The numbers can be grim — longevity, disease outcomes, death by violence, absent fathers, unemployment, imprisonment… Being a Black male, man or boy, in Boston is rough.
Tito Jackson is working on that complex status. He came on Left Ahead today to talk about what he refers to as “moving the needle.” He figures that life “is not a spectator sport” and that we need to leave the world better than we find it. Those aren’t simply clichés to him. He is optimistic but he likes to call himself a man of action and as such is about fixing things.
We spent most of the show on the effort he spearheaded in his role of a Boston City Councilor. The new Commission of the Status of Black Men and Black Boys in Boston just formed. He’s ready to move on it. While there are lots of data about such issues as crime, health, single-parent families and so forth, he is proceeding to define problems specifically and set baselines to measure against.
Listen in below (he joins about 6:47 in) as he talks about his plans.
His concepts for the commission overlap with the major issues he concerns himself with as a councilor. For just one entry point, he notes that 72% of Black households here are headed by a single woman — no dad. That relates to other problems in numerous ways. The man/husband/father is likely to disappear if he cannot support or even contribute meaningfully financially. That in turn generally relates to poor education and a cycle of disillusion and despair that leads to crime, jail, a CORI and being unemployable.
So a solution to a progressive and do-gooder would start at pre-K. Of course, that’s way late for many men and boys. Instead, Jackson wants diagnosis and solutions along the continuum.
He’ll drive for beginning programs in the next few months. First he wants some public input and buy-in. That will include youth. Too often, he notes, adults talk about youth and not with them. For his baselines, he wants everyone involved to help define the issues.
We dealt a bit in the key area of education and jobs. Yes, Black males are on the downside of income and employment Jackson does not see that as intractable. He noted that money transfers by businesses, real estate and inheritance. Black Bostonians are at a disadvantage on the third, but he sees wealth creation through both employment and entrepreneurship. (In that light he noted that in days of segregation around here, Black entrepreneurship was higher than it is now.)
He sees great promise in voc-tech schools, perhaps a revitalized Madison Park High. Moreover, he wants to help enable great Black participation in labor unions, something the new Mayor Marty Walsh also touts. He calls voc-tech “the future.”
He knows that double dropout rate for Black students is a crisis. He wants his commission to address that, as well as the related issues of nothing-to-do-but-gangs. He recalls when there were more after-school and evening places (like clubs that allowed under-21 kids to party instead of roam the streets). He wants to define all the issues, build on the programs that work, dump the programs that don’t, and attack all the issues hampering Black Boston males.