By Michael Twyman, Executive Director, OpportunIndy
The plight of many African-American young men today is a crisis of major proportions. By focusing on four key areas, OpportunIndy is facilitating work to end the crisis in Indianapolis.
A report released at the 2015 Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males (ICSSBM) Annual Conference noted statistics about African-American males that are daunting and alarming:
- In 2020 the vast majority of jobs will require some kind of postsecondary credential. Black males face some of the greatest challenges to earning a high school diploma and completing postsecondary opportunities, however. Black males are more likely to not be in the labor force than they are to earn a postsecondary credential.
- Too few black children, particularly males, are reading at grade level by third grade. Studies show that low rates of reading proficiency among third-graders increase students’ chances of dropping out of high school. And for black males, not graduating from high school is directly related to higher rates of incarceration.
- Low education attainment rates among black males not only reduce labor rate participation, but also reduce the chances that they will develop and maintain core family structures and two-parent homes.
The Children’s Policy and Law Initiative (CPLI) of Indiana has noted that one in nine students in the state in 2012-2013 were suspended from school. Young black men are 3-4 times more likely to be suspended from school than their white counterparts for the same infractions.
According to a five-year estimate released by the U.S. Census Bureau in December 2015, nearly 22 percent — 119,075 people — age 18-24 in Indiana were without a high school diploma or GED. Again, African-American young men were disproportionately represented in the figures.
And, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), dropouts are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested than high school graduates. Nationally, 68 percent of all males in prison do not have a high school diploma. The majority of teens in the juvenile justice system are there as a result of nonviolent crimes such as truancy or disruptive classroom behavior.
And for many, being in the juvenile justice system begins the path toward a less productive life. More than two-thirds of these incarcerated teens ultimately drop out of high school; the vast majority of these individuals are young men of color.
In 2015 President Obama and the White House My Brother’s Keeper initiative helped bring attention to these systemic issues and called on communities across the country to commit to producing better outcomes for our most vulnerable young people.
Indianapolis accepted the challenge. We already had gotten out of the gate by launching the Your Life Matters Task Force in 2014 to study and assess conditions locally, followed by a report that included specific strategy recommendations on how to create and expand more opportunities for these young men to be successful.
And now OpportunIndy is engaging diverse community stakeholders in the ongoing work to address issues facing Indianapolis’ young black men — and the city overall.
OpportunIndy uses a collective impact model. We act as a facilitator and convener to bring partners like USA Funds® and their resources to the table for action and impact. We work toward the following goals:
- All African-American men will graduate from high school on time and enter the workforce with an industry certification, military training, and/or postsecondary education by age 24.
- All African-American men up to age 24 are prepared for success in the workforce and are gainfully employed in career-track work after completion of education.
- All African-American young men age 14-24 are safe and healthy.
- All African-American young men age 14-24 are free from arrest, detainment and incarceration.
In addition to our involvement in the My Brother’s Keeper effort, OpportunIndy is helping to create education and employment pathways for young men of color through the establishment of an Opportunity Zone. This effort focuses on young black men age 14-24 who are at risk of not completing high school, are underemployed, and/or are involved in the justice system.
By working together we can promote the policies and practices that provide young African-American men with more options — and therefore better opportunities to live their best lives.
View the video below to learn more about how OpportunIndy is working to make Indianapolis a stronger and more vibrant community for everyone.