Nothing New Under The Sun: Wilkerson established Commission to Study Black Men in 2008
In February of 2008, Senator Dianne Wilkerson established the creation of a state commission to examine the social status of black men in Massachusetts. This commission incorporated a comprehensive plan that earned the support of Prof. Charles Ogletree, Chuck Turner and others, many of whom testified on behalf of the commission at a state hearing. The work of Sen. Wilkerson should be examined and any organizational efforts to study or counteract issues facing Black men & boys should begin locally with an assessment of what was done previously.
Lawmakers urged to create panel to study black males
(Also titled: State urged to study social status of black men)
Team would assess trends, programs
By David Abel Globe Staff / February 14, 2008
Leaders in the black community urged lawmakers at a Beacon Hill hearing yesterday to create a state commission to examine the “social status” of black men in Massachusetts.
They called on lawmakers to pass a bill that would appoint 21 people to study trends among African-American men, assess existing programs for blacks, and propose new ones to benefit black men.
“There are many people in the Commonwealth who are struggling, but I don’t think there’s much debate that there’s a particular segment of our population who is really, really reeling for a host of reasons,” said Senator Dianne Wilkerson
“There are many people in the Commonwealth who are struggling, but I don’t think there’s much debate that there’s a particular segment of our population who is really, really reeling for a host of reasons,” said Senator Dianne Wilkerson, who proposed the bill.
Those who testified before the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities included Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr., Councilor Chuck Turner, and Ron Odom, whose son, 13-year-old Steven, was shot to death in Dorchester in October.
They and others cited statistics that reflect the problems affecting black men in the state: Less than half of black males graduate from high school; blacks account for 26 percent of the state’s prison population, though they account for just 5 percent of the state population; and 34 percent of black men are unemployed, while the state’s overall unemployment rate remains below 5 percent.
Not all black leaders saw the value of such a commission.
“I think there are better ways to spend the Commonwealth’s money,” Leonard C. Alkins, president emeritus of the NAACP in Boston, said in a phone interview. “Why do you need a commission to study black men? If you want to deal with inequities, fine. But I think it’s a waste of taxpayer’s money. I think we have far too many pressing issues that this money could be used for.”