While President Obama’s remarks about “AK-47s are for soldiers” made during his National Urban League speech earlier this week attracted most of the headlines, in my opinion the most substantial part of his speech was the announcement of an African-American Education Office to “help coordinate the efforts of communities and agencies to ensure that African-American youth are prepared for high school, college, and eventually a career.”
There is an education crisis within the Black community, as evidenced by the dismal 48% national Black male high school graduation rate. So, the commitment of any additional resources is a positive and much needed step towards reaching President Obama’s goal “that every child has greater access to a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born all through the time they get a career.” I support and pray this new office accomplishes its stated mission.
However, no initiative (regardless of how well-intended, funded, and administered) will succeed until we eliminate the current erroneous and destructive belief by African-American youth that sports and entertainment are the best and only avenue for social mobility and economic success. Here are three things we must do immediately:
1) Concentrate our resources and energy to inform, inspire, and empower our youth to understand that it is education that has the revolutionary power to radically impact and improve their lives and the lives of their families;
2) Convince our professional musicians, actors and athletes to utilize their awesome talents and platforms to promote positive, uplifting life stories, instead of the current sex- and drug-crazed, violent, anti-social messages and images that currently dominate the airwaves;
3) Find creative ways to educate our children with relevant and practical academic and life skills that best fit their reality and prepare them for the challenging realities of a 21st global economy and world.
Damario Solomon-Simmons, M.Ed., J.D., is the managing partner of SolomonSimmonSharrock & Associates law firm and an adjunct professor ofAfrican and African-American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He is a political independent who believes that the American political system needs serious reform, more focus on regular people and real world solutions. He regularly writes and lectures on issues of race, sports, politics, and social justice, and his life’s mission is to inform, inspire, and empower. He can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/solospeaks