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Jobs Nightmare in Baltimore ’Hood




By Julianne Malveaux
NNPA Columnist


What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore –
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over –
Like a syrupy sweet
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

When Langston Hughes wrote of a dream deferred in his 1951 poem, “Harlem,” he captured the frustration of a people who had deferred dreams and swallowed hope time and again. Were he writing the poem today, he might have titled it Sandtown, highlighting the neighborhood that was home to Freddie Gray.

Sandtown-Winchester is described as blighted and neglected, an urban food dessert, defined as people living more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store, with a population that is mostly poor and unemployed. According to the website, more incarcerated people come from the Sandtown census tract than anywhere else in Maryland.

Freddie Gray and his sisters won a 2008 lawsuit against a landlord that had high levels of toxic lead paint on the walls. Four years later, in 2012, more than 7 percent of infants and children under six had elevated blood lead levels.

The data about Sandtown at least partly explain the frustration, anger, and uprisings that have happened in the wake of the murder of Freddie Gray. People who are ignored can watch their dreams dry up or sag, or, as in the case of Baltimore, they can simply explode.

I won’t make excuses for the destruction of property, but if the young people who took it to the streets were Bostonians during the 1773 Tea Party, they may have been described as patriots. Instead, protesters were described as “thugs and criminals,” with at least one news anchor confusing her news reading work for commentary, described the protesters as “idiots.”

When I saw the protestors throwing rocks at police officers, and saw flames rising from the streets, I thought of the uprisings that took place after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Frustrated and angry people took it to the streets then, destroying billions of dollars worth of property. Some of the areas that burned in 1968 took decades to recover from the violence. At the same time, the uprisings riveted attention to blighted inner cities and to the poverty and unemployment that too many residents experienced.

More than half of the young African Americans who want to work can’t find a job. The numbers are higher in Sandtown. The situation might be improved if Jobs Corps programs were more available to Sandtown residents. There are two Job Corps locations in Maryland (and 125 in the nation), but the Jobs Corps has been under scrutiny and constantly being threatened with extinction.

Job Corps offers a free education and training program that helps low-income young people (16-24) earn a high school diploma or GED, learn about careers, and find employment. Established in 1964 as part of the Economic Opportunity Act, it was reauthorized in 1998 as part of the Workforce Investment Act. About 60,000 people are trained by Job Corps each year; 60 percent of them find work when they finish the program; another 15 percent choose to continue their education.

Job Corps has cost between $1.5 and $1.7 billion in each of the past 10 years, with appropriations rising between 2005 and 2011, then falling after 2012. Congress says its FY 2015 budget will increase defense spending and cut domestic spending by about $14 billion. They’ll cut prekindergarten education, medical research, and job training. Does that mean cuts to Job Corps? What does that mean to Sandtown? Is joblessness a heavy load? Will it explode?

Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said that the demonstrations after Freddie Gray’s funeral could have happened anywhere. Indeed, in addition to the Baltimore protests, there have been demonstrations in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and other cities. Just as the killing of Michael Brown ignited people who lived hundreds of miles away from Ferguson, Mo., so has the killing of Freddie Gray reverberated all over the nation as people wait to learn how a man’s spine could break while he was in police custody.

No matter the outcome of the investigation, people in areas such as Sandtown desperately need employment, and the Job Corps can be one way to create that employment. Federal or state employment programs could train skilled crafts workers – painters, electricians, and others – to revive Sandtown. Congress is eager to cut programs like Job Corps, yet these programs provide an important public benefit.

Many will call for police accountability, for body cameras, and for other police reforms. Given the growing body count of young Black men (and women) who are too frequently killed by law enforcement officers, such reform makes sense. At the same time, training people for jobs, and finding jobs for them provides a dream instead of deferring one. There should be no conversation about Freddie Gray and Baltimore policing without a conversation about job creation.


Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist. She can be reached at




The Black Press: Our Trusted Messenger

Our Black newspapers are now celebrating 194 years of being the keeper of the flame of liberty and the source of information in “our” struggle for freedom and equality.



Cover of the Oakland Post

Sometimes it’s necessary to be reminded who we are and who our friends are.  It’s also important to remember from whence we have come. 

Such is the case this week with the Black Press. Our Black newspapers are now celebrating 194 years of being the keeper of the flame of liberty and the source of information in “our” struggle for freedom and equality.

With the advent of the recent pandemic and the visible disparity of Blacks dying at greater numbers than others, getting fewer vaccines, working in the highest risk occupations and death at the hands of law enforcement, our need for a “trusted” source of information is greater than social media, which has become an alternative for many.

 At the same time, the interest in reaching our communities has increased on all levels. The question has become “who is in touch with the Black community” as injustice, murder and social disparity continues to grow among Blacks. 

The NAACP and the Urban League gave the impression that they were in touch with the Black community. But the reality is neither organization has ever been in touch with the Black community without the Black Press.  It is Black newspapers and not CNN, ABC, NBC or CBS that carries the articles and commentaries of these organizations to the Black community. 

Yet, neither of these organizations ever mentions the Black Press when taking both credit and dollars for outreach to the Black community.

The African American and Black communities of America should not be duped into believing that social media has become a substitute for the Black Press. The Black Press is now both print and electronic, it’s a newswire service as provided by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), providing coverage of both news here in America and around the world.

 It is the Black Press that has been the “Trusted Messenger” to our communities for 194 years, and that says a lot. Our newspapers are the rear guard, the battle ground against the efforts to resegregate America and return to “Jim Crow” racism.

As we celebrate Juneteenth, let us remember that we are not only free but capable of defending and determining our futures if we get serious. Let’s remember how we got here, on the backs of those like the Black Press who bought us thus far; let us not forget in the words of James Weldon Johnson: that “ we have come over a way that with tears has been watered, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.” We are still being slaughtered today by others as well as each other.

Let’s remember who is truly telling our story and our obligation to keep and support that effort. Pick up a Black newspaper and get involved. You owe that and more to keeping the Juneteenth principle of freedom alive today.

Editor-in-Chief note:  The Post News Group consists of nine newspapers:  Oakland, South County, San Francisco, Vallejo, Marin, Stockton, Richmond, Berkeley Tri-City and El Mundo.  We are also online at

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Black History

Juneteenth: Our Independence Day

Also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, it commemorates the end of slavery, the seminal event in Black history.




Graphic courtesy istock.

June 19, or Juneteenth, is independence day for many Americans of African descent.

Also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, it commemorates the end of slavery, the seminal event in Black history.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect on Jan. 1, 1863, but was read to slaves in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, more than two years later.

There are several different accounts of why the news of freedom took so long to arrive.

One story has it that slaves were intentionally kept ignorant about their freedom in order to allow crops to continue being harvested. Another has a messenger traveling by mule to deliver the news, and it simply took more than two years to arrive from Washington, D.C., to Texas. Yet another story has the messenger being murdered before he could deliver the message.

No matter the origin of Juneteenth, the end of slavery is definitely worth celebrating. But while much has happened in the 158 years since slavery officially ended, its legacies still remain in the form of disparate salaries, educational levels and incarceration rates.

Juneteenth, which is now observed in 48 states (North Dakota and Hawaii do not observe)  and the District of Columbia, is a time to take stock of our progress — and of the work that remains.

Last year, during the pandemic our current vice president and former senator, Kamala Harris, said:  “[m]y message on this Juneteenth:  may we honor those who suffered, died and survived the crushing reality of slavery by looking to the future.”

Twelve years ago President Barack Obama said: “African Americans helped to build our nation brick by brick and have contributed to her growth in every way, even when rights and liberties were denied to them.”

We’re still building it.

In 2021, as our state opens up post-pandemic and we deal with racial reckoning as we never have before  #BlackLivesMatter is becoming a reality. 

This year is truly our Independence Day.

Happy Juneteenth.

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Closing Youth Prisons Is Not Enough

But without a plan to invest in and institute a restorative justice framework, most of that money might find its way back into local youth jails rather than into treatment and rehabilitation.



Ella Baker Center staff and members attend a Books Not Bars rally in Sacramento advocating to close youth prisons in California. Courtesy of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.


As a parent who was involved in the juvenile system as a teenager, I know too well that children who are struggling should never be incarcerated and treated like criminals. 

Instead, they should be cared for as young people in need of restorative help. This May, dedicated as National Mental Health Awareness Month, was the perfect opportunity to embrace human rights and racial justice by moving from a carceral system of punishment to a community-based health system of restorative care.

“We have a system in place that is not really focused on rehabilitation,” Los Angeles State Senator Sydney Kamlager told CalMatters in January. Unlike some states, we have not had a governing body in California to oversee trauma-responsive, culturally informed services for youth–the majority of whom are youth of color–in the juvenile justice system.

Fortunately, we in California finally have a chance to make a change. California Senate Bill 823, signed by Gov. Newsom last December, shuts down California’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and redirects millions of dollars to counties to provide care and resources for young people. But without a plan to invest in and institute a restorative justice framework, most of that money might find its way back into local youth jails rather than into treatment and rehabilitation.

Sonya Abbott and her son Anthony Johnson can attest that a transformation is long overdue. When Anthony was 16, Sonya found a bag of Xanax in his back pocket. Believing that he intended to sell the drugs, she made the difficult decision to turn him in. At the time, she viewed her decision as a way to save her son’s life, and the lives of others.  Now she says, “I feel like it just made things worse.”

As is too often the case, Anthony was cycled through a number of ineffective programs and has been shuttled back and forth among several facilities. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the DJJ went into lockdown, Anthony was at the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility in San Joaquin County. Feeling lonely and depressed because of the isolation, Anthony asked for extra counseling.

“They refused to give it to me. They laughed at me,” Anthony says.

 Anthony attempted suicide roughly two days later. He remembers a Chaderjian staff member witnessing his suicide attempt and saying, “You’re not doing it right, I’ll call this one in later,” then walking away. Afterward, Anthony was kept in the medical unit for a month, locked in a room for 23 hours a day, without any counseling or companionship.

Throughout all of this, the DJJ did not inform Abbott of her son’s suicide attempt, nor his consequent transfer to Patton State Hospital. After Anthony missed a scheduled Skype visit, Abbott had to call every juvenile facility in California to locate him, and only then learned that he had tried to take his own life. He remains at Patton today.

Statistics show that suicide and suicide attempts are too common. According to a 2014 report from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection, “11% of the youth (in the juvenile justice system) had attempted suicide at least once,” far exceeding the percentage  in the general population.

Nor are the dangers of youth incarceration justified by the outcomes. A 2015 study from the University of Washington, observed that, “juvenile incarceration is not only ineffective at reducing criminal behavior,” but that those who were incarcerated in their youth were more likely to suffer negative consequences in every aspect of their adult lives.

Abbott describes Anthony as a good kid who just got himself a little lost. “I don’t understand why there’s no resources for these kids,” she says. “They are just locked up and forgotten. I can’t let my kid be one of their victims.”

We now have an unprecedented opportunity to chart a new direction. Part of SB 823 creates Juvenile Justice Coordinating Councils (JJCC) in each of our 58 California counties, bringing together experts and constituents like Abbott and Anthony, whose lives have intersected with the juvenile justice system. 

These new councils will help guide how the millions of dollars in new state funding can best be deployed to provide a continuum of care. To inform that process, youth advocates have been working to implement a community vision of care to replace the old carceral model that has failed so many of our most vulnerable young people of color.

Advocates are also pushing the state to properly resource the new department within Health and Human Services (HHS) that will provide oversight for the new system. The proposed budget is a woefully inadequate $3 million; Assemblymember Cristina Garcia and state Senator Maria Elena Durazo, joined by the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice and members of the Free Our Kids Coalition, are pushing for a larger allocation to help scale up community-based interventions by local groups. 

If a community system rooted in healing had already been in place, Sonya Abbott and Anthony might have received the help they really needed. We can do better for our kids and our communities.

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