Racine was recently named by USA Today as the fourth worst place for black people to live in the United States and the recent officer-involved shooting of Donte Shannon has made it clear that a dialogue is needed in our community that centers around what it is like to be black in Racine.
The black unemployment rate in the city in 2015 was 16 percent, twice the rate of the white unemployment rate. Black babies have a higher chance of dying, black children are more apt to be suspended from school than their white counterparts, and their fathers have a higher chance of being incarcerated, according to the United Way of Racine County.
But, there is also a lot of work being done around this issue. City of Racine Mayor Cory Mason is expanding the GED and apprenticeship programs. The Racine Unified School District has changed its policies around suspensions and works with the Racine Police Department on gang intervention programs. There are a number of programs aimed at reducing infant mortality, increasing participation by fathers, and a number of community centers host programs for kids of all ages to help keep them active.
Despite these programs, how the community feels about black people is a sensitive issue. So, we’re starting a series, “Black Men Speak, 9 conversations about race.” On February 19, we’ll introduce you to 10 black males — ages 11 to 75.
Fifth-grader Alex Hart-Upendo will talk about how he wasn’t invited to his friend’s birthday party because he is black. Racine City Alderman John Tate II will define microaggression and what it was like to be one of three black people in a private school. Ahmad Kweku Qawi, who heads up the Youth Leaders Academy and is the Chief Operating Officer at the YMCA in Racine, will highlight how he helps black boys define their sense of self.
We also spoke to black men who have Master’s Degrees, are community leaders, poets, and are ex-gang members.
Our hope: To bring the community together to hear these black men talk about their experiences and what they refer to as “their truth.”
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