Not waiting for Superman anymore
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 30, 2011 1:50 AM
Boys and Girls Club unit director Marvin Ford leads children at the club in a game of charades. Mentoring programs like the Boys and Girls Club offer children the chance to start right, while also keeping them on the right path. Mayor Al King says programs like these and other mentorships could help stop the rampant problems with the city's young black males.
'My class, we produced doctors, presidents of universities, researchers, chemists, teachers, you name it. And now, when I go to Mount Olive, it's like I'm in a foreign land. All I see is kids walking around -- just like here. It just tears me all to hell. I say, 'What happened? What happened?'' --Goldsboro Mayor Al King
Mayor Al King steps away from his desk and walks across his office -- reaching into a cabinet before returning with a thick stack of paperwork.
"Do you see this? Do you?" he said, pointing to the first of hundreds of police reports he retrieved moments earlier. "Do you see who's on the cover here?"
A young black male is pictured.
"You see who's there? I would say 95 percent of the people in this stack look like that," King said. "If not 95 percent, 85 percent. They dominate these reports -- some as young as 12, 14 years old."
And that fact -- that the vast majority of charges being filed by the Goldsboro Police Department are against young black males -- is one the city's first black mayor is growing tired of discussing.
"Every day I get this and I say, 'You know, what are we going to do about this?' It is an issue that really, really concerns me," he said. "My class, we produced doctors, presidents of universities, researchers, chemists, teachers, you name it. And now, when I go to Mount Olive, it's like I'm in a foreign land. All I see is kids walking around -- just like here. It just tears me all to hell. I say, 'What happened? What happened?'"
So whether or not an election for his post is conducted this year -- King is technically up for re-election this November, but should the city, when the most recent Census data comes in, have to redistrict, he might remain in office until 2012 -- the mayor said he finally has the community support necessary to take a long, hard look at local black communities.
Maybe then, he said, a real change for the better will occur.
"If I run again or if I don't, this is the area that I am going to focus on. This is the area that concerns me: the plight of the young black male that is causing us one hell of a problem," King said. "There are going to be some out there who say, 'You shouldn't be saying that. It's not just the blacks.' Well, I'd like to show them who's in this stack."
One would think, he added, that the election of the nation's first black president would have changed the mentality the mayor says still runs rampant around Goldsboro's downtown.
"But things haven't changed very much. Basically, things remain the same," he said. "For most of them, they get beat down and there's no hope. Nobody cares about them at home and they're told that all they can do is raise hell. Once it reaches that point, they're too far gone.
"And selling drugs on the street corner, it's the easy way out. They say, 'You think I want to work at McDonald's? Hell, I can make the same money in an hour selling drugs than I can working at McDonald's for a week.'"
So King's goal is to find more people in the community who, like his wife, Juanita, are willing to mentor young black males at an early age -- to follow their progress until they achieve high school diplomas and a shot at college.
"That young man is going to graduate from high school this year. He's going to make it. But he would have never made it had it not been for somebody reaching this kid and saying, 'I'm going to carry you,'" the mayor said. "But he's only one. There are thousands. He's lucky. Others just aren't.
"So for the next year, I'm going to push this. I don't think we've even scratched the surface of what we can do out there to really make a difference. For the first time, because there are a number of people who really want to be a part of this, who want to mentor these kids, I think there's hope."
And there had better be, he added, if Goldsboro and Wayne County want to achieve the level of progress leaders all-to-often speak of as if it has already come to fruition.
"During the summer months when I drive around the city and see 30 to 40 black kids sitting on the porches of houses wearing white shirts and all that, that's not good for Goldsboro. It is not good for Wayne County. And Some people say, 'Well as long as you keep them in their area, things will be OK," King said. "Well, let me tell you something. You can't keep them in that area. When I get these things and look at where the crimes are taking place, it's not in their neighborhoods. That's not where they're hitting. It's all over the city of Goldsboro ... and the surrounding areas.
"So we had better be ready to do something about this because, every day, when I look at this stack -- and believe me, I get a steady diet of it -- it really tells a story. Now really is the time to do something."