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Research: "Crisis" For Black Children in NY, US

January 14, 2011

NEW YORK - As New Yorkers prepare to recognize the achievements of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a federal holiday, the vast majority of America's black adults view these as tough or very bad times for black children, and many see poor black youth falling farther behind.

A Hart poll commissioned by the Children's Defense Fund found that seven out of 10 black adults feel black children are experiencing tough times and - compared to a similar poll 16 years ago - the prevailing view is that things have not significantly improved.

Given the state of the economy, limited federal resources should be allocated carefully, Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone says.

"We have a group of Americans who have been struggling to try and get out of poverty for the last 20, 30 years, and the federal resources - I just want to make sure they're spent evenly."

The group says a "toxic cocktail" of poverty, illiteracy, racial disparities, violence and disproportionately high black imprisonment rates is sentencing millions of children to dead-end, powerless lives.

Janet Walerstein of the Child Care Councils of Suffolk County says the new report reminds her of what the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say.

"It just always brings to mind his prediction that poverty will be the cause of the downfall of minorities. Everybody is blaming the schools or the parents, but the real crux is the poverty."

She says child-care providers she works with are trained to be sensitive to the challenges facing poor, disenfranchised black children.

Geoffrey Canada puts part of the blame for problems plaguing black communities on negative cultural influences in some hip-hop entertainment.

"We've let a group of entertainers come up with moral messages that destroy black kids. The kids need to understand that they really are in a crisis and they're going to need to do some things differently. They can't wake up at 17 in jail and then figure out, 'Oh, I shouldn't have listened to that stuff.'"

The poll and other research presented Thursday was overseen by the Black Community Crusade for Children, which says it is recruiting community leaders to action to save the black child and strengthen the black family.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY