Dorthea Thomas educating audience about the roles of policy-making for environmental and climate justice.

Black Men and Boys Matter (Cities United)


Every single day in America, news channels report tragic deaths. The back pages of newspapers boil entire lives down to just several paragraphs. Burial grounds are assigned and names are forgotten — only those who loved them most remember these fallen souls.

Black men are disproportionately dying and being murdered not in some faraway land, but practically in our own backyards. They are our sons, fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins, and as evidenced by Trayvon Martin, they are being used for target practice on our city streets.

As a result of this unfortunate reality, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu launched Cities United in October 2011, partnering with now 56 member cities  and mayors. Cities United goal is to place black males at the center of city agendas to help reduce both the victim rates for black males and decrease the likelihood that someone may become a perpetrator.

According to the Special Report on Black Victims of Violent Crimes published in 2007 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, black victims accounted for nearly half of all homicides, despite only accounting for 13 percent of the US population. Even more telling, 85 percent of black homicide victims were males, 51 percent of whom ranged in age between 17 and 19 years old.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for black males between the ages of 15 and 25 years old. The rate of deaths for African American males could be compared to the number of men and women we lose during times of war.

This is an extremely troubling problem that we have on our hands — a problem that is only mentioned behind closed doors and is often just used for political talking points. Yet, with the murders of these young men continuing to rise each year in cities across the country, there is no real solution in sight. The United States Justice Department estimates that one of every 21 black men can expect to be murdered, a death rate double to what US WWII soldiers faced.

Since the launch of Cites United, efforts have been implemented to help mayors across the country promote and inform the national dialogue. Just last month,  both Mayor Michael Nutter and Mayor Landrieu kicked off a two-day inaugural convening with representatives of 37 U.S. cities/municipalities, youth advocates, educators, foundations (National League of Cities, Casey Family Programs) and federal partners.

As a co-chair for Cities United Youth Engagement sub-committee, I was honored to stand with Mayors who understand the need to collaborate and create sustainable solutions-aimed at reducing violence and creating opportunity for African-American men and boys.

But there is still so much work to be done because death should never be the price tag for being a black male in America.

More information? Cities United 

Jamira Burley is a Philadelphia government executive , working to create platforms of enagement for policy makers and youth. In addition she consults on a number of issues including, global education, youth violence, gun violence, corporate responsibility, youth engagement and black male achievement.

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