By far the most severe crisis within the African-American community — both throughout the Nation and more particularly in Oklahoma — is the crisis regarding young Black males and the educational system and subsequent school-to-prison pipeline. According to The Schott Foundation for Public Education, the 2011-2012 high school graduation rate of Black males in Oklahoma was an appallingly low 64%. Even more alarming is the quality of education most likely attained by those Black male graduates. In 2009, for example, only 12% of Oklahoma Black male eighth graders were reading at or above a level of proficiency.
These figures alone sound a clarion call that young Black males in Oklahoma are in grave trouble. They are in trouble not only because of their lack of education, but what that lack of education means for the quality of their lives, the lives of their future families, and the well-being of our society in general. Instead of preparing our young Black men for the successful college experiences that are the preconditions to economically gainful and productive occupations, the current educational system continues to prime the school-to-prison pipeline with young Black men, together with its devastating effect on the economic, emotional and physical well-being of Black families.
Lacking the presence of a strong, positive Black male in their lives, even as fifth graders these young Black men (“YBM”) show signs of succumbing to the pressures of street culture, violence, drug use, and misogyny. They are literally dying physically and emotionally every day from lack of love and resources. They have not learned the basic fundamentals of manhood, and instead are trapped in the destructive and unproductive state of “boyhood,” or even worse, “malehood.” Most of these YBM have no real sense of who they are, what good they are capable of, and the tremendous obligation they have to maximize their every opportunity. They have never had an opportunity to learn about their unique history, accomplishments, and potential from strong Black male role models who are capable of teaching and guiding them by example and shared discourse. Instead, they have the overwhelming and unrealistic belief in professional athletics as the sole opportunity for acceptable social and economic advancement.
Most of these YBM have no real sense of who they are, what good they are capable of, and the tremendous obligation they have to maximize their every opportunity. They have never had an opportunity to learn about their unique history, accomplishments, and potential from strong Black male role model/s who are capable of teaching and guiding them by example and shared discourse. This is why so many YBM’s become distraught, angry and empty young men who have lost hope in self-improvement or social mobility by acquiring an education and instead resort to criminal behavior or unrealistic belief in professional athletics.
As bad as the facts cited above are and no matter how bleak the current situation is, we strongly agree with our colleague and friend, Susan L. Taylor, CEO and Founder of the National CARES Mentoring Movement and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Essence magazine, who writes “reclaiming the lives of our children is a battle we can win. With the quality of their lives as the guiding factor in our choices—personal, political, financial and spiritually—we can create what is needed to move these soul-crushing statistics in the opposite direction.”
The MVP Foundation seeks to improve the bleak situation in Tulsa as it relates to low levels of committed fathers and overall lack of positive male influence in many inner-city families by.