The Top 4 New Year's Resolutions for Black America
Black leaders provide their wish list
Despite worries that December 21 would mark the world’s end, 2013 has arrived, and with it, the tradition of making resolutions for the new year. In homes around the country, people are vowing to eat better, exercise more, and spend less—all admirable, personal pursuits. But what if you could use the new year as an opportunity to make changes that could collectively improve the lives of black Americans?
Good news: You can. We went to some of our biggest advocates and asked where you should start. Each provided their number one resolution for African Americans. Read on to be inspired and find out why each resolution is important to having not just a happy new year, but a happy generation.
Shavon Arline-Bradley, Director of Health Programs for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
“In this new year, black America has to commit herself to strive for total health and wellness for a better future for generations to come. Start with the ABCs of physical screenings: hemoglobin A1c (diabetes), blood pressure and cholesterol. To add to this list, persons between the ages of 13 and 64 should get an annual HIV test regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or marital status. Black women, please remember to schedule pap smears and do breast exams. It is also important for black men to get annual prostate exams starting at 40 or earlier with a family history. These screenings are critical and can be the difference between life and death. The black community should also tackle key strategies to support healthy lifestyles, including increasing physical activity, improving nutrition choices, reducing stress, and addressing mental health with professional counseling and therapy. Become an advocate and support issues like equal access to health care through the Affordable Care Act and sound the alarm to build healthier schools and community environments for our children and families to live active and productive lives. The choice is yours: Will we continue down the dismal road of elevated health disparities, or will we conquer our ills and live long, healthy lives?”
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If ever there was an area where black America needs an intervention, it’s wellness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all black women age 20 and over have high blood pressure, and 54 percent are obese. And blacks are 20 percent more likely to report psychological distress than whites. This is an area where it’s easy to change your trajectory. Start by using this tool to receive a personalized checklist of health screenings you need, including detailed information on each. Then check out this list of preventive services covered by Obamacare, and find out where you can get free or low-cost care. For help with local advocacy, join your local NAACP chapter, or partner with the American Public Health Association.
Kenneth Braswell, Sr., Executive Director of Fathers Incorporated and Director of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
“The stability of, and commitment to, family must be our number one priority in 2013. Both of those begin with a focus on our children. More than ever it will be critical that black families place children first in our priorities. In 1965, the Moynihan Report prompted America to pay attention to the formation of black families. Much of what it predicted has come to pass—73 percent of our children being born into out-of-wedlock households is proving that Black men and women are less likely to commit to each other. We are losing our sense of collective purpose and family, and because of it, the well being of our children is suffering. We need a 100 percent commitment to ensure that our children receive everything they need from both parents.”
A full 59 percent of Black kids live in homes that don’t include their fathers, versus 27.6 percent of the total population, and they are suffering for it. Children who don’t live with daddy are 54 percent more likely to be poorer than he is. Fatherless children are twice as likely to be high school dropouts, and are at 77 percent greater risk of being physically abused than kids living in two-parent homes. Take President Obama’s Fatherhood Pledge, and visit Fatherhood.org for tips for connecting with your kids and mentoring other children in need of role models.
Garrick Davis, Legislative Director of Economic & Financial Policy for the National Urban League Policy Institute
“The single largest economic issue confronting black America is the rapidly widening wealth gap. A study conducted by the Pew Center for Research shows that the average black family has a net worth of roughly $5,700. By comparison, the average white family in America has a net worth of roughly $113,000. To put it another way, when one subtracts all that they owe from all that they own, the average family in America has twenty dollars for each one dollar owned by a black family. As municipal budget, state revenues, and federal appropriations decline, and non-profit operating costs rise, black families will find themselves increasingly alone in seeking solutions to the most persistent conditions caused by a lack of financial resources. Periodic savings to build cash reserves is of critical importance: whether $5, $10 or $50 per paycheck. Once this habit is established, longer-term savings vehicles must be employed—savings certificates, equities and other forms of investment. Finally, debt reduction is not only a prescription for our nation’s economy; it should also play a critical role in our personal finances. The reduction of credit card debt adds monthly purchasing power in the form of money saved, as opposed to money being spent on purchases of long ago. With these simple resolutions turned healthy habits, black America will end 2013 in a much better position than where we begin.”
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Remember the housing bubble? Studies show that it significantly impacted black America, and is the main cause of plummeting net worth, leading to the highest white-to-black wealth ratios since the Census Bureau started publishing wealth estimates by race in 1984. But getting in the saving habit can benefit us today and tomorrow. First, create a budget to see how much you can afford to save. Then head over to Bankrate.com to find a high-yield savings account, and set up automatic transfers for each payday, so you don’t have a chance to miss your money.
Quentin James, National Director of the Sierra Student Coalition at the Sierra Club
“My resolution is that black America will continue to embrace the natural beauty of the world around us, as a family. Whether it is feeding our children healthier, organic foods, taking public transit versus driving or unplugging those appliances we aren’t using, everyone can contribute and respect Mother Earth. With the departure of Lisa Jackson from the Environmental Protection Agency, we need African Americans to call for cleaner air, water and food more than ever. If our nation doesn’t make significant progress on climate change in 2013, we will continue to see extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy devastate our communities, and major droughts run up food prices throughout the world. Ordinary folks are developing resilient solutions like urban organic gardens, clean technology companies and efforts to connect black folks to the outdoors. This year, step it up. Start small, but be bold and decisive in your commitment to be greener.”
Environmentalism is about more than saving whales—it’s about saving ourselves. Blacks disproportionately make our homes near hazard waste sites, and 90 percent of black children ages three to five years have elevated lead levels, which is associated with behavior and attention problems, reduced IQ, academic trouble, hearing trouble and kidney damage. Do something about it: Join your local Sierra Club chapter, or check with the National Resources Defense Council to find an environmental justice organization near you.
What resolutions will you make to help black Americans get ahead in 2013? Share in the comments.