District leaders in the government and private sector have recently ramped up efforts to identify strategies for and solutions to the hurdles and problems faced by an increasing number of Black men in the city.
Organizations including The Alliance of Concerned Men and The 100 Fathers Inc., as well as those fraternal in composition have worked throughout the years in the District to help troubled Black boys and men.
But more must be done, said D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), while speaking to a gathering on Aug. 27. He said the city’s rise in homicides in recent years has been fueled by gun violence and serves as an indicator that efforts must continue to be pursued to help Black males, particularly youth, navigate their way through the city without resorting to violence.
“Too many young people have guns,” McDuffie said. “Guns don’t shoot themselves. Too many of our young people have learned to resolve disputes, mainly petty disputes, with gun violence. Dealing with the gun violence is traumatic – the trauma is real. Solutions such as giving people a second chance at a productive life and rehabilitation must be offered to people who have gone astray.”
The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) examined the numbers for homicides and nonfatal shootings in the District in 2019 and 2020, according to a WTOP report on Feb. 22.
The NICJR reported that “most gun violence is tightly concentrated on a small number of very high-risk young Black male adults that share a common set or risk factors.”
Additionally, more than 90% of victims and suspects in the city consisted of males with 96% African American. A Feb. 17 article published by the Georgetown Journal of Law & Modern Critical Race Perspectives, “True Justice: The Disturbing Truth About Incarceration in D.C.,” revealed that while Blacks made up 44% of the District’s population in 2019, according to date from the American Community Survey, the District jail’s population for Black males stood at 87.4%.
Salim Adofo, chairman of the 8C advisory neighborhood commission, addressed the many problems some District males continue to face during a “Black Men’s Action Summit,” held on Aug. 27 at the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center in Ward 8.
Adofo, who also serves on the Mayor’s Commission on African American Affairs, said community involvement in aiding struggling Black males has become crucial.
“We should be in those places where decisions are made about our community,” he said. “If we aren’t there, somebody else will make those decisions for us.”
Lamont Carey, director of the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizens Affairs, said his agency helps residents who have been previously incarcerated. He said his office helps returning citizens – 95% Black and 96% male according to the federal Bureau of Prisons – by offering chrome books and free cab ride vouchers to help them find employment and other activities as they began to manage their lives.
“If anyone you know has just been released from being locked up, come to my office,” Carey said. “My team will help them.”
Metropolitan Police Department Officer Ernest Landers said he could have easily become engaged in criminal activity as a youth.
“I grew up with family in the streets but I took a different path,” Landers said. “I decided to become a police officer so I could give back to my community.”
Landers said Black men shouldn’t fear police officers, saying engagement should take place between both groups.
“Being a police officer is not about just locking people up,” he said. “People should understand that they can talk to us.”
Muslim leader Muhammad Abdul Malik said the time has come for Black males to lead their families and communities.
“You are not just a man biologically,” he said. “A man is a protector of himself and his family. The majority of the problem with Black males lies with men. Men aren’t doing their jobs. Our women are stressed out because they have to be mom and dad for their children.”
Adofo proposed a wide array of programs to help Black males in the city including nature retreats, a pre-college initiative in concert with the District chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, after-school tutoring sessions, a book club and information sessions on topics including how to change a tire.