Throughout history, Blacks have been short-changed in America. Beginning in 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and Confederate slaves were given their freedom, Blacks have been promised unconditional citizenship, equal rights and a share of the American dream.
It is patently obvious that promises and assurances over the years have not resulted in real equality for people of color. This state of affairs has inspired massive protests across the nation in recent months, and has highlighted many areas where Blacks experience bigotry and discrimination.
It is time for real action and less discourse. As our leaders consider how to deal with inequality, they should keep in mind that changes, which affect Blacks, are not things that white politicians, white sociologists and white philanthropists can effectively execute in a vacuum. They must work together with Black leaders in the public and private sectors, successful Black business people, Black entrepreneurs, enlightened Black visionaries and the Black community at large.
An ultimate arrangement must include promises that will be kept by both sides and tangible objectives for both Blacks and whites that result in systemic change. Idle chatter and grandiose speeches about good intentions are not enough. A Black moment has arrived. There has never been a time like the present for Blacks to make true advances.
There are a plethora of issues that must be addressed before equality can become reality for Blacks. Each one must be considered individually no matter how painful they are to discuss. The realities of the Black experience have impeded Black prosperity and must be analyzed and discussed without prejudice or vitriol.
In this essay, a proposal will be presented that should be considered by our leaders, Congress, large corporations and the Black community. It involves several of the important areas that need to be addressed before Black prosperity becomes commonplace. They include education, jobs, work ethic and values.
Really big money is available from corporations in today’s environment. Corporate America has the resources and inclination to accomplish many things for the Black community. But everything begins with education. Throwing money at problems without proper consideration will not solve problems. Black children must be engaged, want to learn, become prosperous and be a catalyst to long-term change for themselves, their families and their communities. Americans of all colors must do everything possible to encourage this to happen.
The key to this strawman proposal for inner city children is to combine high school education with job training and work for pay that effectively assimilates young Blacks into the mainstream workforce. In presenting a proposal, I’ve assumed that a single large corporation, Corp. ABC establishes Academy ABC for rising high school students (9th grade). The number of students will ramp up by 100 each year, so that the Academy will have 400 students after four years.
A typical school day follows. Students are transported by vans and buses provided by Corp. ABC. The children arrive at the Corp. ABC facilities before 7:30 a.m. They are fed breakfast and report to their work areas by 8 a.m. The students earn a salary that exceeds the going minimum wage for their work. The workday ends at 1 p.m., after 45 minutes to eat lunch, which is also provided by Corp. ABC.
The students are then transported to Academy ABC located offsite. There, they attend school and learn the basics that all children should be taught in high school, along with special training. The latter could be trade instruction (such as carpentry, plumbing, firefighting, emergency medicine and even police training) that they agree to study at the beginning of the school year at a work fair.
During their four years, the opportunities will be great. For the most successful students, college would be the next step. Corp. ABC would likely provide scholarships, if necessary. Other students who do not want to attend college may seek permanent employment at Corp. ABC. And others may pursue careers in trades that were offered during their tenure.
Of great importance is for the students to understand that education is a critical element to finding employment that will enable them to support themselves and their families. Also, what will come is awareness that having a paid position necessitates reporting for work every day.
In summary, Corp. ABC and Academy ABC will provide the following to the students:
- A first class education that is at least as competitive with the best charter schools in the country.
- Breakfast and lunch every workday.
- An entry salary.
- Transportation from home to Corp. ABC and Academy ABC (and back home).
- Training for jobs after high school.
- Scholarships for college.
- Possibly full time jobs at Corp. ABC.
Many corporations would hopefully adopt this prototype. If 50 of the largest companies in the country established similar programs, 20,000 students would be hired and 5,000 per year would be available to be hired at the companies that recruited them, a diverse pool of man and woman-power.
In-kind donations could be solicited to help defray some costs for corporations, including technology, supplies and teachers (Teach for America).
Trustees would be recruited from the Black community. They would work with Corp. ABC and Academy ABC to incorporate important social values and character lessons into the program.
Great teachers will make the program a success. Given the financial support of Corp. ABC, the Academy should be able to pay top of the market compensation for not only teachers, but all of the staff. The Academy will be encouraged to recruit non-professional staff from the neighborhood in which the Academy resides.
In conclusion, Black children need incentives to breakaway from the shackles of poverty. Getting educated and finding a job are the necessary first steps in this process. The aforementioned program is a grass roots effort to give young Black children the training and work ethic that will lead to higher paying jobs and job satisfaction. The program outlined herein is a tangible way to foster change in places where education does not play an important role in the lives of young Black Americans.