Too Important to Fail. TONIGHT!!

Tonight, Tavis Smiley Reports examines one of the most disturbing aspects of the education crisis facing America today—the increased dropout rate among Black teenage males.

Too Important to Fail

Across America, less than 50% of young Black males will graduate from high school!!

Q: Who changed your life?

A: A teacher. A preacher. A mentor. Someone who encouraged me. Someone who cared.

In a series of candid and emotional encounters, Tavis goes behind the statistics to get to the heart of the matter: the struggle so many African American teenage males face when trying to stay in school and succeed.

Young people speak frankly about their lives: growing up in challenging communities and, too often, single-parent homes, relegated to underserved schools and coping with peer group pressure that often doesn’t support the need for education.

A State of Dire Crisis

By Angela Glover Blackwell

In countless communities, boys and men of color are on the front lines of the nation’s crisis.

As a group, boys and men of color are experiencing the highest rates of unemployment, educational underachievement, incarceration, violence and trauma. Their health is in peril and in many of the neighborhoods where they live, it is easier to buy a gun than a tomato.

What does it mean for America’s future when mothers are bracing for the unspeakable possibility that they may never see their sons graduate high school or college? How do we support daughters, sisters and nieces watching helplessly as their fathers, brothers and uncles struggle with debilitating anger, depression and hopelessness?

With resolve, the nation can apply best practices and improve their futures and that of their families, communities and the entire nation. However, doing so requires first that government systems and our communities place a priority on these children and young adults and pursue an equity agenda that allows all, including boys and men of color, to thrive and reach their full potential.

Last month in California, PolicyLink joined other equity advocates, government leaders and foundation officials at a Select Committee Hearing on the Status of Boys and Men of Color to publicly urge legislators to seek out and invest in comprehensive strategies that will expand access to quality academic and career opportunities for young men and women of color.

Consider these facts:

  • African American and Latino children are three and a half times more likely to grow up in poverty than white children with far less access to quality teachers, schools with high levels of academic achievement, after-school programs and safe spaces to learn and play.
  • As of July 2011, the youth unemployment rates for African American and Latino men ages 16 to 24 are at 31% and 20%, respectively. This is compared to 16% for white males and 15% for Asian males in the same age group.
  • For young Latino men, ages 15 to 24, the homicide death rate is five times greater than young white men. For young African American males, it’s more than 16 times greater.

These statistics underscore a national crisis that threatens to envelop the lives and futures of an entire generation and will hurt the nation in the long run. The complexities of these problems require integrated and comprehensive programs and policies that will prioritize and address the many economic, social and educational barriers that are hindering the communities and households of boys and men of color throughout the country.

Make no mistake – a truly comprehensive focus on boys and young men of color cannot be at the exclusion of girls and young women, whose own unique challenges are also signaling nationwide alarm. Improving the prospects of girls’ and young women’s fathers, husbands, brothers and sons will make for stronger families and communities.

The same is true for all of America.

Our nation’s continued prosperity depends considerably on how soon we can shift the tide and build a future in which everyone can thrive and flourish.

We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the problems facing low-income people and communities of color, particularly the black and brown youth who will soon constitute the majority. In fact, we have an urgent moral and economic imperative to address them.

In a shifting and competitive global economy, the dearth of quality, meaningful opportunities, combined with persistent obstacles and deficient academic and social supports, risks dismantling the very families and communities that are raising our future skilled workforce.

To slash America’s opportunity deficit, we must start by standing up for new and existing solutions to education, workforce training and job creation that would help shatter cycles of generational poverty by preparing young workers of color for better-paying, long-term jobs of the future.

At the California Select Committee hearing, East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald Davis was pitch-perfect in his call for policymakers to “invest in early education because that is the key.”

Thankfully there are already programs underway that, with enough public support and investment, could truly make a difference in turning this crisis around.

Federally-funded initiatives such as Promise Neighborhoods offer educational, health and social supports for children in poor areas, while programs like PELL Grants help underprivileged students from a variety of backgrounds attain a quality higher education.

Through the Pathways Out of Poverty program, young male workers of color will now have access to many more job training and employment options. The Strong Cities Strong Communities initiative launched back in July aims to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in previously disinvested neighborhoods. And the establishment of a National Infrastructure Bank would invest in the transportation systems necessary to connect people to these valuable opportunities.

The success of programs like these and others like them will hinge largely on whether America’s leaders can embrace an inclusive, prosperous future driven by equity – just and fair inclusion for all.

Angela Glover Blackwell, Chief Executive Officer of PolicyLink, founded the organization in 1999 and continues to drive its mission of advancing economic and social equity. Under her leadership, PolicyLink has become a leading voice in the movement to use public policy to improve access and opportunity for all low-income people and communities of color, particularly in the areas of health, housing, transportation, education and infrastructure.

Tom Joyner VS. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West Round II

If you have not heard or read there is a big public feud between some of our most respected Black kings and it keep getting deeper? I read this letter today and had to share. It raises some interesting questions for debate.

The feud seems to have been going on since Obama became president and seems to have no end in sight. Should one of these men rise above and break out the olive branch of peace for the community’s sake? One thing is for certain this feud is questioning our loyalties to Obama and our quest for self-preservation. How far do we go to support the first bi-racial president? Have we gone far enough? Is he helping us or hurting us?

A great open letter from Raynard Jackson

Open Letter To Tom Joyner, Regarding Criticism of Tavis Smiley and Cornel West

By Raynard Jackson


Nationwide (July 7, 2011) — I have known Tom Joyner (nationally syndicated radio host) for many years. We are not hanging out buddies, but we have always enjoyed talking and joking with each other. He is an “old school” soul who has done a lot of good in his life. But, in recent years, his very public fight with Tavis Smiley (journalist) and now Cornel West (college professor), threatens his standing in many communities (not just the Black). So, I decided to use this week’s column as an open letter to Tom.

Tom, it is well documented that you and Tavis Smiley (and now Cornel West) have had a very public falling out with each other. I have not been privy to all the details of the dispute, only what is being reported in the media and through some of our mutual friends – but I have no first hand knowledge of anything; so my comments will be offered with that as my backdrop.

Word on the street is that the falling out started during the presidential campaign in 2008. Tavis was clearly not a big supporter of Obama’s and was more of a supporter of Hillary Clinton’s. You were unabashedly quite vocal in your support of Obama.

So, after Tavis resigned (or you fired him from your radio show – I don’t know which one is more accurate), I thought the beef between the two of you would be over. Boy, was I wrong.

Last week you continued your public feud with Smiley and West and raised the rhetoric to an unhealthy level. To lay the blame at their feet for what Mark Halperin called President Obama is a bit of a stretch. This is what Joyner said, “But I’m even more disgusted with Smiley and West, two brothers who I did have expectations of – and thought I knew. These two have done much worse than what Halperin has done because they set the tone for it, opened the door to it, and must take much of the blame for creating a climate that would make a white, professional journalist feel comfortable verbally and vulgarly attacking the first black president of the United States.” (For the entire quote, go to

Halperin is editor of Time Magazine and a regular guest on MSNBC TV network. Last week, on live TV, he called President Obama a “dick.” He was immediately suspended indefinitely from the TV network (he did issue an apology).

Well, Tom, I could make the same argument against you about your blind support for Obama. It is well documented that I, as a Black Republican, voted for Obama in 2008. I was hopeful that he could and would deliver on the promises he made as a candidate; but just as important, use the historic nature of his presidency to bring a different perspective to some of the issues that have plagued the Black community. This is what I hear in West’s criticism of Obama. Smiley seems more angry and hateful and therefore I kind of tune him out. But West’s criticism is in sync with what I have been writing in my columns for the past two years.

So, Tom, can you really make a thoughtful argument for Obama’s reelection without injecting the name of Bush, Republicans, or racism?

Can you justify why Obama would meet with Marc Morial, Ben Jealous, or Al Sharpton, in February of last year to discuss the high unemployment rate in the Black community? These are three people who have never created one job. Did you not find this insulting? Do you think the president would have met with non practicing Jews to discuss Judaism?

Can you explain to me why you and the president support amnesty for the estimated 30 million illegals in the U.S.? Especially when around 7 million of these illegals will enter the workforce and compete with other low and under skilled people (mostly Blacks). If you are concerned with the high unemployment rate in the Black community, how then does this make sense?

Can you explain to me why you and the president are spending so much political capital pursuing a gay rights agenda even though most Blacks are against it?

But, when it comes to issues of particular concern to the Black community, the president’s response is, “I am president of all of America, not just a narrow special interest group.”

Where has the president expended any political capital on behalf of issues of particular interest to the Black community? So, the gays get all sorts of gay rights, Hispanics get a Supreme Court Justice, amnesty, and the D.R.E.A.M. Act; and Blacks folks get “I’m president of all of America.”

So, Tom, while you have done a lot of good in your life, especially with raising $55 million for Black college students, this does not give you a pass on your moral obligation to educate your listeners, not indoctrinate!

You are without doubt an apologist for Obama, but the worst thing you can do is continue to lead your audience into blind support for the president.

In your profession, if you don’t deliver certain demographics, you get fired. Next year Obama will face a similar standard. I challenge you to lay out your argument for Obama’s reelection based on substance, not race.

For you to continue to spew misinformation or incomplete information to your audience is more damaging than anything someone with a white hood over his head has ever done.

If you truly believe in liberalism (as you claim) when will you allow a free flowing exchange of information from both parties to take place on your show and in your town hall meetings?

You have made a name for yourself in the area of education, but when will your bring that reputation to your radio show?

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine ( & USAfrica Magazine (