Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chicago's Black Male School Good Model for Jacksonville

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chicago's Black Male School Good Model for Jacksonville

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

Once again, the numbers are out. And they continue to stack up against black men living to see the world past age 19.

Especially here in Jacksonville.

According to a recent analysis of Times-Union databases of Jacksonville homicides, black males ages 12 through 19 are being killed at a rate of 81 per 100,000. That rate is nearly twice as high as the national rate of 39 per 100,000.

Anti-violence marches and pleas for peace seem impotent against a cycle in which far too many young black males here are winding up with a rap sheet instead of a diploma; where too many of them wind up being remembered on memorial T-shirts instead of being fitted for caps and gowns.

THE REASON

There's a reason for all this, of course, and it has little to do with any of the simplistic reasons that many people tend to point to while shrugging off this epidemic.

It has to do with being reared by parents who are lectured about rearing children responsibly, but who have few examples among them to show them what that looks like.

It has to do with young men who are torn between doing well in school and doing the things that they need to do to survive - and in some cases help their families survive - in neighborhoods that have become company towns for drug dealers.

They live in a reality in which school isn't the way, but is in the way.

And some of the choices they make just to have money in their pockets can be deadly.

Yet, education is perhaps the single, strongest tool toward reducing the nihilism that is claiming black men before they get out of their teens. Reams of reports and studies tell us this. And we now have at least one shining example that tells us this.

That example is Chicago's Urban Prep charter school.

The school, which is located in one of that city's most violent, gang-infested neighborhoods, focuses on educating black boys.

Among other things, it offers an extended school day, as well as a double period of English. …

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