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A LETTER TO OUR SON
M. Starita Boyce Ansari, Ph.D.
Dear Black Prince,
You must always remember that you are a child of God and a precious gift to the world. With the special talents that God has given you, great things are possible when you focus on being a compassionate leader and making life better for yourself, family, community, and the generations that will follow you. We know it is not easy. Langston Hughes described our life best in “Mother to Son”. Life is no crystal stair for Blacks in America. But, we continue to climb and turn corners. Sometimes we climb in darkness, but even then we don’t turn back and we don’t sit down. We keep climbing.
Black Prince, you will do the same. Discover your career dream, that one thing you want to do more than anything else. Embrace it and pursue it with all your heart. Build relationships with professionals such as engineers, business leaders, financial planners, doctors, and lawyers. Some may be able to make the climb a bit easier for you. Yes, there will be people who will try to stand in your way and days you will feel alone. We remember the days when we were bullied in school, because we went straight home or to library versus hanging on the corners. But, we knew college was the road to success and for selected friends who shared that
Black Prince, God loves you and as long as you continue to you listen, learn and love, you will succeed. You will have investments and you will travel. Success is your dream! Commit to it!
Work hard towards it! Believe in it with all of your heart and soul! Achieve it! Celebrate it! We believe in you and most of all we love you so much! You are our son! You will be America’s next:
Dr. Danielle Hale Williams, performed the first successful open heart surgery.
Dr. Mark Dean, lead inventor of the personal computer.
Dr. Ben Carson, first neurological surgeon to separate conjoining twins.
Mr. Shelton Jackson “Spike Lee”, film director, producer, and writer.
Mr. Tony Shellman, owner of Encye and Mecca fashions.
Mr. Earl G. Graves Sr., owner and publisher of Black Enterprise Magazine.
Mr. Gilbert E. Noble, producer and host of Like It Is.
Dr. Guion Bluford, NASA’s first Black Astronaut.
Mr. Reginald Lewis, first Black CEO of a billionaire corporation, Beatrice Foods.
Mr. Tony Dungy, first Black football coach to win Super Bowl.
Mr. Frederick McKinley Jones, invented the automatic refrigerator system.
Mr. Julius Penson Williams, international classical musician, composer and conductor.
Dr. Ernest Everett Just, first Black marine biologist.
President Barack Obama, first Black president of the U.S.A.
These men are you! They became successful Black men, because they honored the lives of countless Black slaves who built America and Black citizens who fought for you and them to have the right to vote and access to education, health care and employment. Most of all, they understood that it is not easy being Black in America, particularly if you are male. They worked harder than most. To get there they listened to the rules of life, spent their time learning, and loved themselves and their communities. But, they also understood that race and poverty are systemic problems in America and responded to them in order to pave the way for others. This responsible leadership baton has been passed to you.
focusing on what you love & your skills yields happiness, success & opportunities builds confidence, persistence & purposefulness strengthens your family, community, society & the world
Copyright ©2012 MSBphilanthropy Advisors, LLC
RACE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
“Racism is America’s ugly birthmark. A scar from its past that will not go away ... Black Americans loved and had faith in this country … that’s our legacy.”
Condoleezza Rice Secretary of State
Forty percent of Black children are born into poverty, compared to eight percent of White children.
Black households, more likely than any other household, live in inadequate and unhealthy housing.
Nearly half of Black female single head of household with children live in poverty.
Infant mortality rate for Black women is 2.4 times that for White women.
Black youth are twice as likely to be arrested and incarcerate for drug offenses as White youth.
Sixty-one percent of Black men die from stroke vs. 31 percent of White men.
Over 60% of 13 and 14-year-old children sentenced to death in prison are Black or Hispanic.
Black youth represent 62% of the youth who are prosecuted as adults.
Overall unemployment rate for Blacks is 25% and 75% of Black males between the ages of 16-24.
Schools with over 50% Black enrollment are more likely than majority White schools to have teachers who are not certified, do not have graduate degrees or subject matter expertise.
Eighty-seven percent of Black children read below grade level and 85% cannot perform math at grade level.
Salary gap between White males and Black males with master’s degrees is $20,000.
Fifty percent of Black youth in jail do not have a high school diploma.
National college graduation rate for Black males is 33% and females 45%.
High school graduation rate for Black males is less than 50% for 20 (nearly half) of the 50 states. New York has the lowest, 25%.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The statistics tell the story. Racial inequities in education, justice, housing, and health prevent equal access to opportunities. You must climb over those challenges. Black Prince you are awesome! You are leading the way and we are extremely proud of you! Your ability to read this letter is a testament that you will succeed at whatever you do; in whatever career path that you take whether it is transportation engineer, choreographer or math teacher. You are truly a child of God and a precious gift to this world. Continue to build your talents and strengths. Make your positive characteristics be who you are and the opportunities will come to you. You will learn that excellence is not the opposite of failure and spending majority of your time focusing on your deficiencies will not win you the gold. Focus on the positive things in life. Your talents and strengths will allow you to rise above the inequities in America. Today, not tomorrow, is the time for you to lead the way for yourself, family, community and the world. Be a responsible leader.
Enlighten your community (faith-based leaders, college officials and neighbors) about health and education inequities in their community.
Empower your community by way of advocating for equity.
Enrich the lives of others through volunteerism.
ENLIGHTEN YOUR COMMUNITY
Observe the way things are in your neighborhood in comparison to the way they should be. Particularly compare health and education services, the leading indicators for success. As examples, do wealthier communities have more pharmacies and playgrounds? Share these inequities with your family, friends, neighbors, teachers, religious leaders, etc. Then determine which ones are negatively impacting your life and the lives of friends and neighbors. Organize meetings to learn why these gaps exist, determine what the community wants, create a plan to achieve it, discover resources and skills available to execute the plan and strategize ways to communicate the need for services to those who can help close the gaps. To get you started here are lists of questions that identify the most common health and education inequities in
ASSESSING HEALTH AND EDUCATION INEQUITIES
Does the produce you buy stay fresh for more than one week?
Are fresh fish, fruit and vegetables available within walking distance?
Are there supermarkets within walking distance of your home?
Are there food banks in your neighborhood?
Are their farmer’s markets in your neighborhood?
Are the foods that are stocked in wealthier neighborhoods also found in your neighborhood?
Is there a park in your neighborhood?
Are there senior citizen resource centers within walking distance of your neighborhood?
Do the dentists in your community accept Medicaid?
Are there walk-in medical centers in your neighborhood?
Is your classroom racially integrated?
Is there an early childhood learning center walking distance from you home?
Does your school have clubs (e.g. chess, drama, book, science bowl, debate team, Black History, honor society, table tennis, badminton, etc.)?
Are there high school to college programs in your local area?
Do you have fewer than 25 students in your class?
Is there more than one science lab in your school?
Does your teacher use a smart board?
Does your school have an advance placement program?
Is art taught in your school?
Are after-school programs within walking distance of your school or home?
Do the teachers in your school stay beyond two years?
Is foreign language required for graduation?
Does your local library have a media center?
EMPOWER YOUR COMMUNITY TO ADVOCATE FOR EQUITY, OPPORTUNITY AND JUSTICE
There is a direct relationship between wealth and access to good health and education systems. As was done after 911, Americans must build a collective spirit to transform failing health and education systems and make the United States a great nation for all and not merely a few. This requires influencing people within and outside your community to close the health and education gaps. The following are strategies for building a network of cross sector allies to support your cause.
Meet with the religious and business leaders in your community regarding the inequities you found. Share with them the community assessment and organizing work you have done. Tell them what the community wants and ask them to help you influence change.
Call local health and education organizations to discuss what is being done in your state to address these inequities, learn if your neighborhood is part of the plan and how can you be involved in helping close health and education gaps.
Use social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Blog Talk Radio to educate others about health and education inequities and build a community of supporters.
Start a letter writing campaign to all of your local health and education editors across all media (print, radio, and television). Tell them who you are (school you attend, career path, number of people on and off-line that support your cause, etc.). Explain how the issues have an impact on your community and what the future impact will be if nothing is done. Provide anecdotes, analogies or personal testimonies to help them better understand the effects of the health and education inequities. Present your ideas for closing the gap. Invite them to a meeting with the community. Follow-up within three days with a telephone call. To complement this campaign, ask members of your community to submit op-ed letters to the local papers.
Look at the website of local officials to learn what they are doing to respond to poverty, health and education inequities in your area. Who is supporting bills to improve health, education, and employment? In May send those representatives an email requesting to meet with them in August, when they are at their district offices. The subject line is the bill(s) that close the health, education and wealth gap in your area. The purpose of your meeting is to discuss the community organizing work you have been doing to respond to the needs of your neighborhood, better understand how your representative is working to enhance the quality of life, explain what the community wants and listen to how your representative can support the needs identify by the community. Include a list of people (business and religious leaders, students, senior citizens, etc.) who will participate in the meeting and copy them in the email. Diversity is power. Call the representative the day you send the email and continue calling until you get an appointment. The day of your meeting leave a one page call to action of proposed services required to improve your neighborhood and your contact information. The day after your meeting send an email thanking your representative, highlighting the outcomes and proposing a date for a follow-up call. Copy everyone who joined you.
ENRICH THE LIVES OF OTHERS; SHARE YOUR PASSION AND SKILLS
Donating your skills and time is a great way to learn your community, have direct impact in a person’s life, develop an understanding of that person’s life and be a change agent. More than likely it will be the most rewarding and memorable job you will ever have. Most importantly it is a great way to network with people who share your passion. This often yields long term benefits as you climb the staircase of success. As an example, if you want to be an oncologist, then volunteer in the cancer ward at a hospital and ask an oncologist if you can shadow him or her once per week.
Contact the following Black organizations to learn of volunteer opportunities in your area.
100 Black Men of America, Inc. http://www.100blackmen.org/www.100blackmen.org
African Methodist Episcopal Church http://www.ame-church.com/www.ame
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity http://www.alpha-phi-alpha.com/www.alpha
Caribbean American Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Conference of Prince Hall Master Masons
Congressional Black Caucus
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
National Baptist Convention of America
National Urban League
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity
There also are many ways you can give back to the nonprofit organizations in our community. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
RESPONDING TO HEALTH INEQUITIES
Organize a Food Drive. Contact your nearest food pantry or the neighborhood houses of worship to learn how to coordinate this activity. Ask your neighbors to donate nonperishable goods low in fat and sodium. Inform the local media and political officials of the time when the goods will be picked-up. Take photos of your donors on the day of pick-up. Post the photos on Facebook. Send the photos, along with a note telling the estimated value of the gift, to local officials.
Lead an exercise or walking club to help combat diabetes, obesity and hypertension.
Young people between the ages of 13- 29 account for 40% of HIV infections. Majority of them are Black males. Start an HIV/AIDS prevention program at your school.
RESPONDING TO POVERTY
Join Habitat for Humanity and build a home for a family.
Become a mentor to a child living in a homeless shelter. Your involvement in their lives makes a difference. Send the child a Valentine’s Day card, play scrabble, or help with homework. Anything you offer will bring a smile.
Older children in foster care are seldom adopted, particularly boys. Contact your local foster care agency and offer to decorate a boy’s room, donate your clothes, buy school supplies or whatever you believe may bring joy.
RESPONDING TO EDUCATION INEQUITIES
Do you enjoy art, chess, badminton, basketball, bowling, etc? Organize a club at one of the houses of worship or your school.
Volunteer to tutor students in your school.
Media seldom feature Black male leaders. Send your biography to the executive and managing editors of your local papers. Request that every day, during Black history month, they highlighting the great things Black males are doing. You are one of them!
Black Prince, in spite the challenges you face in life, you enjoy life and you love the people around you as much as they love you. We see it in your eyes and your smile. We hear it in your laugh and feel it in your warm embrace. You are compassionate, humble, and committed. You want the best for yourself and others. You have the right to embrace success and enjoy life. Continue to create and nurture relationships with family and friends who genuinely love you back and support you as you climb those stairs. Remember, don’t turn back and believe in your dream. You are a leader and you will succeed. Through the gifts and talents The Lord has given you, you will be guided how best to make life better for others. Most of all, your life is a “precious gift”; treasure it. Indeed, you are truly loved!
We love you Black Prince!
Older children in foster care are seldom adopted, particularly boys. Contact your local