I was shocked when I read statistics revealing that in today’s world black boys are still facing tremendous racial and financial disparities. What is more alarming is the fact that these statistics are worse than they were fifty years ago.

How did we fail our youth? With so many affluent and educated black men, how could this be true? Were the works of Dr. Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall all in vain? How can I make sure that black boys don’t get lost in the disparities of life?

These questions racked my brain as I dug deeper into a study led by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau. The study found that the income inequality between black and white males is surprisingly prevalent today.

In fact, in 99 percent of neighborhoods in the United States, black boys earn less in adulthood than white boys who grow up in families with similar incomes. These statistics are alarming, daunting and disheartening.

I had to ask myself: What can I do to help reduce the black-white gap? I quickly realized that I must continue to position myself in the communities we serve on a daily basis.

I must continue to be a part of schools within the communities. I must bring in community leaders, volunteers and influencers to help increase the upward mobility for black Americans, especially black men.

Specifically, we need more mentoring relationships with black male role models. Why?

Data shows that 66 percent of black children living in high-poverty neighborhoods have fewer fathers present than their white counterparts. I am a believer that improving this statistic will help solve a large percentage of the problem.

When black men are positively involved in schools and in their communities, the lives of young men in those areas are forever changed.

Personally, I have taken the lead in speaking to boys at Brown Middle School and Riverdale High School in the metro Atlanta area. When I spoke to these boys, I saw the tenacity and fervor in their eyes.

As I shared my life story, I gave them a sense of hope. My goal was to make one thing crystal clear: You don’t have to let statistics or zip codes define how great you will be in life.Meaningful conversations are only one piece of the puzzle.

It is also necessary to do more showing than telling. Through Communities In Schools of Atlanta, I’ve been able to give kids real-life experiences to broaden their outlook on life. During the 2017-2018 school year, we took kids across the country.

They’ve been to our nation’s capital and New York City. They’ve met with political figures such as former First Lady Michelle Obama, Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal, U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph Alles and Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim.

They’ve also met with influencers like CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell, CNN political commentator Angela Rye, The Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank and Grammy award-winning artist and entrepreneur Kandi Burruss.

The time is now and the problem can be fixed. We simply can’t fail our youth. The success of black boys depends on how well we prepare them for life.

No longer can we assume that they’ll be okay just because it’s a new generation. I want others to join me in making sure we dispel ongoing cycles of generational disadvantages.

Become a mentor, be a role model and get involved in schools.

Frank Brown, Esq. serves as the CEO of Communities In Schools of Atlanta, an organization that has a mission to “surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.”

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