Sunday, March 26, 2006

Why The Black Men's Gathering Matters

As I prepare myself to participate in the Black Men's Gathering to be held in Greater Boston on April 15-16, I meditate on the mission of the Gathering and the spiritual and historical significance of being a man of African Descent in the Baha'i Faith. The Universal House of Justice, the International Governing Body of the Baha'i Faith had this to say about the Black Men's Gathering:

"...the Gathering is a distinctive activity with a different agenda. It does not concern itself chiefly with race such. It addresses itself to a special situation faced by a minority that has suffered severe social and spiritual afflictions imposed upon it by the majority. The program of the Black Men's Gatherings is unique and exemplary as an avenue for transcending the legacy of anguish, frustration and social pathology that is peculiar to black men in the United states; it urges them towards a fullness of life within the spirit and principles of the Baha'i Revelation."

Why is it important to Baha'is to assist Black men to transcend "the legacy of anguish, frustration and social pathology that is peculiar to black men in the United States"?

Because:¶The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990's. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.

Because:¶Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990's and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison.

Because: ¶In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school and among black dropouts in their late 20's, more are in prison on a given day — 34 percent — than are working — 30 percent.

Because:With the shift from factory jobs, unskilled workers of all races have lost ground, but none more so than blacks. By 2004, 50 percent of black men in their 20's who lacked a college education were jobless, as were 72 percent of high school dropouts.. more than double the rates for white and Hispanic men. (From New York Times article by Eric Eckholm, March 20, 2006. Read entire article here.)

Because: African American men live 7.1 years less than other racial groups.

Because: African American men have higher death rates than women for all leading causes of

Because:They experience disproportionately higher death rates in all the leading causes of death.

Because:40% of African American men die prematurely from cardiovascular disease as compared to 21% of white men.

Because: African American men have a higher incidence and a higher rate of death from oral cancer.

Because:African American men are 5 times more likely to die of HIV/AIDS.

Because: 44% of African American men are considered overweight and 24% are obese.

Because: African American men suffer a higher incidence of diabetes and prostate cancer.

Because: Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in 15-24 year old African American men. Health Statistics from Jerry Kennard

And because, as the Baha’i Writings suggest it is the spiritual destiny of Black people to contribute our “great gifts of mind and heart” to the establishment of a global society, a divine civilization, the Kingdom of God on Earth. We must transcend the legacy of mass incarceration, poor education, poor health, drug addiction, soul crushing poverty and hopelessness afflicting far too many brothers whose latent capacities are needed by all humanity. This is why the Black Men’s Gathering matters.