This is a guest post by Jerrilyn Black.
The Cities United event took place in Philadephia April 29 – May 1, 2015. (Getty Images)
Cities United, a national partnership to reduce violence and violence-related deaths in the African American male community, held its second annual convening in Philadelphia April 29 – May 1. The second annual convening brought together more than 300 participants representing 43 cities, including mayors, local elected officials, city staff, faith/community representatives and young people. Attendees participated in robust breakout sessions, plenaries and site visits that focused on how they can locally deepen their Cities United efforts. Cities United believes that African American boys matter and are assets to our communities. During the convening, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges reinforced this principle when she stated, “We all thrive when black men thrive.”
The Cities United initiative also acknowledges that African American men and boys are not always treated as community-building partners due to the explicit and implicit biases they experience every day. As a result, the convening provided opportunities for mayors and city teams to explore how African American men and boys are negatively – and, at times, fatally – impacted by structural racism and skewed perceptions of race. This was particularly relevant as the much publicized and tragic deaths of African American men and boys in Baltimore, North Charleston, S.C., Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, N.Y., and Cleveland continued to rest in the hearts and minds of convening attendees.
Mayors and their teams came to the Philadelphia convening ready to not only talk about how African American males are impacted by bias and racism but to also discuss solutions and strategies that support positive outcomes for black men and boys. For example, during the Cities United press conference, Mayor Nutter cited workforce development and job creation for African American men and boys as vital ways to promote black male achievement. Mayors also met with one another on several occasions to discuss program and policy solutions to further the Cities United agendas locally.
Many cities included young African American men as part of their teams, who passionately spoke of their experiences of inequity within their own neighborhoods. These young men, who are staunch leaders in their communities, displayed their commitment to collaborating with city leaders to create more just opportunities for black men and boys. The young men are examples of why it is so important for local elected officials to invest in the safety and well-being of black men and boys.
In a country where homicide is the leading cause of death for black males between ages 15 and 24, the National League of Cities (NLC) is committed to working with the other Cities United principals – Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Casey Family Programs, and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement – to advance the reduction of violence and violence related deaths of African American men and boys. Additionally, through its Race, Equity and Leadership (REAL) initiative, NLC is also dedicated to providing leadership development, resources and tools to elected officials who want to further explore strategies that overcome the impact of racism and implicit /explicit bias on their local systems. For information about Cities United, please visit citiesunited.org.
About the Author: Jerrilyn Black is the Senior Associate for Youth Violence Prevention at NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.