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Conference Focuses on Improving Futures for Black Men

Posted March 19, 2008
Updated March 25, 2008

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— Black men make up about 10 percent of North Carolina's population, but account for nearly 60 percent of the prison populace. A Triangle conference focuses on finding community solutions to that troubling statistic.

Before Demario Atwater and Laurence Lovette were charged in connection to the slaying of UNC student Eve Carson, and Lovette with Duke University student Abhijit Mahato’s death – both men had criminal records.

“If it isn't a wake up call, I don't know what its going to take,” said Bruce Lightner, chairman of the Raleigh Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee.

Lightner, who also owns Lightner Funeral Home, said the cases highlight the concerns over young black men being more likely to go to jail or join gangs than other demographic groups.

“Young people who commit such violent acts randomly are not prone to do that on their own,” he said.

North Carolina Central University has taken notice of the trend. For the third year, the school is sponsoring the conference, "The African-American Male. The Issues: Education, Family and Role Models."

“Unfortunately, the role models are BET (Black Entertainment Television) and MTV (Music Television), and those do not define black malehood for me,” said Dr. Jonathan Livingston, NCCU assistant professor of psychology and the co-director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Youth and Families.

“I think these conference topics will be part of a preventative effort if we can get individuals to come out and participate,” said Dr. Dorothy Singleton, NCCU associate professor and the director of the Institute for the Study of Minority Issues.

Singleton and Livingston are co-directors of the NCCU's conference. They echo Lightner's concerns about violence in all segments of the population.

“There are shootings in the Triangle on a daily basis; that's a sad commentary,” Lightner said. “It's going to take a movement, a change in cultural values and an understanding among all groups with what's going on here."

A change, Lightner says, starts by reaching young people.

African Americans reportedly drop out of school at a disproportionately higher rate than whites, and most of the black dropouts are boys. The state average for black dropouts is 37 percent. In Wake County, 46 percent of the dropouts are black, and Durham County's percentage is 65 percent.

The NCCU conference began Wednesday afternoon with a focus on black families. Thursday, there will be a panel on gangs.

The conference runs until Friday at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center at 4700 Emperor Blvd. in Durham.


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  • bronzegoddess40 Mar 20, 2008

    I think that this conference is a step in the right direction, no one said that it will be a cure to what is happening with young black males but it is a solution in the right direction to be able to talk and then start doing other things. A lot of folks get on here and post that the black community needs to be doing something and when they start doing something then folks want to say it is not going to work. And yes it is true that if a person doesn't want help to change, they will not change, but what about the ones that want to change and committed to it?

  • jbrlangley Mar 20, 2008

    IN most cases history repeats itself, its just like with abuse. If you were abused, lots, not all of the time you will be an abuser. Its what you are taught, how you are raised. I dont think a conference is going to fix it. Sounds just like a bunch of mechanics standing around a car with their hands in their pockets talking about what is wrong with the car! It doesnt get fixed by talking about it. Individuals have to fix their own lives. All the after school programs in the world arent going to change a person unless they WANT to be changed.

  • NCMOMof3 Mar 20, 2008

    It is s very sad thing, to see such a high statistic. I would love to know what we, as a society, can do to reverse this. However, society can't bear the whole burden. Individuals MUST take responsibility for their own actions. I'm sorry that some people have it tougher than others. I didn't have the easiest of childhoods and I won't bore posters on here with the details. But I determined early in life that the way I was living as a child was NOT the way I was going to live as an adult and I worked to make a better life for myself. Notice the word "WORK". Not drugs, not stealing, and not on the back of anyone else. Has it been easy? No. But it's not supposed to be easy. It's not supposed to be given to you. And it's no one's responsibility but your own what you make of your life. Somewhere along the way, that message has gotten lost.

  • kal Mar 20, 2008

    As an educator I am concerned with my stduents droping out of high school. I also have a young black man who stays with me. Does anyone know how I can get the information they discuss at this conference?