The Mayor’s Commission on African American Males released its annual March report examining persistent problems facing African-American men and boys in Philadelphia.
“Our collective efforts to bring greater results of impact for Black men and boys,” depends on diligent collaboration and advocacy, Mayor Jim Kenney said about the report, released Friday. “By working together we can uplift and amplify the voices of Black men and boys. We will move our great city forward.”
The study examines issues facing Black males in the areas of education; health and wellness; business, crime, incarceration and social justice. Findings of the report were shared between local government agencies. The problems are real and expansive.
The younger students are struggling in Philadelphia classrooms. Education-related statistics show that the high school graduation rate dropped 12% by 2020 to 72% from 84% in 2018. Black male students with individualized education programs (IEPs), for behavior issues or disabilities, has risen 25% in the School District of Philadelphia since 2018, according to the commission.
African-American youth lag behind all others in math and science at every grade level, and later, in their careers. Less than one-tenth of African-American students (9.3%) in the school district take Advanced Placement courses, compared to 22.1% of their white counterparts.
Twenty-five percent of African Americans have less than a high school diploma compared to 18% of whites and 11.8% of African Americans possess a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 28.2% of white. Only 13.2% of African-American men in Philadelphia hold a bachelor’s degree, and represent the smallest segment of students enrolled in colleges and universities around the nation.
Health statistics, too, showed, a cause for alarm. African-American men experience poorer general health that any other group and had the lowest life expectancy and the highest death rate in the city, found the commission. African American men in Philadelphia died at a 25% higher rate than other men. Those young men who are ages 15-19 die at a rate two and a half times higher than their white counterparts. Then, there is the impact of crime and violence: More than five times as many African Americans are murdered per 100,000 persons, as whites.
In an old-fashioned doctor’s office way, African Americans suffer f rom HIV 74% more frequently than other groups, diabetes 57% more often and prostate cancer 54% more often. Almost two times as many African-Americans lack health insurance compared to whites. Only 49% of Blacks follow doctors orders and seek treatment for mental health issues and stress management versus 59% of whites.
Economic challenges facing Black men and boys factor in to the equation. Before the pandemic the total number of jobs in the city increased but many were low-wage positions, resulting in a 5% reduction in wages over nearly a decade, according the Pew Charitable Trusts 2020 report, “State of the City.”
Here are the stats: The median income for African-American ($27,000) is about two-thirds that of whites ($42,000.) The annual unemployment rate — nearly 10% — is more than double the rate for whites. Only one in five African-American youth who are out of school has a job compared with three out of five white youths. Black business ownership is just 50% that of whites in Philadelphia. Findings also show that 32% of Blacks live below the poverty-line compared to 16% of whites.
Both victimization and incarceration — rounded at the commission’s list of major concerns for Black males in Philadelphia. More than three-quarters of male homicide victims are African-American males, compared to 22% of white males. African American adults (70%), were arrested for crimes, compared to 29% of whites in Philadelphia. More than 80% of juvenile African Americans were arrested, compared to 17% of juvenile whites in 2006. And of those arrested, 2.8% of Blacks are imprisoned compared to 1.2% of whites. In all, the incarceration rate for Blacks is five times higher than for whites — and for the rate for criminals receiving probation, three times as high.
“This report is an overview of the work of the Mayor’s Commission on African American Males (MCAAM) over three of the most challenging years our society has ever seen,” said Eric Westbrook, director of the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement. “Tasked to navigate their own personal challenges and tragedies, as well as maintain an awareness and sensitivity of how these same difficulties impacted other Black men and boys displays their passionate dedication to justice through policy making.”
Crisis facing too many Black men in Philadelphia in recent years have included COVID-19, mass incarceration and homelessness, according to a review of the recent years included in the study. Additionally, the murders of George Floyd, Walter Wallace, Jr. and Black Lives Matters protests rocked the nation during this time span.
Commission members have met with city leaders including Kenney, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, City Councilmember Curtis Jones and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott-Lovell, the city solicitor and others.
Over the past two years, they have convened several town-hall-style webinars on topics from gun violence to COVID-19, to PPP (paycheck protection program) loans to resources for entrepreneurs.
The Mayor’s Commission on African American Males was the vision of former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Jr. in 1991. The group was revitalized under former Mayor Michael Nutter in 2011 and Kenney reestablished it in 2015.