Public apology needed over plight of disadvantaged young Black men – campaigner
A social justice campaigner yesterday said a public apology was needed before disadvantaged young Black men saw an improvement in their lives.
Martha Dismont added that the people of Bermuda had to play their part to tackle the root causes of inequality and violence.
She told a meeting of Hamilton Rotary Club: “No change will really occur at this very late stage without an apology from this community – and I take that on myself.
“It is the community’s responsibility to ensure that children are raised properly.
“Absolutely it is parents, but there must be accountability by the community with programmes when families fall off the rails or children have trauma.”
She added: “We have given these issues maybe 10 per cent of our attention when they are taking so much more from us in lawyers’ fees, court time, police services, family services, charity, agency services, funders’ dollars, banking institutions … the list goes on.
“We must give these issues our undivided, collective attention instead of working in these inefficient silos.
“Meanwhile, we have broken men stealing from others, killing each other, looking to belong somewhere but not in a community that doesn’t understand what it was like when ‘I was four or five years old, just a young boy looking forward to discovering a world to build my dreams’.
“So I’m not sure what Bermuda’s going to do.
“What I believe, though, is that there are hundreds of young, adolescent boys and hundreds of young and old adult men in this community who should be given the opportunity to live their best truth or they will find it down some dark alley with a community screaming, ‘how could you do this?’ It’s one thing or the other.”
Ms Dismont, the managing director of Catalyst Consulting, said her company was set up to support charities and to “address the root causes of Bermuda’s social challenges”.
She said there were groups “working very hard to empower boys and men, who are solution-focused and who work from a strength-based approach”.
Ms Dismont added: “They are seeking to give young Black men the opportunity to live in their personal purpose and power.”
She told members that Catalyst’s focus on vulnerable populations was centred on homeless people and young, Black males.
Ms Dismont said she believed that “individuals are innately good and not birthed with a predisposition to harm themselves or another”.
She highlighted inequalities faced by Black men in areas such as education, employment and the criminal justice system.
Ms Dismont spoke about several studies that looked at why young Black men were disadvantaged.
She explained that the results showed there were five factors that could contribute to the “unique challenges” that faced them.
Ms Dismont said these included “negative stereotypes about Black males, a negative home and/or community environment, a lack of support from teachers, parents and role models, a lack of education, poor postsecondary education planning, a lack of interest in more prevalent and higher-paying occupations in Bermuda”.
She highlighted the Mincy report, completed in 2009, which studied life differences between young Black men and others of the same age.
Ms Dismont said the study recommended a multipronged approach to tackle inequality.
She added: “To reduce gaps in income, education and employment, the authors advocated for a collaborative approach involving schools, businesses, Government agencies and non-profit organisations.”
She explained that the report said groups were expected to work together on policies and programmes that “encourage greater educational achievement and reduce occupational segregation for Black Bermudian males”.
Ms Dismont said: “I have highlighted this data because it appears that we have not made much needed progress in the past ten years.
“There has been some progress but not enough, so are we so surprised at the level of undue care and violence that we are seeing in this community?"
She added: “They’re looking for some kind of belonging and many of them are still children.”
Ms Dismont, the Family Centre founder, said: “The scope and extent of the challenges are outpacing our ability to keep up with it.
“We are not equipped to deal with what’s going on in our community and we have to first equip ourselves, as I’m learning as I’m working with charitable organisations.
“The lack of intentional education for males, life skills and job preparedness are the culprits that we have been looking for, for a long time; the culprits who are throwing babies in rough waters.
“We are spending time and resources pulling babies out of the water, instead of going upstream and beginning to do the serious prevention that is needed – proper parenting supports, quality and equitable education, life skills and job skills based in a community that cares.”
But she emphasised later that her comments did not “negate the good that has taken place and the young, Black males who have worked hard to be contributing members of society”.