Thousands of young men from the city of Newark descended on the Prudential center earlier this week for the pathways to success summit. Mayor Ras Baraka in partnership with the my brothers keeper initiative and prudential hosted the summit that provided mentorship opportunities, social services, on the spot hiring but the real goal of the summit was to change the paths of the city’s most disenfranchised and underserved demographic, young black men.
“A lot of us young black males we don’t have a lot of things to look up to.”
17-year-old Jason Deleon is a recent graduate of New Jersey Youth Challenge Academy. Deleon, who plans on attending Essex County College in the fall, says he’s seen many of his peers struggle with gang violence and drugs and says events like this show that the community actually cares about their futures.
“We think there’s nobody that really cares for us or that they don’t hear us about our struggles, but the fact that we see, yeah there’s a lot of people (here) actually trying to help us out, giving us free haircuts, free clothes, and all this stuff , it helps us to keep going with ourselves.”
While the summit provided on the spot hiring by companies like Prudential, Whole Foods, Audible, and Starbucks, it was what many would call the little things that clearly made the biggest impact, things most take for granted. Tyrone Daye is a senior aide to Mayor Ras Baraka.
“I was actually over there at the tie bar and a young man just came to me and was asking for a tie and his social worker was crying, because this is the first tie he’s ever put on, so we’re actually just trying to turn these dreams into reality. We’re hoping they get a lot of networking, professional development with this, and in addition to that hopefully we can find them careers, help them with college applications, but the main thing is to hopefully get a mentor from one of us.”
Daye, a Newark native, says many of these young men come from broken homes and often turn to the streets for guidance that they don’t get from home.
“It’s a reach one teach one process, you got to remember, you have to show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. I never had mentors before, so the fact that I lived that life, and I’m able to come back and service the same community I came from, that’s all its about.”
The statistics surrounding African American males is startling, According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime, and According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juveniles are only about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.
Mayor Ras Baraka says these statistics are something that he is faced with on a daily basis in the City of Newark, making it an issue that is close to his heart. Baraka says he wants young black men in his city to know they have an entire eco-system built around them for the sole purpose of empowerment, Baraka shared one such story.
“I ran into a young man who was homeless, very young individual just came home from incarceration from about 4 months and was sleeping on the streets on 18th Avenue in Nat Turner Park. His mother found him, gave him a shirt and a tie, and brought him over to Prudential arena, and he left there with a lot of contacts and employment.”
18-year-old Malik Stewart attends Newark’s Eagle Academy. Stewart says having the support of an entire community makes a huge difference, but Stewart says the biggest change has to com from within.
“The Mayor is pushing the young men but also as young men we have to want it for ourselves, not only for our Mayor to want it for us, but we have to want it for ourselves. We have to get on grind and get on our feet and try push ourselves to be better, to do better, and to want better not only for ourselves, but for our schools, our community, and our family.”