One in three of them can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. They have an unemployment rate of 13.5 percent. Fifty-seven percent come from single-parent households and 36 percent live in poverty. These are national statistics on African-American boys and men, drawn from the Center for American Progress, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Educational Testing Service.
In Pittsburgh, the picture isn't much brighter.
The Post-Gazette's Mary Niederberger reported Monday that black males in the Woodland Hills School District are 20 times more likely to be expelled or suspended than their white counterparts and make up just 7 percent of the students in Advanced Placement classes. In the Pittsburgh Public Schools, educators are concerned about the frequency with which black males are suspended.
At a conference last week titled "A Call to Conscience: Effective Policies and Practices in Educating African American Males," the subject received new attention. It was sponsored by the Heinz Endowments and hosted by the University of Pittsburgh's Center on Race and Social Problems.
In 2007, the Heinz Endowments set up the African American Men and Boys Task Force to increase educational, economic, social and leadership opportunities for black males in the Pittsburgh region. Money is just a part of the endowments' commitment. By holding community conversations, setting priorities and issuing grants, the task force is determined to improve the prospects of African-American boys and men.
Woodland Hills and Propel charter schools received Heinz grants of $750,000 each to start new programs. At Woodland Hills the money is used to help black males get after-school tutoring, improve their grades and enroll in honors courses. Propel uses the grant for a mentorship program designed to help students emulate scholarly attributes and seek academic success.
By investing in black males, financially and programmatically, the Heinz Endowments is taking a leadership role in this key area. American society cannot afford to let the already gloomy statistics get any worse.