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Program is seeking black adult males as classroom models


Black males are suspended or expelled from school at a much higher rate than their white counterparts. Black males score significantly lower on tests than their white counterparts. Black males are jailed at a higher rate than their white counterparts.

An Annapolis community organization says the overwhelming statistics have become repetitive and it is time to start looking at solutions.

"This is probably one of the most important community meetings we will be having prior to school opening," Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden told members of The Bibleway Community Outreach Program Wednesday night. "We've heard a lot of statistics. We've heard a lot about the problems. But we have not heard a lot of solutions. I wholeheartedly endorse looking at alternatives to save our youths."

About 50 members of the outreach program gathered at Asbury United Methodist Church Wednesday night to listen to Spencer Holland, creator of Project 2000, which brings male volunteers to classrooms as teaching assistants and role models for young boys.

Denise Rivers, project coordinator for the outreach program, said the group is seeking male volunteers in hopes of bringing Project 2000 to Annapolis schools.

At least one county school board member supports the concept.

"In our city and in our school system, we have all the challenges of a Baltimore City," board President Vincent O. Leggett said. "I pledge my support to this organization and this proposition of ways of looking at alternative ways of educating."

Mr. Holland, director of the Center for the Study of Educating African-American Males at Morgan State University, told the group it is time for blacks to take back the responsibility of educating their own children.

"When we talk about African-American male children, we have not educated them," Mr. Holland said. "And when I say we, I mean we black folks. It is not incumbent upon white folks to be about the business of raising our children."

In devising Project 2000, Mr. Holland said he had to identify areas in which boys were already successful. Sports and gangs were the two areas, he said.

Mr. Holland said he looked at why boys were successful in sports and gangs. He said he realized both were run by men, the rules were made by men, and if the rules were broken, the discipline was enforced by men.

Mr. Holland said he is not saying women or whites cannot teach black boys. However, he said many boys now are being raised in female-headed households, being taught by female teachers and disciplined by female principals.

In addition, women will allow little boys to get away with things a man would not. Boys realize that, he said.

"Our boys begin to fail as early as the first grade," Mr. Holland said. "It's not because they cannot do the work. It's because they won't. There's nothing wrong with these boys. Most school systems have too many boys in special [education]. And they're in there because of their behavior. There's nothing wrong with them."

Since boys begin to fail and lose interest in education in elementary school, it is doubly important they see positive role models in the classroom during those first years, Mr. Holland said. Men, however, sometimes fell uncomfortable around small children, he added.

"All you have to do is love a child, and they'll do anything in the world for you," Mr. Holland said.

"We as African-American men have got to show our children we have this ability [to love.] We must take our bodies and put our bodies out there so they can touch us.

"If black men don't go back into their communities and help these single women raise these children, nothing is going to change," he added. "The backbone of our society has been our moms, our sisters. Now, it's our turn."

The Bibleway Community Outreach Project will hold a meeting at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16 for those interested in starting a Project 2000 program in Annapolis-area schools. The meeting is set for the Asbury United Methodist Church, 87 West St.

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