Category Archives: Minority Issues

EMPOWER’D

Showcasing Musical Performances, Dance, Spoken Word, and MORE!!!

Featuring Special Guest Appearances and Performances from Dance Theater of Harlem, and many MORE!!!

FRIDAY DECEMBER 2ND, 2011

7:00PM – 10:00PM
ARONOW THEATER
The City College of New York
160 Convent Avenue (@136th Street)
New York, NY 10031

Tickets: FREE Admission | $25 VIP Seats- CLICK To BUY
Donations are Highly Encouraged and Appreciated

For Group RSVP, Please contact Re:LIFE Inc @ 347.450.1201 or email relife@relifeinc.org

Theme
The Theme of the EMPOWER’D Event is ‘Empowerment Through The Arts, Education and Entrepreneurship’, and as such will feature performances in the Arts, as well the impact of Entrepreneurship on youth. There will also be the sales/silent auction of highly coveted autographed items like an autographed Mohammed Ali Lithograph, a Paul McCartney autographed album, BB King and U2 autographed guitars and MORE!!!

Purpose
The purpose of the event is four fold:
1. To draw attention to the problems of youth disconnection, youth poverty, educational disadvantage and opportunity divide
2. To raise funds to starts tackling these problems through Re:LIFE Inc’s programs
3. To increase visibility for Re:LIFE Inc and its programs in our community and New York City as a whole, so that the people who need its services have access to them
4. To unveil our new campaign called ‘The $1 Change Project’.

Advertise: To place an ad in the playbill, please contact Re:LIFE Inc @ 347.450.1206 or email relife@relifeinc.org. Click for  Playbill_Ad_Rates.

Sponsorship: To Sponsor this event or other Re:LIFE Inc events, please contact Re:LIFE Inc @ 347.450.1206 or email relife@relifeinc.org. Click for EMPOWER’D_Sponsorship options.

About Re:LIFE Inc
Re:LIFE Inc is a 501c3 Organization that is dedicated to empowering youth through entrepreneurship and education.  We believe that the positive engagement of the mind is the precursor to achieving excellence. Therefore, in empowering youth both educationally and through entrepreneurship, we don’t just mean through traditional academics, but also through nutrition, fitness, talents, interests, explorations and all that positively empower youth.

For more about Re:LIFE Inc, please visit our website www.relifeinc.org

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Occupied With Inequality

Day 9 Occupy Wall Street September 25 2011 Sha...

While hundreds of people occupy Wall Street, calling on the 99% to stand up against the 1%, inequality has become the new buzzword.  But is income and wealth inequality only a recent issue, unique to a small group of 20-somethings in the 2000’s?  Of course not, economic injustice and inequality of opportunity have plagued the United States, and especially the African-American community, since its founding.  However, a slow-to-thaw recession and diminishing opportunities for work have motivated a different population to mobilize against the economic injustices they are only now beginning to feel.

While incomes have generally risen in the United States in the past decades, incomes for African-Americans have risen at a slower rate than their white counterparts. This income disparity carries into future generations, as parents struggle to provide proper housing, food, healthcare and education for their children.  Hiring discrimination persists as African-Americans tend be chosen less often for the same jobs than do European Americans or Caucasians.  Income inequality then is the cumulative result of a series of factors, that begin with the inability to obtain higher paying jobs and the forced segregation of low-income housing.

Unrelenting income inequality has not been the result of overt, institutionalized oppression or segregation, but rather, is caused by more subtle forces that begin with minor prejudices and take shape in discriminatory lending, redlining, skewed school district lines and many other socioeconomic factors.

As depicted in the chart of median personal income by race and education from the 2006 Census and the graph published by the U.S. Census Bureau on Median Household Income across race, the average incomes of African-Americans are consistently less than white Americans, even at levels of higher education, and decades after the Civil Rights movement.

Race

Median personal income

Overall Median

High school graduate

Some college

Bachelor’s degree or higher

Bachelor’s degree

Masters degree

 Adv.

degrees

White M $40,432 $33,805 $40,427 $61,175 $55,129 $67,903 $77,818
F $26,636 $21,306 $25,190 $40,161 $36,076 $45,555 $56,759
Both $32,919 $27,291 $31,510 $49,879 $43,841 $52,244 $71,184
Black M $30,549 $25,747 $32,758 $46,474 $41,889 $52,488 N/A
F $25,435 $20,366 $25,574 $42,461 $41,263 $45,830 N/A
Both $27,110 $22,328 $27,589 $44,460 $41,565 $47,407 $61,993

Income inequality in the United States is an old story, especially for African-Americans.  So, why organize now?  And who are the occupiers down in Zuccotti Park?

With one tenth of the population unemployed, and far more underemployed, with growing foreclosures, looming personal debt and little promise that change is on the horizon, there is a conviction among many that, perhaps, they have been slighted: enter “The Occupiers”.

Zuccotti Park finds itself teeming with primarily young people, who are primarily white.  They represent a group of people who have grown up believing that a college education, which they obtained without much obstruction, would secure them some financial stability and even a job after graduation.  Feeling duped by society’s promise, they see exorbitant bonuses for CEOs and the big bank bailouts as unjust in the face of their plight.

In many ways, lower Manhattan’s Occupy Wall Street is about the economic injustices that a young population of people has only begun to experience.  Meanwhile, the African-American community has been party to a more pervasive inequality for decades.  The income gap as displayed in the graph above points to the consistent income inequality that African American’s have felt, with no trend suggesting that this gap will soon close.

So it seemed inevitable that an Occupy Harlem would sprout up, as it did on Friday October 28, 2011, at St. Phillip’s Church in Central Harlem.  While the Occupy Harlem borrows from the “blueprint” of Occupy Wall Street grievances, it addresses, more specifically, the historic plight of inequality for African-Americans.  In addition to income inequality and corporate power, Occupy Harlem will bring into dialogue contemporary humanitarian issues in Africa as well as local issues of discrimination such as the “Stop and Frisk” policy that deeply concerns the Harlem community.

Beyond exercising the rights of free speech and organization through Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Harlem, it is imperative to break the cycle of inequality by providing mentoring programs for the inner city’s youth.  Especially important are the programs that work to build entrepreneurial skills among disconnected youth.

As young community members gain a foothold by building their own successful businesses, they foster employment in the community, provide a stable local source of income for community members, and become role models themselves, all the while, working toward bridging the overwhelming inequality gap with which we are so occupied today.

As the occupiers in Zuccotti Park remind us, it is the younger generation that must stand up and demand change, because they are the ones who stand to benefit most from a more just, less impoverished society.  Whether through education, entrepreneurship or social action, the city’s youth must step up and work together to gain their foothold in society!

To learn more about Re:LIFE’s upcoming event in Harlem: Click EMPOWER’D

 
 By Amy Richards
Re:LIFE Inc Writer
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Why The American Public School System Keeps Failing Our Youth

President Bush signing the No Child Left Behin...

Former President GW Bush with members of Congress at the signing of 'No Child Left Behind' Act Image via Wikipedia

In 2007, 17 of the nation’s 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50 percent, with a consistent 1.2 million dropouts every year.  Meanwhile, twenty-five percent of the United States population is functionally illiterate, unable to consult a dictionary, to read signs or follow basic written directions.  Overall, the United States is suffering from a high school dropout rate of about 30 percent each year.  For a nation so esteemed for its multifaceted education provided for all, these rates are shameful.  If there indeed exist such great barriers for success in school, how is it that the United States still claims equality of opportunity?  Spend a day in most any inner-city high school, and you will find the plight of public schools has reached crisis proportions.  New York City Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein, agrees: the public education crisis has become the “greatest domestic issue” Americans face today.

Where public schools suffer, the middle and upper class have the option of sending their children to privately-funded institutions, any one of a variety of boarding schools, charters, academies, prep schools, specialized schools for math and science or Waldorf schools.  These are the schools that have inundated the suburbs outside the largest U.S. cities, so much so that private affluence now goes hand-in-hand with public squalor in the school system.  While private schools have the freedom to develop unique curricula, support their personnel financially, and provide the resources that facilitate an orderly learning environment, public schools are restricted to the whims of government policy decisions, to one central voice, to No Child Left Behind.

Public schools today are subject to a system of zero-tolerance policies, which entails increased suspensions, expulsions and referrals to juvenile justice system, coupled with an “ordering regime”, or standardized one-size-fits-all school policies.  Zero-tolerance is applied to any and all deviant acts at school, lending itself to increased police intervention in the school environment and punishment of children (no matter their psychological or mental functioning level) by mandated sanctions.  In admitting youth to the juvenile justice system for very minor offenses, students miss school work, develop distrust of teachers and administrators, suffer punishments of probation, expulsion and the corresponding emotional trauma, and finally carry the delinquent stigma throughout their school career.  Overwhelmingly, these are the students who eventually drop out, commit crimes and are incarcerated.

Philadelphia provides a perfect case study in inner city education, expelling students at a rate of three hundred per day.  On average, students are about four years behind in reading level in Philadelphia.  Almost half of students drop out between ninth and tenth grade, joining the ever-growing group of “disconnected youth”, youth ages 16-24, who are neither in school nor officially employed.
What has the No Child Left Behind Act, implemented by the Bush administration in 2002, done to make reforms?  Under the act, schools must meet “adequate yearly progress”, which cannot be met if a single student in the school fails federal exams that are given on top of mandatory state exams.  Pressure to meet such standards is applied with the threat of “take over” by the government or complete loss of funding.  In fact, pressure runs so high that public schools are inclined to suspend or expel students who are at risk of failing, in order to ensure that the school meets the requirements.

In fact, Villanova is host to a variety of campus organizations that work with inner-city Philadelphia public school programs.  Villanova students experience similar frustrations about the egregious conditions, the barriers to learning, and the limitations of the No Child Left Behind curricula, which they are forced to tutor.  Nearly every one of these students will admit that the likelihood that his or her “little”, “buddy” or student will never see graduation day is almost certain.  Volunteer Gail Sondermeyer explains the problem: “kids had homework, but they also had these big packets for No Child Left Behind testing…they never really had the chance to do their homework for class, because teachers insisted that the packets always came first.”
Sondermeyer points to a common phenomenon occurring in public schools across the nation, in which teachers are forced to “teach to the test”, and in turn, experience a lessened ability to develop interesting, engaging curricula, due to restrictions and demands to meet for annual tests.  In Philadelphia, students spend an average of three weeks taking these federal exams, while schools are forced to spend excessive administrative funds on test coordinators and proctors.  How much of this spending does the government actually cover?  Less than half.  Public schools, already suffering from financial disability are forced to dig even deeper in their pockets to meet the standards of No Child Left Behind, a program which has not yet proven effective.

The one-size-fits-all approach to standardization encourages education through rote memorization and focuses on testing instead of investing.  In fact, approaches to teaching in public schools have begun to mirror the commonly used, rigorous approaches of penal institutions and even the military.  Teachers, of course, bear the burden of such implementation, and have little room for creativity.  The effects of such methods on teacher burnout are telling: half the teachers hired in inner-city public schools quit within their first five years.  In turn, the most inexperienced teachers are left to deal with the most difficult educational challenges and the most serious problem students.  These are the students who suffer from unbending educational policies, who attempt to learn in an environment where meeting a standard takes precedence over engaging students in the learning process, and where resources are so limited that even reading is made nearly impossible.  Indeed, in 2006, all 50 states failed to meet the benchmark for proficiency.  What is the trajectory for No Child Left Behind?  Are we looking at the beginnings of an end for the entire United States public school system?

Where resources are depleted and attention to school problems diminish annually, the public schools of the inner cities of the United States face a serious dilemma.  Where fewer students have the opportunity to succeed, and more leave high school with an inadequate education, the future generations of the United States will suffer severely from the current public school crisis.  The only promise of our current policies is a growing gap in educational attainment, between public turmoil and private affluence, in which only the privileged will have the opportunity to succeed in school.

 

By
Amy Richards
Re:LIFE Inc Writer

 

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Criminal Justice Inequality in America: The Destruction of the African American Male

Crime has fallen, but incarcerations across the country still soar, making imprisonment for young African American men a fact of life.  As Harvard Sociologist Bruce Western suggests, societal inequalities generally seem to us natural, legitimate or fixed.  Much of the inequality relies on our society’s perception of young African American male high school dropouts as a problematic societal sub-group.  This perception is perhaps the primary obstacle in addressing inequality in the United States: our complacency with it.
Western suggests that we are living in an era of mass imprisonment that has transformed a generation of young black men who make up the mainstay of the permanently disadvantaged population in American society.  The effect of imprisonment on social and economic inequality demands our immediate attention.
Only 0.1% of the population in Western Europe is incarcerated.  In the U.S., about 700 per 100,000 people are in jail, an entire order of magnitude greater than that of Europe’s population.  From the 1920’s through most of 20th century, imprisonment in the U.S. was relatively stable, and comparable Western Europe’s rates today.  However, from the mid-70’s on, the penal system grew stricter and the threshold for imprisonment was lowered: about 7 million people have since been brought under police supervision.
As large as these figures are, the volume of prisoners is not the most telling statistic.  Instead, we must look more closely incarceration rates for particular sub-groups that include race and educational background.  In the past decade, one third of all young black men who were also high school dropouts, were behind bars, a statistic hugely inconsistent with the rest of society.  In 1999, 41 percent of all black male high school dropouts aged 22-30 were in prison or jail.  In fact, prison time is a more common transition stage for young black males today than college.  Nothing distinguishes African Americans from whites like the difference in rates of incarceration (about 8 to 1).

Prison confers an enduring status that causes diminished opportunities for those who are previously incarcerated.  One effect of the overwhelming rate of incarceration on society is increased inequality of opportunities for prisoners when they leave, both in pay and employment in general.  Incarceration may reduce human capital (lost work experience, diminished skills), erode social ties/relationships to legitimate employment and confer a stigma that repels employers (civil disabilities too).  Ex-prisoners are then subject to high risk of unemployment, little prospect for wage growth, day labor, few to no benefits and decreased job security.  The stigma with which a convict is forced to live then subjects him to subsistence “at the margins of the labor market… precarious employment in low-wage jobs”.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is the effect that the incarcerated males have on the next generation, on their children, who grow up without father figures, while their fathers wait in jail.  One third of African American youth born in 1990, have experienced the absence of a father who was incarcerated.  Imprisonment has therefore become a normal event for young black men with little schooling.  By sharpening the lines of social exclusion, mass imprisonment has reduced the extent of American citizenship and produced a profound transformation of American race relations in the post-Civil Rights period.  Through its effects on economic status and mobility (and families too), mass incarceration has become self-sustaining.

An entire group of our population has become entrenched in a cycle of poverty and diminished life opportunities at the hands of the penal system.  By maintaining this unforgiving criminal justice system, we effectively perpetuate the marginalized status of an entire population of young black men, a group of men who would otherwise have the chance to act as role models and breadwinners for families and communities.  By diminishing ex-prisoners’ life opportunities, society maintains an underclass that is unable to gain a foothold through a fair paying job, that would allow them to begin on a prosocial life path.  The United States has, in effect, decided that this group does not deserve access to jobs or the other legitimate means by which they might reenter mainstream society.

While the criminal justice system is founded on the ideal of safety and security, it has a latent function as well.  It acts as a means of social control that generates inequality, while essentially doing away with what many view as a potentially problematic group of idle young, African American males.  When such a huge disparity exists between the actual trends in crime and the soaring incarceration rates, it is obvious that the criminal justice system no longer acts solely in the name of public safety.

*Statistics in this article are based on a 2009 lecture given by Harvard Sociologist Bruce Western at Villanova University

 
By
Amy Richards, BA
Re:LIFE Inc Blogger

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Improving Youth Academic Performance through Sports

People are now beginning to recognize the importance of mental attributes such as confidence, composure, focus, and motivation in the performance of athletes. The possession of these qualities is required for the “mental toughness” necessary for sports aptitude. As a result, finding ways to enhance athletic performance and the acquisition of these traits has become an essential and now emerging career track. Within the field of psychology, a branch has been established to deal strictly with the relationship between sports and mental processes— Sport Psychology is the study of the psychological factors that affect participation and performance in sports. Psychological principles such as positive thinking and goal setting can be applied in sports to help athletes perform better and be well prepared for competition. The participation of youths in sports, therefore, is highly recommended because it builds critical skills they will use on the sports field, in school, and in life.

Athletes which have the qualities of mental toughness have the ability to move on after their mistakes, maintain confidence and composure in the face of adversity, and focus on what is needed to execute each task successfully. Professionals in the field of Sport Psychology aim to increase athletic performance by reducing the psychological effects of poor performance and instilling the mental skill needed to attain peak performance. This is accomplished through mental training. Mental training is about improving one’s attitude and mental skills while understanding the mental barriers that hinder performance. These barriers include high expectations, perfectionism, fear of failure, and lack of emotional control and focus.

Schools are highly recommended to include sports into their curriculums and mandate physical education because this increases mental strength and also active involvement in one’s school. Thus, participation in sports can improve performance in all areas of school. It has been discovered that youths who engage in physical activity five or more times a week are more likely to perform better in math and science than the rest of their peers; participating in sports in high school is related to improved English and math scores; sports participation is associated with lower high school drop-out rates; high school athletes are more likely to have a positive relationship with their schools; and that high school athletes are more likely to attend college.

For years, researchers have known that there is a connection between youth involvement in school sports and success later in life. Sports psychology is a very practical discipline and its application in school systems is widely encouraged.

Sources:
What is Mental Training
Economists Link Athletics to Success in School, Job Markets
Facts About Youth Sports and Educational Outcomes

by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

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Re:LIFE’s ArtLIFE Program: Empowering Youth through Art Education

Du bleu dans vos coeurs....

Image by ImAges ImprObables via Flickr (Un Peu d'amour! means 'a little love')

“Re:LIFE’s programs are all aimed at reinventing today’s youth. Re:LIFE’s programs are determined to educate, equip, encourage, cultivate and motivate youth to become entrepreneurs in diverse fields that will spur economic growth, reduce unemployment, and increase fiscal responsibility in our communities.
The Reengagement Program is Re:LIFE’s Premier endeavor. It is designed to have an entrepreneurial focus, which will come alongside educational, career and leadership preparations in the five different areas of concentration. The Reengagement program spans an intensive 12- 24 month timeline. This time frame is broken down into a Mandatory Intensive 12-month training session, and Voluntary Extensive job placement/ fiscal responsibility session.” – http://www.relifeinc.org/reengagement.html

The Re:LIFE Reengagement Program for disconnected male youth incorporates five concentration areas with each student being assigned to his preferred area of concentration—ArtLIFE, FitLIFE, ServeLIFE, TechLIFE and BizLIFE. Although Re:LIFE Inc is an entrepreneurship-centered program, it acknowledges the necessities of training in other areas, especially as desired by the participant. Those in the Arts, for example, plan and execute a showcase of talents of which potential talent scouts will select candidates they hope to sponsor. Hence, the showcase serves as an audition for the candidates.
Some people do not readily see art as a focus from which one can pursue a career or learn valuable life skills. Unfortunately, some schools which are facing budgets cuts accommodate these changes by decreasing the number of art programs. Yet, the benefits of training and education in the arts can be found in all aspects of life and as such, art education should be preserved.

The arts are an important part of every youth’s education. Similar to English, Math, Science and other core subjects, the Arts also contains challenging subject areas that contain rigorous content and standards of achievement. Making art or simply experiencing it will help youth grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally. It can also be extremely beneficial for economically disadvantaged youth and those who are at risk of not succeeding in school. As stated by Eric Cooper, president of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, “Arts education enables those children from a financially challenged background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment experiences”. Research studies depict a strong correlation between learning in the arts and acquiring the fundamental cognitive skills and capacities used to master other core subjects.
Obviously art education develops creativity within youth. Let’s examine how it builds other aspects of the personality:

Critical Thinking and Communication Skills: Youth who study art are made to interpret and draw conclusions from the material. This fosters critical thinking by encouraging them to think outside the box and expand their mind. They learn to question things by participating in the arts. They also learn to problem solve and convey their thoughts and ideas effectively. Studies have actually shown that exposing youth to art promotes brain activity.

Emotional Development: The practice of art builds self-esteem, discipline, and maturity. For example, “After drawing a sketch, if a child does not like the final outcome, he erases and re-draws certain portions. Thus, he learns “trial and error” through art and uses the same in real life situations.” It also improves observational skills because one learns to take notice of small details and this will allow youth to appreciate even the smallest things in life. Lastly, they are exposed to different ides of beauty and perceptions of the world and thus, they develop a mind more open to the experiences and people they might come across in the future.

Interpersonal Skills: Art allows youth to develop a better understanding of human nature. They learn to see the world from other people’s points of view and as a consequence they are more willing to respect the thoughts and feelings of others.

Not only are the points mentioned above important skills necessary for youth development, they are also attributes any employer would want in an employee. And if one is particularly gifted in a field of art, this can open the door to a lucrative profession in the arts, thus increasing youth innovation and employment.

The subdivisions of Re:LIFE’s ArtLIFE include music, theater, dance, creative writing, painting/mosaic, and interior/exterior design. Youth that choose to participate in this area of concentration undergo basic, intermediate, and advanced training in their particular field and are then allowed to showcase their developed skills and talents. Art is an indispensable subject that would benefit anybody, regardless of artistic inclination.

Sources:
http://www2.ed.gov/teachers/how/tools/initiative/updates/040826.html
http://www.buzzle.com/articles/importance-of-art-education.html
 
by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology
Edited by Chike Ukaegbu

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