Being a young African-American man in Louisville is no different than in other large American cities—there are barriers, said 26-year-old Lance Newman.
“It’s interesting how you leap over or get caught behind those barriers,” Newman said.
Efforts to break down those barriers are the focus of a new initiative Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced this week.
The National League of Cities will work with Louisville city leaders to advance policies and agendas that affect African-American men, said Leon Andrews, a senior fellow of youth development and community wellness with the National League of Cities.
This is not about starting programs, Andrews said.
“That’s not the starting point,” he said.
The initiative is about developing strategies that improve access to education, create jobs, strengthen families and reduce violence and violent deaths, Andrews said.
“The outcome of all of this is a city where the potential of everybody flourishes and comes alive every day,” Fischer said.
The National League of Cities will partner with city leaders for two years, Andrews said. The group will provide technical assistance and support to Louisville and 10 other cities from the organization’s Washington, D.C., based headquarters, with occasional city site visits. No direct funding will come with the initiative, he said.
But he said the technical assistance the organization offers to cities will help provide for an economically and emotionally profitable future by leveraging the participation level cities can have in national initiatives. Those include the My Brother’s Keeper initiative—which will look to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color.
“Louisville is well positioned as a city to participate in My Brother’s Keeper efforts,” Andrews said.
A certain level of commitment had to be exhibited by cities to be involved in the initiative, and levels of engagement must already by positive before cities can take part in the initiative, Andrews said. Andrews said Louisville Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott’s efforts to advance the “Ban the Box” initiative and raise the city’s minimum wage.
Scott said when “Ban the Box” and similar policies are pushed approved, it sends the message to young black men that “we want you to have a chance.”
“The city is taking on a lot of the policy issues already,” Andrews said.
Andrews said the initiative’s effectiveness will depend on the city’s involvement.
“It’s kind of like, how far can they go in taking specific steps to improving outcomes for black men and boys,” he said.
Lance Newman said he believes the initiative will lead to steps in the right direction. But it will take time.
“If the work keeps up and if the dedication keeps up, it will all transgress into something good,” he said.