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Civic, corporate leaders want to lift black, Hispanic youth with Mayor’s new initiative

Mayor A C Wharton will spearhead an initiative to raise quality of life and achievement for the city’s young African-American and Hispanic men, he announced Wednesday.

The initiative, called Inspiring Young Men of Color, is an outgrowth of a national initiative that President Barack Obama announced earlier this year. The local program will bring together leaders from non-profits, businesses, and schools to study the barriers to achievement non-white students in Memphis face. Focus areas will include literacy, health, and criminal justice.

Nationwide, African-American and Hispanic males are incarcerated at higher rates and graduate from high school at lower rates than their peers. In a city where more than 60 percent of the population is African-American, and the public school system has historically been nearly all African-American, the ramifications of those disparities are especially pronounced. The Commercial Appeal reported that Wharton said that the success of that demographic is crucial to Memphis’s growth, although he was quick to add that young white men won’t be exceeded from any aspect of the initiative. “Hey, if a white kid shows up, he’s in. Whatever, if he’s got a challenge, I don’t care,” he said.

Partners in the initiative include the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, the A Step Ahead Foundation, which provides birth control to young women, the Grizzlies NBA team, and the multinational corporation International Paper, according to the Commercial Appeal.

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