Bakers Dozen

Saving our Sons Matters

A new school year has begun and each day as I drive into the Urban League I see younger and younger African American male faces loitering on the corners on school mornings. As I have watched the ever increasing number of male youth, it occurred to me that SOS should have a double meaning in our community. Traditionally, SOS is thought to be a distress signal. It is the international Morse Code signal for help but maybe it should be an acronym for Save Our Sons. There is clearly a need for a distress signal in our community. Many times we unconsciously drive past young Black men who are destined to die because of feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. It is as if they are waiting for death to drive by or the police to offer a complimentary ride to the Hamilton County Municipal Jail. Consider this cold, hard fact: 68% of all males in state and federal prison do not have a high school diploma.

School to Prison Fact Sheet

Our boys are part of the school-to-prison pipeline, an epidemic that is not uncommon across this nation. Frequently, there is a double standard. “The system” works against our boys who are often held to a different standard in our schools and are suspended, expelled or arrested for what are minor offenses for others. After Sandy Hook and Columbine it is not difficult to understand why schools take strong offense, but justice must be meted out fairly. Students forced out of school become stigmatized and branded as trouble makers, incorrigibles and incapable of learning. Eventually, those students give up and drop out of school.

This is not the time to play the “ain’t it awful” game. At the Urban League we see the results of the http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/education-under-arrest/school-to-prison-pipeline-fact-sheetpipeline phenomena on a daily basis. We work to salvage what is left and rebuild broken men and women so that they may become productive citizens earning a livable wage. Many of our SOAR program participants come to us doubting our ability to help and their ability to achieve. At the end of four weeks they leave us with an attitude that is positive and future focused.

It still takes a village to raise a child. What if we who are parents or just concerned people banded together and held our own Saturday schools? What if we shared our collective knowledge, worked in small groups with our children and devised a way to keep them positive and focused on a bright future? It doesn’t take a lot; just one adult who is good in math, helping three boys get the basics; or one adult who loves to read working with two or three boys to develop their reading and comprehension skills. You get the idea—each one, teach one. There will be no public accolades given to you but the satisfaction and reward will be in the destruction of the school-to-prison pipeline. SOS. Who will answer the call?


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