Memphis Mayor A C Wharton stood at a podium in the FedExForum’s plaza Wednesday and introduced a new initiative that will help improve the success rates of young African-American men.
Entitled “Inspiring Young Men of Color,” the program aims to bridge the opportunity gap that young black males face by lessening the disparities they experience in education, employment, health, and justice.
The effort will be spearheaded by an executive steering committee that's composed of numerous business and community leaders, many of whom were on hand at the press conference. The collective will develop long-term strategies to combat the identified issues that hinder high success rates of young Memphis minorities.
"Generally, when you focus on young men of color, the first thing you look for is ‘Okay, where are the police officers? Where are the folks in charge of the prisons and jails?" Wharton said. "We’re flipping the script on this. We’re focusing on the opportunity side of it, the preparation side of it. We’re going to change the language. As opposed to saying 'What are we going to do to them,' it’s 'What are we going to do with them, to make them much more productive young men of color?'"
The program is aligned with Pres. Barack Obama’s recently launched “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, an approach that seeks to improve outcomes of young men of color in health, education, employment, and criminal justice nationally.
Wharton said improving the literacy rates of young black males in Memphis is one of the most important objectives of the initiative.
"One of the most starving issues facing our young men is low literacy," Wharton said. "Simply put, many of our young men and boys of color are not reading proficiently, and the lack of this fundamental skill prevents them from reaching their full potential."
For more information on the Inspiring Young Men of Color initiative, check out next week's issue of The Memphis Flyer.