Representatives from more than two dozen U.S. cities are wrapping a conference in New Orleans this week aimed at reducing violence among young African American men and boys. It coincides with President Obama reaching out to foundations and businesses to help young men of color reach their full potential.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu teamed with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to form a coalition in 2011 called Cities United. It’s aimed at cutting the disproportionally high number of young black men and boys being killed.
Landrieu says New Orleans wants churches, youth groups and all branches of government taking aim at the violence he calls a public health issue.
“We are still seven to eight times the national average when you look at the number of murders per 100,000," Landrieu said. "And so, because we know we can’t police our way out of this problem, we have also invested in prevention.”
Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter says the problem deserves national attention.
“In Philadelphia, 75 percent of the victims of homicide are black men," said Nutter. "It is the number one cause of death for young people in our city. And unfortunately, in the top 25 cities in the United States of America, anywhere from 40 to 80 percent of homicide victims are black men.”
Oakland, California Mayor Jean Quan says her city has seen a reduction in homicides, and it involves starting early education and family support programs.
“We know what works," Quan said. "Do we have the political courage to put the resources in and make it a real change, because this is the civil rights issue for many of us of this time.”
Cities United is supported by the National League of Cities, based in Washington, D.C.