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Lawmakers Focus on Helping Young Men of Color

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California legislators gathered in Los Angeles to find ways to improve the lives of young men of color, including reforming school discipline and law enforcement policies.

LOS ANGELES, March 4, 2012 -- Friday, California state legislators gathered in Los Angeles for a third hearing investigating ways to improve the lives of young men of color in the state. Expert testimony focused on multiple areas including establishing commonsense school discipline and law enforcement policies.

"Los Angeles needs its young men. All of them. But today, boys and young men of color face unique and significant barriers to their well being," said Kafi D. Blumenfield, President and CEO of Liberty Hill Foundation. "That's why community leaders in Los Angeles are pioneering approaches to help young men overcome those barriers to lead successful lives."

The California Assembly's Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, which was formed by Speaker John Perez at the request of the committee chair, Assemblymember Sandre Swanson, seeks to harness the promise and lessons from the frontlines of Los Angeles' most successful and innovative policies and programs.

Research conducted by the RAND Corporation, PolicyLink and Drexel University found that African-American and Latino boys and young men are much more likely to experience poor health outcomes than white boys and young men. Most of these differences in health are directly related to the communities where they grow up.

"The future of California is tied to the future of boys and young men of color," said Dr. Robert Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment. "We know that health happens in our neighborhoods and in our schools, therefore we must work together to ensure every one of these boys and young men has the resources to live a long, healthy and productive life."

Investing in young men of color can reap huge dividends for California. According to a 2007 study by the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara, African-American and Latino men graduating high school generate $681,130 and $451,360 more per person in additional dollars for the state than those who do not graduate high school. This is due to increased tax revenue and economic productivity as well as decreased costs associated with poor health or incarceration.

"As underscored in the two previous hearings, the role that place and race play in the long-term health and well-being of boys and men of color in California – and across the nation – cannot be underestimated," said PolicyLink Deputy Director Mary Lee. "Community and system leaders participating in these hearings are unanimous in their efforts to transform California and make the investments needed for this vulnerable population of youth to truly thrive and succeed."

Promising approaches in L.A. have helped inform statewide policy priorities to eliminate obstacles for boys and young men of color. In the last few weeks, empowered high school students exposed a little known policy of pushing students out of school by giving them $250 tickets for being a few minutes late to school. The City Council just voted to change the policy. Young people have also organized to increase access to college prep courses in all L.A. high schools and have created hundreds of school-based Gay Straight Alliances that have reduced harassment and violence faced by young gay men.

"The good news is we know what works. We've led successful campaigns to improve health and education outcomes for boys and young men of color throughout Los Angeles," said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, President and CEO of Community Coalition. "Now we need state policymakers to scale up existing successful programs while identifying and investing in new approaches."

Many organizations who have worked on the issues facing young men of color for years expressed support for the committee and its ability to elevate these issues, including: Brotherhood Crusade, Californians for Justice, Community Coalition, East L.A. YMCA, Gay Straight Alliance, InnerCity Struggle, Khmer Girls and Guys in Action, Labor Community Strategy Center, PolicyLink, Movement Strategy Center, Jemmott Rollins Group and Ideate California. The hearing in Los Angeles is the third in a year-long series of hearings conducted by the California Assembly's Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color. Additional hearings are planned for Fresno, Coachella Valley and Sacramento.

Liberty Hill Foundation, a social justice foundation located in Los Angeles, California, advances movements for social change through a strategic combination of grants, leadership training and alliance building. For 35 years, Liberty Hill has been the first to identify local community leaders at the frontlines of change. Liberty Hill invests in changemakers and equips them with the skills and relationships they need to build power and advance social justice. www.libertyhill.org.

Community Coalition believes people are the engines of social change. They are a leader in smart and effective community organizing. They involve thousands of everyday people in bold action campaigns to change public policy to improve health, education and public safety in South Los Angeles. www.cocosouthla.org.

The Labor/Community Strategy Center is a Think Tank/Act Tank for regional, national and international movement building, founded in 1989 and based in the 10 million-person world city of Los Angeles. Our campaigns, projects, and publications are rooted in working class communities of color, and address the totality of urban life with a particular focus on civil rights, environmental justice, public health, global warming, and the criminal legal system. www.thestrategycenter.org.

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. Headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, The Endowment has regional offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno and San Diego, with program staff working throughout the state. The Endowment challenges the conventional wisdom that medical settings and individual choices are solely responsible for people's health. The Endowment believes that health happens in neighborhoods, schools, and with prevention. www.calendow.org.

SOURCE Liberty Hill Foundation


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