Spirits were high among the hundreds of Black men that rallied Downtown during the June 23 Day of Solidarity. However, many of them also questioned what would happen in the coming days.

"One of the most frequently or often repeated questions I've heard leading up to the 23rd and after is 'Okay, what's next?"' said Malik Bankston, executive director of Kingsley Association and a co-convener of the Day of Solidarity. "An answer to that question is the answer that everybody is looking to us for. You did this mobilization, and there were some important things that came out of it, but where do we go from here?"

The effort to provide those answers was at the forefront of the agenda during the July 14 Brother-to-Brother meeting. More than 50 Black men, including Day of Solidarity co-conveners Rashad Byrdsong, Rick Adams and Bankston, discussed long and short-term strategies to capitalize off of the momentum gained during the June rally.

During the meeting, Byrdsong introduced plans for an action-based conference in the fall using the University of Pittsburgh's Center on Race and Social Problems report, "Pittsburgh's Racial Demographics: Differences and Disparities," as a model for change.

"A lot of us already know what the disparities are. (The study). talks about health, economic development, crime, education, and they talk about youth," said Byrdsong.

"What we want to do as a follow-up to the Black Male Day of Solidarity is to engage in that kind of dialogue in terms of not just looking at statistics or research of what's happening in the Black community, but what type of resolutions are we going to have to put together to resolve these types of problems."

One idea Byrdsong believes is essential to reaching any resolutions is cooperation from local leaders. He has already confirmed that John Wallace, one of the researchers of the disparities report, will attend a community discussion to explain its findings during the Black Family Reunion Aug. 4-5.

Byrdsong said he plans to reach out to school board members, politicians, educators, police and physicians to speak as experts during the community discussion of the report. He also said he would send letters to key Black leaders in the city, seeking their cooperation with not only the forum and upcoming conference, but also, with each other.

"When we identify public officials and Black leadership in Pittsburgh, we see there's a strong fragmentation," said Byrdsong.

"These are public officials that represent our interests. It is to our benefit to get those folks at the table and say today is going to be a new day-you guys are going to be talking to one another. And once they talk to one another, then we have to come up with a plan."

Co-conveners of the Day of Solidarity understand that members of the Black community want to see changes immediately, but caution that the process is ongoing and strategies must first be formed before actions are taken.

"We want to use the momentum of the Black Male Day of Solidarity; we want to use the momentum of the Pitt study, to begin to talk about some concrete things that we can begin to start doing," said Byrdsong.

New Pittsburgh Courier

July 18, 2007

by Todd, Deborah M
Courier Staff Writer

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