By Karen Stokes
A recent UW-Milwaukee study shows that Wisconsin has the highest percentage of incarcerated Black males than any other state. Still another study shows that the metropolitan Milwaukee area has one of the worst employment rates for Black men.
The situation looks grim, but currently community leaders, organizations and nonprofit agencies are collaborating to find ways to help Black males succeed in Milwaukee.
The Black Male Achievement Advisory Council (BMAAC) with honorary co-chairmen Mayor Tom Barrett and Alderman Ashanti Hamilton met Monday morning to discuss courses of action to advance Black males in Milwaukee.
BMAAC works on a shared mission to create hope and opportunities for Black men and boys who are significantly marginalized from economic, social, educational and political life.
With the racial disparities in education, employment and the criminal justice system, the BMAAC has challenges but are working on solutions.
One effort, beginning July 1, is One Summer Plus. The Milwaukee Community Advocates are partnering with the Boys and Girls Club to implement the program. One Summer Plus is modeled after a successful youth employment program in Chicago.
In 2011, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle created One Summer Chicago to provide youth with educational and safe summer activities.
The program brings together government institutions, community organizations and businesses to offer employment, internships and training programs to youth to develop job skills and explore career options. In 2012, the program evolved to include a specialized violence prevention program called, One Summer Plus.
“We went to Chicago, witnessed the program and we were very inspired,” said Robert Cherry, Director at Community Advocates Public Policy Institute in Milwaukee.
According to a press release from the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, more than 700 youth, ages 14 to 21, were selected from an open application process at 13 Chicago public schools located in high violence, low income neighborhoods.
Youth who participated in the 2012 program experienced a 51 percent drop in arrests for violent crime.
“We are not waiting for our kids to become victims of violence, but instead are reaching out to keep them safe and offer opportunities for learning and employment to address one of the root causes of crime,” said Emanuel.
“Given the results, we hope this program will serve as a model for future youth employment programs in Chicago and nationwide.”
According to Cherry, the program will be adjusted to fit Milwaukee’s necessities.
The Milwaukee One Summer Plus program will initially be two-year pilot. The pilot would consist of 20 to 30 males between the ages of 14 and 17.
The program will consist of employment, mentoring, and improvement of social and emotional skills to reduce truancy and negative behavior. During the second year, the pilot will include court ordered referrals.
The Boys and Girls Club will employ, mentor, and prepare participants for job readiness.
The Black Male Achievement Advisory Council and the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families will fund the program.
“Chicago is a summer, program but we are making One Summer Plus Milwaukee a year-round program,” said Cherry. “We wanted to run the model during the school year to see if we can get better results while students are in school.”
So far there is no collaboration with Milwaukee Public Schools.
“Our plan is to run the pilot, share the outcomes to the community and grow the program,” said Cherry.
“Any kid that wants a job can get one and grow to be a successful adult.
The kids will be doing something positive.
Our children are our future’s greatest commodity.”