State Hearing Urges Action to Improve Lives of Young Men of Color

 

Eastern Coachella Valley Boys and Men of Color at the California State Capitol. Photo: AURORA SALDIVAR/Coachella Uninc
Eastern Coachella Valley Boys and Men of Color at the California State Capitol.                      Photo: AURORA SALDIVAR/Coachella Uninc

 

 

SACRAMENTO — State legislators held a hearing August 8 calling for ongoing policy and legislative solutions to improve the lives of the state’s young men of color. The California Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color examined the progress made in its first year of carrying out its action plan and legislative agenda toward keeping kids in school, implementing holistic approaches to campus safety, and addressing the violence youth experience in their communities. The hearing took place just as a number of the key bills the Committee has championed this year are being reviewed by the Governor.

“As legislators and representatives of boys and men of color, our number one priority is to turn talk into action with regards to helping every young person of color in California reach his fullest potential,” said Assemblymember Steven Bradford. “This means making school a welcoming place for students, ensuring they have access to health services, and keeping their neighborhoods safe.”

In honor of Trayvon Martin, Assemblymember Bradford also introduced a resolution calling on the legislature to ensure that the needs of California’s boys and young men of color are a priority in state investments and programs.

California’s boys and young men of color face unique barriers on their road to adulthood. They are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods marked by poverty, lack of opportunity, violence, under-funded schools and low-wage jobs that do not represent pathways to careers or future health and success. For example, 35 percent of black youth and 25 percent of Latino youth do not graduate, compared to only 12 percent of their white counterparts. Young black men are 10 times more likely than young white men to be killed by guns, and more than 5 times more likely to be imprisoned in their lifetime.

“Today’s hearing and testimony highlighted the local initiatives and opportunities that make lasting contributions – whether it’s making our neighborhoods safer or strengthening our state and global economy,” said Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez (D-Coachella). “That is why we are encouraging greater investment in programs that have empowered boys and young men of color with the confidence, inspiration and tools to lead rich and fulfilling lives.”

Close to 150 youth came to Sacramento to attend the hearing and participate in legislative visits, to tell policymakers about the challenges they face while discussing solutions in their communities.

“There are many barriers to health and success for young people of color, especially young men,” said Dr. Robert Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment. “For California’s prosperity, we must reverse these barriers and give our sons – all our sons – the essential ingredients to do well in life. Right now, we’re failing to do this for far too many. But the poor outcomes in education, employment and health plaguing our sons and brothers are not set in stone. We can change them.”

Last year, the California Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color was formed by Speaker John Pérez at the request of former Assemblymember Sandré Swanson to respond to the pressing needs of young men of color in California, where 70 percent of youth identify as people of color.

In its first year, the Select Committee was able to help pass legislation on common sense school discipline that holds students accountable while keeping them in school as well as improving access to community colleges and career pathways programs. Last year’s movement at the state level on common sense school discipline generated support to end “willful defiance” suspensions this past May in Los Angeles, the state’s largest school district.

In the 2013 session, the Committee has continued efforts to advance common sense school discipline, design a more comprehensive approach to school safety, and facilitate the implementation of the local control funding formula to ensure that young men of color can access opportunity in their neighborhoods starting at an early age.

“The strong foundation laid by the inaugural Select Committee has created a surge of interest in these issues both in the Capitol and in the communities throughout the state,” said Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink.  “Our work will drive progress in issue areas ranging from health and education to employment and community safety.”

After last year’s series of hearings, the Committee released a draft report and action plan intended to be a blue print for the next 10 years outlining key legislative proposals to advance outcomes on health, education, employment, juvenile justice and youth development.

Investing in young men of color can reap huge dividends for California. According to a 2007 study by the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara, African-American and Latino men graduating high school generate $681,130 and $451,360 more per person in additional dollars for the state than those who do not graduate high school. This is due to increased tax revenue and economic productivity as well as decreased costs associated with poor health or incarceration.

Members of the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color: Assemblymember Steven Bradford, Chair (AD62), Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian (AD35), Assemblymember Rob Bonta (AD18), Assemblymember Cheryl R. Brown (AD47), Assemblymember Beth Gaines (AD6), Assemblymember Richard S. Gordon (AD24), Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (AD59), Assemblymember Holly J. Mitchell (AD54), Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez (AD80), Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (AD63), Assemblymember Philip Y. Ting (AD19) and Assemblymember Scott Wilk (AD38).

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Alliance for Boys and Men of Color (http://www.allianceforbmoc.org/) is an alliance of change agents committed to improving the life chances of California’s boys and young men of color. The Alliance includes youth, community organizations, foundations and systems leaders – like education, public health and law enforcement officials. The Alliance has worked in collaboration with the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color to promote a legislative agenda that advances the health and success of these boys and young men. During the launch phase the Alliance was  active at the local and state levels, with a particular focus on Oakland (local anchor Urban Strategies Council, www.urbanstrategies.org), Los Angeles (local anchor Liberty Hill Foundation, www.libertyhill.org), and Fresno (local anchor PolicyLink, www.policylink.org). Since then the Alliance has expanded to include participation of similar place-based BMoC coalitions and partnerships, including additional Building Healthy Communities sites (e.g. Sacramento, Salinas, Santa Ana, and Coachella) and coalitions in other regions of the state (e.g. Stockton). State partners include Children’s Defense Fund, California Program on Access to Care and California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, CA Health Workforce Alliance & CA Health Professions Consortium, the CA Primary Care Association, Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice, the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, The Greenlining Institute, The Movement Strategies Center, National Employment Law Project, National Council of La Raza, National Latino Fatherhood and Families Institute, PICO Network California, the South East Asian Resource Action Center, and The Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy.

Our work is supported by a variety of funders.

 

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. Headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, The Endowment has regional offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno and San Diego, with program staff working throughout the state. The Endowment challenges the conventional wisdom that medical settings and individual choices are solely responsible for people’s health. The Endowment believes that health happens in neighborhoods, schools, and with prevention. www.calendow.org.

Policy Link is a national research and advocacy institute advancing economic and social equity by Lifting Up What Works. ® Founded in 1999, PolicyLink helps create sustainable communities of opportunity that offer

access to quality jobs, affordable housing, good schools, transportation, and the benefits of healthy food and physical activity. The organization is based in Oakland (Calif.), with offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington DC. www.policylink.org.

The Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy is a multidisciplinary research and policy center at the University of California, Berkeley Law School Law focusing on the most challenging civil rights, education, criminal justice, family and economic security, immigration and healthcare issues facing California and the Nation. The Warren Institute supports the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color’s civic action and policy advocacy through independent research, policy analysis and education about emerging and innovative best practices in the public domain. www.law.berkeley.edu/ewi.htm. 

Movement Strategy Center helps local campaigns to increase their impact by forming powerful alliances around a proactive vision that can affect state-level policy. The Center’s ultimate goal is to build a more strategic, collaborative and sustainable progressive movement.  www.movementstrategy.org.

The Urban Strategies Council, located in Oakland, California, is a social impact organization using tools of research, policy, collaboration, innovation and advocacy to achieve equity and social justice. www.urbanstrategies.org.

Liberty Hill Foundation is first to identify community leaders at the frontlines of change. We invest in changemakers and equip them with the skills and relationships they need to build power and advance social justice.  After more than 30 years, Liberty Hill is uniquely positioned to bring together forces for change and forge a common agenda for equality and opportunity in Los Angeles.www.libertyhill.org

— Article reprinted from California State Assembly press release

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