11/16/10 — City Council: Black males crisis critical

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City Council: Black males crisis critical

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 16, 2010 1:46 PM

A late-night television news program recently got to Chuck Allen -- so much so that during the City Council's pre-meeting work session Monday evening, the mayor pro tem ignited a discussion about what the program identified as a "shocking school achievement gap for black males."

Allen, citing statistics regarding high school dropouts and inmates, said something needs to be done locally to address the problems unfolding in Goldsboro's black communities.

"Collectively, nobody is doing anything," he said. "If we don't get these kids, (prison) is where they're going."

But when it came to just what steps need to be taken to address the issues facing black youths, simply opening a dialogue seemed to be as far as the council was willing to go -- at least Monday.

Council member Michael Headen and Mayor Al King, however, said talking about racial issues was a good first step.

"This has been going on for decades in this country. We've turned a blind eye to it as a nation," Headen said. "People are so afraid to talk about race."

"I applaud you for bringing this up," King added, turning to Allen. "This is a disaster. This is a monumental problem. It's depressing to me."

The mayor continued that he has known for years that black youths, particularly males, are failing to achieve in school -- that many turn to crime.

"I look at the (arrest reports) every day. They are usually black faces. They're young," he said. "But we can't put all of these guys in jail."

The cost, he added, is simply too high -- and the jails are too crowded.

"So what is the answer to it?" the Rev. Charles Williams asked.

"Well, you can't pray for it," Allen responded. "That ain't working."

As the discussion continued, City Manager Joe Huffman stepped in, urging the board to allow him to set up a meeting where a more formal dialogue could be had between city, county and school officials.

"I think that's the starting point," he said.

But one thing, King said, is clear: Something needs to be done soon.

"It's bigger than Goldsboro ... but we can do what we can. We can start," he said. "I'm very familiar with this. I think about it and deal with it every day."