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Kirk urges FW leaders to foster education among black youth

FORT WORTH — Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk challenged African American business and civic leaders in Fort Worth on Thursday to foster education among today’s black youth and restore family values.

Speaking at the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Luncheon, Kirk told the sell-out crowd that they need to live up to their responsibility as leaders and mentor black teenagers. He also said the government and the nation need to do more to support black colleges and universities.

“I believe our community is in peril,” Kirk said. “Our future is in crisis. If we don’t step up and do what so many have been employing us to do, and that’s to restore our families, to make ourselves whole, to reach out to young boys that we may not otherwise feel comfortable talking to and to have a radical embracement of the power and the value of education as a tool to uplift us and move us forward.”

Kirk is the Texas chairman of Barack Obama’s presidential bid.

Citing statistics, Kirk said that in 1865 less than 5 percent of the African American freed slave population could read and yet they were denied access to school. About 50 years later, 80 percent of blacks, though, could read and write. But today, in every major urban area in the country, less than half of the African American boys and girls entering the 8th grade will graduate from high school, he said.

Moreover, Kirk said it is a sad that census statistics on the number of 13- and 14-year-old black and Hispanic boys are used to determine how many prisons will be needed in the future.

“We cannot sit here and just celebrate this day and celebrate the accomplishments of those here and not recognize that our generation has been the beneficiaries of everything our parents and grandparents fought for,” Kirk said. “Our generation has to be reengaged in saving the future of our children.”

SANDRA BAKER, 817-390-7727