Detroit Council Initiative to Tackle Issues Facing Black Men

Darren A. Nichols, Detroit News, March 30, 2014

City Council members James Tate and Andre Spivey have launched a new task force aimed at addressing the most troubled segment of Detroit: black men.

The two second-term councilmen are spearheading the Black Male Engagement Task Force, which aims to address high unemployment rates, drug use, lack of education and poor quality of life faced by African-American men. The council authorized the panel in February.

The goal is to provide mentoring and life coaching opportunities for young men to improve Detroit, Tate said.

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Ken Coleman, a mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit and a longtime political operative, said Detroit’s city government hasn’t tackled the issues facing black men in almost 25 years. The last time he recalls is when then-City Council member Barbara-Rose Collins raised it in 1990 with her “Save the Black Male” campaign following the 1989 conviction of her son for armed robbery.

The council initiative is in line with President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. Launched last July, the president’s effort seeks to determine what private and public efforts are working and provide resources to support the endeavors throughout the country. It also wants to better connect state and local officials, the private sector and philanthropists.

“We do have African-American males who are doing the right thing, who are giving up their time, services and resources to support the community,” Spivey said.

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Since the council approved the task force resolution, it has brought together a group of about 18 founding members from community groups such as the Legacy Foundation, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Omega Psi Phi fraternity to create a plan of action. The group is looking for ways to connect successful people with those who are in the most need.

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Ron Haygood of the Omega Foundation applauds the council members for trying to do things that haven’t been done before.

“Just on a morality standpoint, there’s been a lull,” said Haygood, who added he’s been working throughout Detroit for a long time. “With the challenges young men face today and the dynamic of the family the way it is today, it’s real important we seize the time now.”

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