World Trends & Forecasts

Article excerpt

Society

Black Males in Crisis

Nurturing Young Black Males, a new book published by the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., promotes public and private programs that intervene and support youth, especially between the ages of 10 and 15, to reduce the risk of their later becoming a drain on society at large.

Young black males are especially at risk due to high rates of poverty, nonmarriage, and dysfunction among their parents and neighbors, according to the book's editor, Ronald B. Mincy. Incarceration rates among young black men are staggering. Some estimates suggest that 41% of the black male high-school dropouts between 18 and 24 were in prison, on parole, or on probation in 1988. Nearly half a million black men were in U.S. prisons and jails in 1988, at a cost of almost $7 billion (roughly $14,000 per man) per year, says Mincy. "We must provide services to help parents, especially single mothers, nurture their boys into manhood in high-risk neighborhoods, and offer services for boys who have to make it on their own because parents cannot or will not help them," he says.

Mincy recommends developing the capacity of community-based organizations to provide youth-development services geared to the unique circumstances of young black males. Youth in high-risk environments are unlikely to trust people who are unfamiliar with their cultural norms and who come from different racial, ethnic, and socio-economic communities.

A number of successful programs already exist across the United States to provide services to these youth at risk, but the programs have yet to be integrated into an effective structure of interventions to promote healthy development among young black men.

One such community-based program is the Louis Armstrong Manhood Development Program in New Orleans, Louisiana, described in the book by Morris F.X. Jeff Jr. The program, using an Afrocentric approach, "reestablishes the African tradition of male initiation rites whereby elders teach boys the art and science of becoming men. Despite its African focus, the program works with all urban males--Black, white, middle-class, poor, delinquents, and non-delinquents," according to Jeff. The program acts as an extended family and community that provides positive male role models for boys between the ages of 8 and 17. Participants' accomplishments are seen in each component of the program and are acknowledged and rewarded in Rites of Passage ceremonies.

National youth-service organizations should be encouraged to expand service delivery to a broader array of minority youth populations, according to Mincy, Jeff, and other contributors to the book. Lessons learned from inner-city community-based programs need to be explicitly incorporated into existing sports, parks, religious, and recreational programs, both public and private.

In addition, the policy goal of supporting youth development must be incorporated into the public institutions of education, employment and training, juvenile justice, and health services. Until these institutions demonstrate caring, which, say the authors, they currently fail to do for many young people, the potential effectiveness of community-based programs will be severely diminished.

Source: Nurturing Young Black Males edited by Ronald B. Mincy. The Urban Institute Press, 1994. 237 pages. $19.95. Available from University Press of America, 4720 Boston Way, Lanham, Maryland 20706. Telephone 800/462-6420.

Youth and Marijuana

Marijuana use among high-school seniors in 1993 rose for the first time in 14 years, according to a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In addition, more eighth and tenth graders are using marijuana.

This recent increase reverses several years of declining drug use among youths. NIDA Deputy Director Richard A. Millstein says that this reversal is, at the very least, "a discouraging result of an erosion of antidrug attitudes by youth. …