Our United Voice

Hope for Boys and Young Men of Color

Monday, January 19, 2015

Daryle Unseld
Senior Manager, Community Engagement
As I reflect on my time as a youth growing up in Louisville, I’m thankful that I had many caring adults who encouraged me to dream past high school. I can’t help to think where I would be without that encouragement from those who served as an extension of my parents and grandparents, by pushing me to work hard, study hard and make the most of myself. From all walks of life, this cadre of both formal and informal mentors never gave up on me, and wouldn't allow me to give up on myself.

I can also name countless individuals including relatives and close friends whose dreams have been derailed. The fact remains that in our community, many of our boys and young men of color fall into the category of “at risk." And while we wait for the calvary that’s never coming, the gang and drug culture consistently but negatively demonstrates how effective mentoring partnerships work.

I can speak from personal experience that as a young black male the struggle is real! And because of who you are, and where you come from, often times you are marginalized into insignificance by the mainstream.

There are some harsh realities facing many young people in our community. Particularly, issues that disproportionately affect boys and young men of color:
     • Only 12 % of African American 4th grade boys are proficient
          in reading.

     • In high school they are far more likely to be suspended or expelled.
     • Students who are expelled or suspended are up to 10 times more
          likely to drop out of high school.  Expulsions start early and are
          by far the highest for black boys.
     • There’s also a higher chance that they will matriculate through
          the criminal justice system, or become victims of violent crime.
          Nationally, while only 6% of the population, black men account
          for 43% of murder victims.

The fact remains that there’s a significant number of African American males who do not have the supports and opportunities I had, but deserve them.

Recognizing that there’s a large gap between good intentions and status quo, we cannot accept this as a norm for our boys and young men of color. We have to work together collectively to change the odds for these young people.  We cannot expect them to be successful unless as a community we mitigate many of the barriers and remove the cultural blind spots that derail many opportunities for positive life outcomes. Boys and young men of color are valuable assets to our community, and we all win when they succeed in school and life.

Photo cred: Institute for Black Male Achievement
Supporting boys and young men of color with intentionality doesn’t mean you are against anyone else. What it does mean is that you recognize that there’s a segment of young people who consistently live shorter, poorer quality lives with fewer opportunities than many of their counterparts across racial and ethnic groups.

To change these conditions it requires folks like us to think, and see beyond our own front porches, and take the risk to actually share a common vision to change the odds for boys and young men of color. This collective responsibility is going to require collective work in order to inspire hope and resiliency for some of the most socially, economically and racially marginalized young people.

I believe in many ways mentoring serves as the great equalizer for young people who have the odds stacked against them, and I'm honored to work for an organization dedicated to changing the odds for young people.  I encourage you to take action, become a volunteer, reader, mentor or tutor HERE.
I also encourage you to join the conversation online using #BMALouisville to raise awareness about Black Male Achievement in our community. What better way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. than on the day we officially celebrate his life and legacy! This is how we LIVE UNITED!

Daryle Unseld, Jr. is Senior Manager of Community Engagement at Metro United Way. The 11 year U.S. Air Force veteran is a native of Louisville and graduated from both the University of Louisville and St. Leo University. Prior to Metro United Way, he held positions in Louisville Metro Government and the YMCA of Greater Louisville. Daryle and his wife Cecily have two daughters Jasmyne (16) and Natalia (11).

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