But if there's an overriding theme that has emerged from a fledgling conference examining the needs of Toledo's minority neighborhoods, it's that attitudes must change inside the home and on the streets.
People need to look more toward church and their hearts if they hope to tackle the issues of crime, poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, unemployment, and educational parity. If they don't start holding themselves more accountable, speakers said, the decay of impoverished areas will continue to accelerate in lifestyle and morality.
"Men have to start holding the men accountable and women have to start holding the women accountable. It's about values. Period," Albert Earl, Jr., conference chairman, told The Blade yesterday moments before delivering a presentation about the loss of male role models in the central city. It brought several people in the crowd of 100 to tears.
The event, called Restoration of the Village, began Wednesday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons in Perrysburg. It concludes today with a keynote speech from Steve Perry, a best-selling author, scholar, and community activist who has cre-ated both a college preparation program for low-income minority students and a program in Connecticut for grades 12 and under.
Mr. Earl, founder and chairman of the Earl Enterprises LLC consulting firm on Hill Avenue in Toledo, began yesterday's session with a testimonial about how he once was connected to street sales of marijuana.
Then one day, after losing his mother to cancer and staring into the eyes of his baby daughter, he wondered who would take care of his young girl and his autistic son if he went to prison.
It was an epiphany. He closed the door on his past and grew up, he said.
Mr. Earl said he was lucky: He was saved by God.
But many of today's youth don't grasp the big picture. Irresponsible adult males fathering multiple children out of wedlock - guys who Mr. Earl opted to describe as "grown boys," rather than men - suffer from their own "self-inflicted" behavior when raised in a culture that condones drug and alcohol abuse, idle hands, a lack of education, disrespectful language, and random sex. That leads to a breakdown in family relationships and self-esteem while increasing gang violence, he said.
"You've got kids losing lives over reasons that families can't explain," Mr. Earl said. "It's because the man is absent."
The African-American community spends a disproportionate amount of time entertaining itself in lieu of educating itself, Mr. Earl said. He cited statistics from a study called The Buying Power of Black America that showed, in 2004, African-Americans spent $22 billion nationwide on apparel but only $275 million on books.
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