Report On Black Male Youth Rattles NPR Audience

A recent Tell Me More story, which reported that young black males in the U.S. are being murdered at a disturbing rate, has the program's listeners and bloggers speaking out on the role of the community in helping to save the lives of youngsters.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for BackTalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the Tell Me More blogosphere, and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with me as always. Hey, Lee. Happy New Year.

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Happy New Year to you, too. And it's good to be sitting across from you again.

MARTIN: Likewise.

HILL: We decided to give listeners a little bit of a break last week, following Christmas, but now we are back to our normal regiment. And listeners are back to telling us more.

Now, on Tuesday, we reported on disturbing news. We learned, according to a recent study by Northeastern University, that murders among young black men in the U.S. have surged in recent years. The number of homicides involving black male juveniles as victims rose by 31 percent from 2002 to 2007. And all this is going on while the homicide rate overall has either been the same or gone down. So, this is a unique challenge for many communities of color to say the least.

Now, Michel, after Tuesday's radio conversation, the discussion continued online, where people discussed what is behind all of this. They shared their thoughts on how the crisis should be addressed. Rusty was among those weighing in and here's what he had to say.

Mr. RUSTY (Caller): I've worked in the juvenile justice system in Louisiana for over 10 years and I continue to witness a common thread that I think leads our youth down the road to violence. That is a poor connection to a nurturing, stable family and/or a poor connection to an education system that can successfully engage youth with possibly many problems. Beyond that, we have the many other influences that our backward society bombards them with daily.

MARTIN: And thank you, Rusty. And Lee, also in our Web forum there's a conversation about the role of pop culture and the rap music industry and all of this. Here's an observation from blogger Jermaine. As someone who grew up listening to gangster rap that glorified violence, drug use and promiscuity, I always understood that this "art" - and he has that in quotes - was fiction and not fact. Sadly, that's not the case for everyone. Young black boys are emulating these musical characters and sadly, no one is taking the time to help them separate fantasy from reality.

HILL: And thanks, Jermaine. And Michel, people are still talking about this news story, even as we speak now. And I know we're planning a follow-up discussion for next week, so we're thankful for all the many perspectives we're getting on this.

MARTIN: And of course, we hope for better findings in the New Year. Speaking of which, before we kissed 2008 good bye, we asked listeners to share with us their resolutions and what they're looking forward to in the new year. Well, the New Year's here and here is one of those resolutions from Dan.

DAN (Caller): My New Year's resolution for 2009 is to provide more financial stability for my family. I'm going to start a residential cleaning service. Basically, become an entrepreneur. It's my first New Year's resolution that I intend to keep.

HILL: Sounds like a winner, Dan. And Michel, Happy New Year to you and yours.

MARTIN: Well, thank you, Lee. Residential cleaning service, hmm… what city are you in, Dan? Never mind. (Unintelligible) Remember, with the Tell Me More, the conversation never ends. To tell us more about what you think, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. That number again is 202-842-3522. Remember to leave your name and of course, you can also go to the Tell Me More page at npr.org and blog it out.

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