African-American men in their early 30s have been found to be twice as likely to have prison records than bachelor degrees. It has also been found that only three out of 100 Black students who enter kindergarten will graduate from college.

These were some of the many startling facts presented at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh State of Black Pittsburgh Nov. 6. In this year’s address, given by President and CEO Esther Bush, the scope was narrowed to focus on the state of Black men in Pittsburgh.

Q & A—From left: Roland Martin and panelists James Harrell, Esther Bush, Tony Mitchell, Larry Hailsham and Wendell Freeland answer questions from the audience.

“We need more doctors and fewer caskets, more lawyers and fewer criminals more educators and less dropouts,” Bush said. “Today we all must work together to restore Black men to their rightful place of dignity in our society.”

Throughout her speech, Bush used many statistics to highlight the dire state of Black men in the areas of employment and education. She also focused on high incarceration rates and the absence of Black men in many families.


“It is extremely disheartening to know that by the age of 15 only one out of every three young African-American boys will be moving toward success,” Bush said. “The other two will most likely be locked up or on their way to becoming a high school dropout headed towards an uncertain and often times dangerous future.”

In order to combat these statistics Bush offered information on several Urban League programs that work to help Black men in the Pittsburgh area. These include the Urban Youth Empowerment Program that provides employment to “high risk” youths ages 18-21 and the Duquesne Community Mobilization Project that helps prevent youth violence in Duquesne.

Another Urban League program is the Black Male Leadership Development Institute that gives local African-American high school students the opportunity to spend a week at Robert Morris University.

“Although we will continue to improve on the success of our leadership development institute, it still pains me to feel that more and more, year after year, that although our reach is slightly longer, the problems are getting drastically bigger,” Bush said.

Despite the many negative facts presented about Black men, Bush also took time to point out several accomplishments throughout the years. Among them were the rise of prominent figures such as President Barack Obama and Gen. Colin Powell.

Bush also provided a description of the virtues of her father who she said is largely responsible for the person she is today. She said this image of Black men must be reclaimed.

“Unfortunately too many of today’s Black fathers have forgotten or maybe never even learned the lessons of the men who went before them,” Bush said. “These were men who expected our best in education citizenship and faith. We know what real men look like, the problem is too many of our young men do not.”

The town hall meeting also included a brief question and answer period with keynote speaker Roland Martin and panelists James Harrell, Tony Mitchell, Ph.D., Larry Hailsham and Wendell Freeland.

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