Are We Running Towards Solutions for the Disparity in College Matriculation, or Just Runnin’?

Maybe it was a good thing no young Brothers were there.  After all, how serious can a convening about Black male under-representation on Philadelphia’s college campuses be if no young Brothers were scheduled to testify, and no young people were in the sparse audience?

“You n***as ain’t runnin’ nothing but ya’ mouths!”

I remember these words like it was yesterday and I take the burden expressed in “Ricky’s” disdain as mine to carry!  Every time I am in “the halls of power” I remember “Ricky” and those words.

“Brothers and Sisters are now runnin’ the city!”

I remember these words like it was yesterday and I take the burden expressed in “John’s” triumphant declaration as mine to carry!  Every time I am in “the halls of power” I remember “John” and those words.

As a former member of Mayor Nutter’s Commission on African American Males (now a standing commission in the city of Philadelphia), I warned that there would be a special burden we’d carry if we did not deliver for our young Brothers when the “leadership” of this city was predominantly Black.  If Brothas and Sistas are indeed runnin’ this city, the real question is for whom and where to, and whether or not we are being run right out of it?

City Council’s Education Committee convened a hearing on March 20th to discuss the woeful presence of Black males on the city’s post-secondary and college campuses.  Directly stated, the hearing was about academic redlining in the midst of environmental and opportunity gentrification, a deadly symbiosis needed to maintain Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities – Black Philly versus Philly 2035. At least that is how I tried to frame it in my testimony!

Indeed, for all of the displacement and absence that exists for Black males in the opportunity on-ramps of the city (post-secondary completion, employment opportunities, job training and certifications, entrepreneurship and business development, etc.), there is a concomitant disproportionality in their presence in the punitive and carceral structures of the city (incarceration, juvenile placement, unemployment, etc.).

Until we become truly discontented with the scripted outcomes inherent in a bifurcated city social structure, we will not engage in the (re)Imagination and collective work/responsibility necessary to bring about a new social contract that equitably includes Black males and abandons the bifurcation of opportunity and life outcomes!

There will be follow up to the hearing that Councilwoman Blackwell convened, we can be sure!

So let’s make sure that we come ready to really push this issue and dig deep about what it will take to deliver the opportunity for “Ricky” to run his reality, and not have his future dictated and scripted by systemic social constraints and deferred dreams inherent in inequity. Let’s commit to abolishing the academic destabilization and redlining of opportunity that is endemic to gentrification.  Let’s commit to having youth and communities included, powerfully, as part of the process and in our hearings about it. Let’s (re)imagine a future Philadelphia for all and not one predicated on a bifurcation that funnels opportunity to a few and deflects opportunity from many!

In Harlem, Langston Hughes asked:

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?

The question before us now:

What happens to a “dream fulfilled”?

When it does not provide

all we were promised it would?

When your people reap no benefits from their sacrifice to make you President (and Mayor, Police Chief, District Attorney, School Superintendent, State Representative, Council Person)

And are now left to deal with the White Backlash and aftermath of your

personal success and our collective abandonment! 

Does it dry up, fester, run, stink, crust and sugar over, sag, explode?

The answer: All of the above, so we better be ready!

Looking forward to the future!


Eric K. Grimes (Brother Shomari) is host of the Shomari Show, which airs on WURD 900AM, Fridays from 1 to 4pm.  He is author of the forthcoming, 2nd edition of Why Our Children Hate Us: How Black Adults Still Betray Black Children.  He is the Convener/Organizer of Reaching Out For The Brothers, an alliance of committed stakeholders to advance equitable opportunity access for Black men and boys.  He also is the convener of the Kasserian Ingera Village Builders Collective, formed to create ecosystems of excellence for Black communities across the Afrikan Diaspora.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Up Next