Russel Simmons Wants the President to Pay Attention to People of Color

In an open letter to President Obama, music and business mogul Russell Simmons implores the President to help people of color who are failing in this nation. Simmons notes that while this letter is about people of color, these are not solely issues of race, but rather about helping form a new America, where all people are valued equally.

First, Simmons lays out the problem:

Mr. President, I am concerned that there are some people in Washington who will not let you protect our communities. We know it is very difficult to speak up about these issues without getting attacked by those right wing critics in Congress. But, I have spoken to thousands of ordinary Americans and I have heard stories that have challenged us to do more. When 50 people are shot in Chicago every weekend during the summertime, that’s a black problem. When black men are unemployed in some cities at rates above 40 percent, we are in trouble. When 74 percent of African-American boys do not graduate from high school in New York City, they aren’t just failing out, we are failing them. We know that if these epidemics were happening in White neighborhoods, it would be declared a national emergency. Instead, this has become the status-quo for our communities

And after further explanation, Simmons offers a detailed list of the first steps that can be taken to help ease the problem:

After listening to people’s stories from across this country, this is what I have learned we need to do in order to re-build our families, our communities, our companies and our neighborhoods.

1. End the “War on Drugs.” For the past forty years, we have unsuccessfully waged a war against our own people, creating a “baby to prison” pipeline that has annihilated the working population of young black and brown men. Through the use of archaic and unjust laws, we have been able to warehouse millions of prisoners, many of whom were first-time, non-violent offenders. The solution to our drug problem is not imprisoning more people, it is rehabilitation, fair laws and drug courts.

2. Continue the viscous assault on the eradication of poverty. Levels of poverty have hit an all-time high during this recession, however we have solutions that can bring these numbers down. We should continue to innovate programs for the most vulnerable, including job-training (technical skills), fatherhood classes, healthcare prevention, teen-pregnancy prevention, after-school activities (including arts and sports) and more access to healthier foods.

3. Build the best and affordable education system in the world. Your understanding of education as a path out of poverty has resonated with millions of families in this country. Your protection of Pell grants, promotion of community colleges and the “race to the top” initiative have been some of your greatest accomplishments in your first term. The 2020 goal of America having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world is attainable and we should keep fighting to reach it.

Simmons’ open letter on HuffPo is a well-reasoned, but personal appeal. Do you think the President will listen?

How can we, as a society, help further these goals?

Do you think Simmons is right on with these suggestions?

Read the full article on The Black Blog at The Huffington Post.



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