Program aims to help violence-impacted young black men in Kentucky’s 2 largest cities

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – In an effort to curb violence in Kentucky's two largest cities, young African-American men already set back by community violence will be part of a pilot program designed to “create more pathways for success.”

The mayors of Louisville and Lexington announced on Thursday a $5 million grant over three years from the William R. Kenan, Jr., Charitable Trust. The award will be coordinated by Cities United and aimed at young men between the ages of 16 to 25 who have been impacted by community violence.

“There is an urgent need to create more pathways for success for young men of color in Louisville and Lexington,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.  “There are particular challenges black Americans face as a result of the history of our country … a history of exclusion.”

Fischer chooses to look forward.  “We can’t be responsible for our history, but we can be responsible for today and for the future.”

Twenty young men in each city will be chosen for fellowships each year, according to Cities United.  They will include opportunities for education, jobs and careers, combined with leadership development and mentoring support and be provided with housing and a monetary stipend.

“Sometimes, all a young person needs is someone to provide a little help, a little re-direction and guidance,” said Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who thanked the Trust and Cities United on the campus of Kentucky State University.  ”Thanks to them, help is on the way.”

He called it a great day for both cities.  “We can’t afford to lose the unlimited potential of our young black men,” Gray said. “We need their contributions to our economy, to our community and to families.  That’s why the funding we’re announcing today is so important.”

Both Louisville and Lexington have seen a huge spike in homicides this year, many of which have young people as the perpetrator, victim, or both.  This is the latest effort by officials to reduce that number.

The first fellowship class will begin in July, 2018.  Between now and then, non-profit agencies in both cities will choose the participants in this pilot program, according to Cities United Executive Director Anthony Smith. 

“The closest thing to it is a program underway in Richmond, California,” Smith said.  “There has been a reduction in shootings and homicides over the last three years.”

Smith said the hope is to expand the Louisville and Lexington models to other cities across the country.

Tom Latek can be reached at tom.latek@kentuckytoday.com

 

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