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Strengthening American Families Goal of The Jamestown Project
By D. Kevin McNeir, Contributing Writer
The Atlanta Voice

With the goal to build a movement of everyday American citizens in a collective effort to rebuild families, reform culture and to reclaim the spirit of democracy and its associated guarantee for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” The Jamestown Project, a non-profit, non-partisan action-oriented think tank of new leaders, based in Washington, D.C., recently unveiled its latest program, “An Appeal to the American Imagination.”

The initiative was created in response to the increasingly sober and distressing statistics about today’s state of American families – especially black families. According to Stephanie Robinson, founding president and CEO of The Jamestown Project, endorsements lauding the Project’s programs and efforts have already been from some of the country’s most progressive spiritual leaders including Dr. Robert M. Franklin, Morehouse College’s new president, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Rev. Otis B. Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago.

And while the daily news in almost any urban setting in America tends to focus on the illegal doings and ridiculous miscues committed by African Americans, almost suggesting that blacks are more of a hindrance than an asset in this land, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the clear and vivid disintegration of our families and our once proud communities. But are things really as critical for the black race injamestown.jpg general and family in particular as Robinson and her colleagues believe? Just consider the following statistics.

American students continue to rank near last among developed nations in mathematics, literacy and problem-solving on international student assessment tests.
  • Almost 70 percent of black children are born outside of marriage
  • The homicide rate for black male teens is nearly 16 times higher than the rate for white males
  • The percentage of black children with an imprisoned parent is approximately nine times higher than that of white children
“No American citizen – black, white, Latino or otherwise – should accept these statistics, which jeopardize our democratic ideals,” Robinson said. “We believe that when Americans stwarnock.jpgrengthen their families and their communities that they are Doing Democracy. Democracy cannot thrive if citizens do not work every day to strengthen their families, to care for their neighbors and to support their communities. We can, and we will, do better.”

And while other think tanks have attempted to foster the ideals of democracy and its promise of “justice for all,” Robinson says that given the isolation of today’s nuclear family and the disintegration of the “village concept” that once was the foundation of every black community, people must not only be taught how to communicate among themselves but with those who may be of other races, religions or political beliefs.

“One key objective of the initiative is to engage citizens in family-building dialogues using a variety of resources, including several Jamestown Project publications,” she said. “And we are quite proud of the works we have published, including The Covenant in Action, [a Project document co-authored with Tavis Smiley], The Covenant Curriculum & Study Guide, [written by Project founding member Dr. Eddie Glaude, Princeton University and Yale Law School Professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr.] and I Dream For You a World: A Covenant for Our Children [Charisse Carney-Nunes]. “But the Appeal is just a part of our multi-year initiative to utilize the tools of civic engagement to teach and inspire citizens across the nation to get involved in meaningful public conversations about priority issues.”

So, while the Appeal may only be a simple statement, remember the power that similar documents from this country’s past have had on transforming America, pushing its citizens to live up to the creeds and ideals upon which this country was founded – from the Declaration of Independence to King’s I Have a Dream speech.

“The Appeal calls the black community to a renewed commitment to self-love, family and education and urges the community to re-embrace the institution of marriage,” Robinson added. “

And it calls on the American community to work to strengthen all families, to establish a new agenda for racial justice that includes bold initiatives to address economic inequities and support healthy, nurturing relationships, marriages and families and to reform what the Appeal describes as a “toxic media culture.”

Copyright 2007, The Atlanta Voice
© 2012 The Jamestown Project. All rights reserved.