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Stronger families, more educational programs needed, say Black Expo attendees.
July 24, 2005

Earlier this month, an estimated 300,000 people from around the country met at Indiana Black Expo to celebrate the accomplishments of African-Americans.

During the event, Expo released a report produced by the Indiana Youth Institute that showed Indiana's black youth continue to be more at risk of failure than white youth.

The study, based on data from federal, state and local sources, found low birth weights, a high number of single-parent families and high school dropout and incarceration rates as significant problems within the black community.

Y-Press interviewed teens attending the Black Expo Youth Summit to find out what they feel are the most important issues affecting their communities. Most agreed black children need strong families, a well-rounded education and extracurricular support to succeed in life.

Mikel Williams, 16, Plainfield, is most concerned about AIDS.

"It seems like more African-Americans are having AIDS. We can change it by doing more outreach programs and basically going out, ministering to different people, (have more) sex education in primarily black schools."

Rachel Harris, 16, Indianapolis, says teen pregnancy, drug use and sexually transmitted diseases are big problems in her community.

"I think these things happen because maybe kids have no role models or nobody to look up to, or maybe they grew up on the streets. That's all they know -- babies, sex and drugs. I know people who are struggling with families, but that doesn't mean that you have to become a part of it. You can get yourself out of that.

"I think STDs are a big problem because a lot of kids get caught up in sex. I know a lot of teenagers who don't know anything about STDs and stuff. I think they just want sex for the pleasure, and they don't look at the consequences.

"We should have more youth centers for kids to go to."

Monika McGee, 16, Indianapolis, believes teen pregnancy is the biggest issue.

"I think it's a problem in the community because of parenting and home training. Parents aren't parents like they used to be; everybody's parents aren't there. Aunties, uncles and grandparents aren't doing what needs to be done. Kids aren't supervised. A lot of kids have too much time to themselves.

"They need to have a lot more free youth programs to get people off the street and to educate them about the stuff they are going to encounter. There needs to be some (programs) to show parents how to parent. Parents need to become more involved in school activities."

Crystal Twyman, 17, Indianapolis, Miss Junior Indiana Black Expo winner, says teen pregnancy and school failure rates worry her most.

"I think these problems are so prevalent among the black community because the black community has always been expected to fail. There's always been stereotypes of us never being able to reach the level of the white community.

"I think our black leaders need to come back to the community, help out and fund programs for African-American youth. I would like to see more college prep programs, volunteering programs, things of that nature. We need to have more abstinence education programs, more academic programs.

"We never get to see African-American leaders, and if we see more African-American leaders, we can get a sense of pride."

Aaron Barnes, 15, Kokomo, said the future of black children is compromised when mothers must raise them alone.

"The problem is so big because our households are not strong enough to support the kids after they get out of the house. It's important to have fathers in the house and mothers who can spend time with their kids, so that children can have that strong background to keep them stable out in the world.

"It needs to be instilled in our fathers of tomorrow that they need to stick with their kids. If black men are around and they have their families in order, then everybody else is going to see that and everybody else is going to fall into order.

"I heard somewhere that the graduation rate of black males is 26 percent -- that's one in four, and that's not good. Overall it's like 68 percent, and that's mostly white people. Without knowledge, you cannot do anything."

Paul Browning, 19, Fort Wayne, would like to see more alternative activities for youth.

"I don't think there's enough clubs, organizations to get kids off the streets. In the last three, four, five years, there's been higher incarcerations, more kids getting in trouble at school and little kids shooting little kids. There's a lot of gang violence going on. Where I'm from, all you see is shooting every day.

"Most kids learn from the streets. Families need to talk more to each other and tell (kids) what's going on. They're not aware of STDs, AIDS; they just don't know about it."

Deontae Vaughn, 19, Anderson, believes children suffer when they don't have two parents.

"It starts off with the parents in the home. They're being raised with no daddies and no mommas. Get the parents straight and they'll get us straight. Once they get us right, then our kids will be right.

"(Biggest single problem is) black-on-black crime. We just need to solve it somehow. I don't really know how to."

Kevona Sargent, 16, Indianapolis, blames peer pressure for many problems in black communities.

"Peer pressure: That is No. 1, especially for, like, kids 16 to 18. Everybody wants to fit in. If you're not going to be a leader, then you're going to be a follower. You just want to do what somebody else is doing.

"Black people are more gullible to things. They'll do anything to fit in: peer pressure, friends, the media, advertisements, rappers, they just want to be somebody. So they feel like if they do all these things, then they'll be popular.

"Like the VOICE, the group that I'm in, (we're) trying to get kids to do better things. We're like a youth media, trying to help out the young community. We target kids not to smoke, be against the tobacco industry.

"No one is complimenting these kids, no one is helping these kids out, people just bring them down. They think they're nothing."

Dynesha Harris, 16, Indianapolis, thinks youth are apathetic.

"Teens and youth these days, some really don't care. I think it's their background and what they go through and school, too.

"(If) someone has a program that would be real fun that people would be really interested to go to, I think, (it) would reach out to a lot of people."

Justin Williams, 15, Indianapolis, believes peers have the greatest influence.

"For the Indiana black youth, I think it's mostly peer pressure, things out there that would distract them from going the right way, doing the right things. So I guess peer pressure and temptation."

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