Lead Story News West Edition

Youth summit seeks to close the ‘success gap’

LOS ANGELES — A summit to examine the options for closing the educational and opportunity gaps facing young black men was held April 18 at the South L.A. Sports Activity Center.

Patterned after President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, the summit featured Eddie Melton, the chairman of the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males, as keynote speaker.

“We want to make sure that all children are entering school cognitively, mentally and emotionally great,” Melton said.

“Anywhere we see people suffering, we have to help them. This is not a sprint, but a marathon. Grace was not given to the swift, but to those who endure.”

In launching his My Brother’s Keeper initiative in February 2014, President Obama challenged government and businesses to ensure equal opportunities for the nation’s youth by making sure they have the tools needed for success.

The April 18 event served to encourage those in attendance to help improve life outcomes for black youth. Among the speakers was Keith Parker, program director for the city’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development Program at Community Build.

“As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another,” Parker said. “It’s not just about who the players are — it’s how you work the system.”

Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Compton, offered encouraging words to the young black males in attendance.

“How many of you know that being ‘cool’ is sometimes not cool?” he asked. “Being cool is getting good grades. Being cool is graduating. Being cool is being worth something.”

Many of the high school students in attendance said they were inspired by what they heard.

“I think it’s good that they care about the black community so much,” one said. “I’m glad someone is actually trying to help us as a race.”

Parker said this is the first summit and that he hopes to hold one every three months.

“The objective is to come up with some solutions and goals that the community can implement to help men of color close the educational gap,” Parker said.

The summits have many of the same goals of the president’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which is “to make sure that we’re reaching young people who sometimes don’t have the kind of opportunities that we want every American child to have,” Obama said when he launched the program.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-South Los Angeles, said the nation is in a crisis and that young people — particularly young blacks — need help.

“I am unapologetic when it comes to saving our young boys,” he said.