State hearing held in interest of male minority youth

January 20, 2012 6:56:31 PM PST
How to improve the lives of young male minorities was the focus of a state Assembly hearing in Oakland Friday afternoon where local youth, community leaders and state legislators gathered.

The Assembly's select committee on the status of boys and men of color held the afternoon meeting in an ongoing effort to drive statewide policy impacting young men of color, according to meeting organizers.

The meeting -- the second in a series launched by Assembly Speaker John Perez -- was backed by research from the California Endowment, which finds that Latino and black boys and young men face more health problems than their white counterparts.

That research also shows that investing in young men of color through California education, health, employment and juvenile justice programs can reap major financial rewards for the state, according to Leslie Lipsick, a spokeswoman for the meeting.

Assemblymembers heard from more than a dozen local school, law enforcement and social leaders, including a handful of youth, about local programs that are improving the lives of young men of color and bettering their communities.

One such local program is the EMS Corps, a group of qualified male minorities aged 18 to 24 who received subsidized training and emergency medical technician jobs, said Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Alex Briscoe.

Briscoe testified at the hearing about the value of the program and others like it, and planned to introduce several of the EMS Corps members, most of whom have lived through foster care and the juvenile justice system.

"Young people don't have real, substantive opportunities, and the public sector has huge purchasing power to create opportunities," Briscoe said. "Our point here is that young men and boys of color want to do real work, but they have to be carefully ... trained and offered those opportunities to succeed, and the public sector can't shirk from that."

Also set to speak was Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Tony Smith, who earlier in the school year created a district-wide Office of African-American Male Achievement to help close performance gaps between black male students and their peers, district spokesman Troy Flint said.

"The director of that office has been given ... a high level of autonomy to research what has worked in other cities to develop Oakland-centric solutions to improve the performance of black males," Flint said.

The hearing was scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the first-floor auditorium of the state office building located at 1515 Clay St. in Oakland.