Rescue for the Endangered

Article excerpt

Historically Black colleges and universities

should play a major role in reversing the

stagnant African American pattern of

existence that is characterized by hopelessness

and powerlessness, according to a new study

of African-American males.

HBCUs should develop future generations

of Black leaders through a "domestic service

and opportunity corps," says the National

Task Force on African American Men and

Boys in its just released report, "Repairing

the Breach."

The document, the

latest effort by a task

force of Black educators,

business owners and

community leaders at

forging a prescription for

self-help, offers no new

solutions to reversing the

cycle of crime, despair

and dysfunction in the

Black community.

What does surface,

however, is how untried

ideas can be melded with

existing, successful

approaches to produce

positive results.

"What happens to any of these reports? I

think this one though, if it gets to the right

organization and people, will make something

happen," said Courtland Lee, University of

Virginia sociology professor and editor of the

Journal of Black Males, after hearing a

sampling of the report's voluminous

conclusions.

"This kind of stuff has been said before,"

he said. Even so, he voiced hope that the new

report, sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation,

unlike scores of other written prescriptions for

improving African-American life, will not

simply sit on a shelf gathering dust.

"I think the momentum from the Million

Man March compels people to do something

with, this report rather than having it sit on

the shelf," Lee said. "I think the country, as

never before, has been polarized. There is a

real heightened awareness of issues like this."

The recommendation about the role

HBCUs should play in helping to develop

new leaders in the Black community is an

example of how an existing

resource in the African-American community

can be used to forge another tool. In the

recommendation cited, the new tool would be a

"domestic service and opportunity corps."

The idea has been around for several

years. Originally spawned by Dr. Steven J.

Wright, the group of scholars that further

refined it includes Dr. Bobby William Austin,

the chief author of the Kellogg report.

"The involvement of historically [B]lack

colleges and universities would be a major part

of [the corps'] development as well as the

development of local leadership," the report

concludes in a section on leadership.

As with each topic it tackles, the report's

conclusions address statistically documented

aspects of the dilemmas facing African

Americans.

At the core of the report's

recommendation is a call for:

* The establishment of a "national work

group" to address the problems and

the applications of solutions;

* Creation of a philanthropic organization

to orchestrate the funding of the

solutions; and

* Launching a "national conversation race

relations" that would include financial support

for the Race Relations Institute at Fisk

University President Henry Ponder is a

member of the National Task Force on African-American

Men and Boys.

The core recommendations are draw

from the report's fundamental conclusion

that "African-American

males ... have faced continuous

forms of mistreatment

and oppression."

The report was

unveiled to reporters a

month earlier than its

actual by Austin and other

members of the task force's

writing committee. …