By Cassandra Harris-Lockwood

Cassandra Harris-Lockwood, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of For the Good,Inc.-The Utica Phoenix

In a community where at least 40% of the population lives in, at or near the poverty line, no amount of nano or economic development is going to change the populace or the community.

Much of this poverty is concentrated along racial lines and, as we have come to know, so has the incidence of incarceration. The incarcerated, as a group, are also found to be well below the median level of education.

With the vast majority of Black men circulating in and through the prison system over the past few generations, the Black community and Black male youth in particular, have become accustomed to this as the norm.

The Black community has been imbued with a prison culture. With precious few Black professionals as role models and examples, the prison mentality has become the dominant way of going. This coupled with the fact that there are virtually no positive or developmental outlets for youth in the CIty of Utica, leaves our city at a great loss.

At a time there was the Cosmopolitan Center, Community Action, The Boys and Girls Club, the Knights of Columbus, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, CYO dances, three different high schools for sports teams, dance and clubs, coffee houses, there were numerous plays every summer, the Rhythm Lites and playground activities. Today there is virtually nothing to do except play in the street, get in trouble or run away from those who are causing trouble.

Mental Health services, reentry programs, recreational programs, teen developmental programs are needed. Teen pregnancy, drug, alcohol and smoking prevention programs are needed and we are falling short here.

Immigrants coming to this city are greeted with a warm welcome. There is a Refugee Center for their needs, education, advice, information and job placements services.Now there is even a Community Center for Refugees.

What is there for the city’s indigenous poor to help develop dreams and aspirations?

An agency dedicated to these purposes is what is needed to turn the tide. Community Action Agency dollars, CSBG, Community Services Block Grant monies are federal monies targeted for these purposes.

Utica needs to establish an urban-based CAA with a 21st-century model to turn this ship around. For the Good, Inc. was founded 16 years ago to meet those needs, to be that agency. Please join the board of directors of FTG to help achieve the means to focus attention on these serious deficits.

Mohawk Valley Community Action has taken over Utica’s designation and has done a great job with Headstarts all over the region. But 4-year-olds are not 14 year olds with serious attitudes and nowhere to go. Let MVCAA keep the Headstarts. Make FTG the new CSBG designee.

Talk to your legislators and representatives and executives to return the needed funding to the City of Utica to take on these challenges of education and community development through its own urban-based Community Action Agency.

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