The racial disparity in Charlottesville's juvenile justice system has people trying to figure out - who's responsible, and how do we fix it? One African-American group hopes a new initiative will help.
A meeting held Friday was an open call for African-American men to come and get involved with a new initiative called Black Male Achievement. The goal of the initiative, launched by a group called the Black Male Alliance, is to help young black men succeed.
"We believe through policy and systems change we'll be able to remedy some of these inequities and improve the outcomes for black males,” said Marc Philpart, an initiative leader and associate director of PolicyLink.
The inequities he’s referring to were highlighted in a task force's report of a significant racial disparity among black and white youth in the juvenile justice system. Now, the Black Male Achievement initiative hopes to help.
"So if we are able to target specific segments of the population that aren't doing so well, and bring them up and bring them along, I think that will benefit all of our residents,” Philpart said.
Friday marked the beginning of two mentorship programs: Young Lions for high school males and My Brother's Keeper for men ages 18 to 25.
"This will have to be a community effort - not one department, not one nonprofit, not one faith-based organization - to be able to do what needs to be done so we're all going to have to come together,” said David Ellis, assistant city manager and city liaison for the Black Male Alliance.
But in the end, it's all about making sure each individual has a success story to tell.
"Success is relative for everyone. For one male it may be just going to get HVAC certification, for another male it may be getting a degree from a college, for another it may be getting a doctoral degree,” said Wes Bellamy, a member of the steering committee for the Black Male Alliance. “Success is relative and we're going to allow the young men to define what success is for them.”
The initiative’s organizers are hoping to bring mentorships, internships and positive energy to Charlottesville.