Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says that young men of color in Detroit, as in other places, lack opportunities to use their talents.
“Clearly, a city like Detroit, which is 83 percent African-American, can’t succeed unless its young people of color succeed,” he wrote on CNN.com.
The challenges blocking their path to success are daunting. As Duggan noted, more than half of Detroit’s young men of color live in poverty. Nearly 40 percent of the city’s Black male students fail to graduate high school. That figure is unsurprising, because only one-third of Black boys are proficient readers in the third grade.
Clearly, the city’s public education system is struggling. The Detroit Free Press reported that Michigan’s Black students rank academically among the worst in the nation, and students in Detroit have a large impact on that grim statistic.
MBK seeks to address stubborn opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color. It promotes an alliance between stakeholders—governments, community nonprofit organizations, and businesses—to create meaningful opportunities.
Duggan said the city’s summer employment program, Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, has created learning and job opportunities. Last year, with the help of the business community and foundations, the city provided 5,600 jobs. This summer, the number of jobs available is approaching 8,000.
The mayor has by no means thrown in the towel on education. “Of course, there is no greater gateway to success than education,” he emphasized.
Detroit Promise, a program that Duggan described as “impactful,” provides two years of free tuition at college for city high school graduates.
Duggan said those are first steps: “Though we have a long way to go to reverse the decades of neglect of our young people of color, we are making progress.”
His other education initiatives focus on reducing chronic absenteeism, suspensions, and expulsions.