By Barney Blakeney
For the past three years, the United Black Men of Charleston County have continued their effort to impact violent crime. This summer, the group conducted a six-week basketball program in the Dorchester Waylyn community. And on August 6, some 20-strong, members of the group greeted returning students to North Charleston high School at the beginning of the school year.
Those activities are among the latest of the group’s ongoing efforts to impact violent behavior among Black boys and men. Since its inception, the group has walked the streets of the Dorchester Waylyn community, one of North Charleston’s most troubled neighborhoods, talking to residents and young people in hopes of deterring crime, reassuring older residents and encouraging residents. Additionally the group has held community meetings and engaged strategies to increase employment among young black males as an alternative to criminal activity.
President Kevin Williams last week said, “The United Black Men of Charleston County has been working to stop violence in neighborhoods throughout the county. Our primary focus has been to help youth with obtaining employment and educational opportunities. We have been very successful in finding summer jobs for the youths throughout the county.”
Last year, members of the group regularly visited North Charleston High to encourage the students. North Charleston High Principal Henry Darby, who co-founded the group, said the men’s presence serving as motivators and role models made a difference. The school’s graduation rate increased about 10 percentage points over the previous year. Darby said the men’s presence played a significant role in making that happen.
Also last year the group expanded its strategies. Members met with Charleston County School District Superintendent Dr. Gerrita Postlewait and her administrative team to propose that gun violence prevention and intervention be offered as part of the district’s curriculum. Discussions with school officials about that proposal are ongoing, Williams said.
Much of the group’s focus has been the Dorchester Waylyn/Dorchester Terrace communities where about seven of the city’s 35 homicides in North Charleston in 2018 were committed. To continue that focus group member Rev. Thomas Ravenel joined with Vice President Charles Johnson and others to conduct the basketball league for boys ages 7-14. Some 40 boys, recruited door –to-door from the community, participated in the initial season of play that featured four teams. At the end of the season, the group held a cookout and presented players with medals for participating.
Ravenel said the group is in the community for the long haul and coordination for a fall season already is underway. The group needs more ideas for activities, sponsors and volunteers, he said. For information go to the group’s Facebook page – United Black Men of Charleston County.