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Forty percent of Black children are born poor. In the fourth grade, 85 percent of Black children can neither read nor do math at grade level and later, almost half drop out of school. A Black boy born in 2001 has a one in three chance of going to prison sometime in his lifetime.

Some community leaders in Houston and Washington, DC, are working to change these disturbing statistics.

Marian Wright Edelman, president, Children’s Defense Fund and Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone, recently released two studies and announced the goals of a renewed commitment to confront the crisis facing Black children.

“We must act with urgency, vision and courage to combat the growing racial and class segregation in America. We must close the achievement gap; reweave the fabric of family and community; and build a loud and effective adult voice for children,” said Geoff Canada.

This important new research conducted by Hart Research Associates for the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) on behalf of the Black Community Crusade for Children (BCCC) found two issues have risen to the top of serious concerns the Black community faces. An overwhelming majority, 85 percent said unemployment presents serious challenges to Black communities and children today.

“We must shut down the cradle to prison pipeline and replace it with an expressway to college and work,” said Marian Wright Edelman.

The criminal justice system’s unequal treatment of Black Americans is the other major issue perceived to be a devastating problem. Most Black adults believe the criminal justice system is doing more to hurt than to help Black children. Half of the youth surveyed say that the potential to end up in prison is a very serious problem for the Black young people they know.

Majorities of Black adults believe that half or more of all Black children will experience the following events before reaching adulthood: racial profiling from law enforcement, getting in trouble with the law, serving time in prison, and being denied important opportunities because of their race. Serious problems identified by Black Americans in a similar study 16 years ago continue to plague Black communities today, such as failing schools, negative cultural and media influences, violence, drugs and addiction, fractured families and teen pregnancy.

A complementary new study from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, found the American dream and employment opportunities vanishing for many Black young people. In 2010, the unemployment, underemployment, and hidden unemployment rate for Black 16 to 29-year-olds was 40 percent. Much of this crisis can be attributed to the high dropout rate among Black high school students. In Texas, the dropout rate for Black students was over 16 percent in 2008, higher than all other ethnic groups and higher still than the rate for students classified as economically disadvantaged. These education gaps leave low-skilled workers with limited employment opportunities, and their median income – when employed – is roughly $7,300 less. The large number of Black young adults not working full-time jobs will severely limit their future employability, earnings, and ability to support their families.

The BCCC, co-convened by CDF, was launched in 1990 to combat one of the worst crises the Black child and family faced since slavery. Now, as the crisis has deepened, BCCC leaders are calling on the Black community to stand together and stand stronger for all children. Key leaders, including those of nine Black faith denominations, representing millions of stakeholders, have taken up the challenge and will recruit others to act.

“We know what to do to provide all children a healthier, fairer and safer start in life and the chance to reach successful adulthood,” Edelman continued. “We now must create the public will and effective community voice to expand what works to all children and get it done.”

CDF–Texas Executive Director Beth Quill added, “Critical decisions are being made right now in the Texas legislature to cut back important investments in the health and education of our state’s children. This report not only shows the dangers that occur when we as adults choose to not invest in our children’s wellbeing, it shows the urgency with which we must take action to stop this backwards slide. We cannot afford to have 40 percent of Black children drop out of school. And it is obscene that the state of Texas spends three times as much to incarcerate a child as it does to educate a child.”

Over the past two decades, this movement has seen many successes, including: the creation and expansion of CDF Freedom Schools® and other youth leadership programs which have trained 20,000 young leaders across the nation; the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City; and economic empowerment work in 77 “Black Belt” southern counties, among other highlights.

The BCCC continues to strive to counter the dangerous intersection of poverty, illiteracy, racial disparities, violence and massive incarceration that is sentencing millions of children to dead-end, powerless and hopeless lives and threatens to undermine the past half-century of progress.

For more information and to view the reports, visit: