10/09/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Palin, GOP find community challenges a real hoot

At the expense of Barack Obama, community groups and their organizers were a running joke in St. Paul last week at the Republican National Convention.

Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani and much of the rest of the GOP apparently believe that small town mayoring is oh-so-important while community organizing is a real thigh-slapper.
Like much of what goes on among American conservatives, I suspect the marginalizing of the community organizing is just one more coded race reference. And, like much what goes on among the Republicans, George W. Bush and the Palin McCain campaign, it's obvious that this is another topsy-turvy twist on reality.

To assure that the community organizers are removed from the GOP's one-liner lists and moved back into the important things-to-do column, the AfroSpear, a collective of black bloggers across America, has called for a day of blogging in support of community organizing. I'm just one of dozens. This is my contribution.

Small town government, of course, does call for responsibilities. But, like volunteer fire departments, in many small towns, running it is only a part-time job--or should be. Community organizing in Chicago, on the other hand, is a full-time challenge that impacts lives of American citizens by the tens of thousands.
No one knows this to be true more than Phillip Jackson. At one time Jackson was the head of the Chicago Housing Authority. One of the housing projects he was in charge of, Robert Taylor Homes, was where 100,000 of Chicago poorest residents called home. When Jackson left the CHA in the mid-1990s, he founded The Black Star Project, a community group with a daunting task: to improve the quality of life in Black and Latino communities of Chicago and nationwide by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap.

Jackson boasts that just six months ago The Black Star Project successfully spearheaded the Million Father March that "took place in 475 cities with about 600.000 men taking children to school--because of communities organizers in these cities."
If Palin, McCain, Giuliani and the gang think Jackson's mission is a laughing matter, then they've got another think coming. Although he's just one of a countless number of dedicated, patriotic citizens trying to improve the lot of the less fortunate in one great American city, his message is worth exploring.
Here's the latest of what Jackson, a community organizer, has had to say in his latest commentary:

Without High School Diplomas,
Young Black Men in America Are Expendable!

By Phillip Jackson, Executive Director of The Black Star Project

Less than fifty percent of young Black men graduated from high school in the United States during the 2005-2006 school year, according to a new report commissioned by the Schott Foundation for Public Education.

Dropping out of high school sentences young Black males to menial jobs, street-corner hustling, illicit activities, fathering children out of wedlock, drugs, gangs, crime, prison, violence, death and worse - these young Black men are literally being prepared to destroy the Black communities in which they live.

Inability to achieve becomes hopelessness. Hopelessness becomes despair. Despair becomes destruction.

Dropping out of school annihilates the concept of family in the Black community because young Black men without high school degrees seldom become good providers for their families and strong anchors for their communities. The fabric of the Black community becomes unwoven.

This is an unnatural disaster and a national disgrace with little-to-no effective response from the U.S. government or the Black community where this destruction is taking place.

The media and many foundations ignore this problem. The United States responds to catastrophes in China, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Sudan, Georgia and other parts of the world, but the media and our government will not constructively respond to the genocide of young Black men that is happening here in the United States. Young Black men in America have become expendable!

The poor quality of education for young Black men is an impending national catastrophe for the United States with international ramifications. The rest of the world sees the hypocrisy of the "rhetoric of concern" in the United States verses the lack of difference-making action. Why aren't we outraged? Why won't we do something?

Before information on the educational status of Black males in America was available, the question could have been, "Why don't we know this?" Now that we know, the question becomes "Why don't we care?"

Please see the estimated graduation rates for Black males in the lowest 28 districts in the United States with Black male enrollments of 8,000 or more during the 2005-2006 school year versus White male graduation rates in those cities and the 2003-2004 Black male graduation rates:

Black Male Black White Black Male
District Enrollment Male Male Gap 2003-2004

Indianapolis, IN 11,539 19% 19% 0% 21%
Detroit, MI 59,807 20% 17% -3% 31%
Norfolk, VA 12,672 27% 44% 17% 30%
Rochester, NY 11,270 29% 36% 7% 32%
Pinellas County, FL 11,319 30% 50% 20% 21%
Richmond County, GA 12,091 31% 43% 12% 30%
Baltimore City, MD 38,966 31% 37% 6% 31%
Buffalo, NY 10,666 31% 50% 19% 33%
Milwaukee, WI 26,818 32% 46% 14% 34%
New York City, NY 159,555 32% 57% 24% 26%
Chatham County, GA 11,218 32% 42% 10% 25%
Palm Beach County, FL 26,259 33% 60% 26% 29%
Birmingham, AL 14,956 33% 21% -12% 38%
Charleston County, SC 11,489 34% 66% 32% 44%
Dade County, FL 51,188 34% 55% 21% 31%
Atlanta, GA 21,722 34% 58% 24% 35%
Cleveland, OH 20,894 34% 35% 1% 33%
St. Louis, MO 16,705 35% 38% 3% 37%
Memphis, TN 52,720 35% 64% 29% N/A
Clayton County, GA 19,605 36% 26% -10% 33%
Orange County, FL 25,367 37% 58% 21% 27%
Chicago, IL 102,185 37% 62% 25% 35%
Nashville-Davidson Co., TN 17,792 38% 60% 22% N/A
Broward County, FL 52,537 38% 55% 17% 36%
Jackson City, MS 15,736 38% 42% 4% 44%
Minneapolis, MN 8,044 38% 76% 38% N/A
Cincinnati, OH 12,834 38% 49% 11% 25%
Duval County, FL 28,608 38% 55% 17% 26%

Please consider these simple goals that can lead to solutions for fixing the problems of young Black men:

Short term
1) Teach all Black boys to read at grade level by the third grade and to embrace education.
2) Provide strong, positive Black male role models for Black boys.
3) Create a stable home environment for Black boys that includes contact with their fathers.
4) Ensure that Black boys have a strong spiritual base.
5) Control negative media influences on Black boys.
6) Teach Black boys to respect all girls and women.

Long term
1) Invest as much money in educating Black boys as in locking up Black men.
2) Help connect Black boys to a positive vision of them in the future.
3) Create high expectations and help Black boys live into those high expectations.
4) Build a positive peer culture for Black boys.
5) Teach Black boys self-discipline, cultural awareness and racial history.
6) Teach Black boys and the communities in which they live to embrace education and life-long learning.

Let's compare Palin's mayoral goals and accomplishments with Jackson's and then can decide who deserves the last laugh.

Monroe Anderson is an award-winning journalist who penned op-ed columns for both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. Check out his blog at