worked with colleagues to create a new middle school 14 years ago and have facilitated countless hours of life management and enrichment workshops for young people of color in some of this nation’s poorest and most neglected neighborhoods. I am no Johnny-come-lately or new kid on the block with a get-rich-quick scheme seeking to prove myself or become more marketable. This book is an extension and reflection of a my life’s work. I write this not to “toot my own horn” or in a spirit of braggadocio, but to establish my qualifications and intentions for those that don’t know me. This is especially important on social networks like Twitter and Facebook where many people have only “virtually” met. LOL.
Public policies and school reforms have their place. Concerned elected officials and competent teachers and school administrators have an important place. But as I mentioned in a previous article, budgetary constraints, partisan rivalries, and an anti-Black conservative education agenda compromise many of these efforts.
As the Ghanaian proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” We cannot however, trivialize the primary element of our village when it comes to preparing our youth for success. No legislation,news reports funding, or public pronouncements will make a significant difference if informed and loving families don’t exercise their authority/responsibility to teach young people the habits, attitudes, and skills required for their own empowerment. My book is a tool parents/families, community groups, and youth development specialists can use in this effort. Please read this blog about the book and consider purchasing it and spreading the word.
Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak to your organization, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.