ASU, Urban League highlight ‘Black Arizona’
With the publication of a new report, “The State of Black Arizona,” ASU has joined with the Greater Phoenix Urban League to create a snapshot of the status of blacks in Arizona, the issues they face and the progress that has been made.
The report was released at a launch event Feb. 28 at the headquarters of Arizona Public Service. The report contains data, analysis and essays by many people in the African-American community.
It is meant to be a starting point for dialogue, according to George Dean, chief executive officer of the Greater Phoenix Urban League (GPUL).
“The project represents the culmination of more than a year’s work gathering input and ideas from African-American community leaders, professionals and academicians,” Dean says. “While this document isn’t a definitive and comprehensive scientific analysis of the status of blacks in Arizona, it is a starting point from which the community can determine what issues beg further research.”
The report reveals that African-Americans in Arizona do relatively well financially, with a median income slightly higher than that of African-Americans across the country. But they rank lowest among all ethnicities for overall health status, and problems with the education of youth are a recurring theme.
A significant concern that rings through many of the essays in the report is the perceived lack of an African-American community in Arizona. Although the state’s black population has increased by 141 percent since 1980, individuals are so dispersed that many African-Americans feel disconnected from one another.
The changing dynamics of Arizona’s African-American population have been an under-studied force in recent years. It became evident, as ASU staff and faculty compiled the report, that many details about the community are not readily available.
The collaborative project began when GPUL approached ASU with a request almost two years ago. The university brought its resources to bear, recruiting an advisory committee of 26 individuals from the community and ASU, sifting through available data to try to find reliable information on the local African-American community.
Ultimately, the committee members drew together statistical information on population dynamics, academic achievement, employment and income levels, health, crime and other indicators. Twenty-three individuals wrote essays, from a businessman calling for renewed African-American leadership to a high school student who struggles to define her African-American identity.
“ASU recognizes and appreciates the numerous contributions of African-Americans in Arizona and is proud in helping to present this innovative and useful resource, the first edition of ‘The State of Black Arizona,’ ” says ASU President Michael Crow. “The success of our state relies on our ability to strengthen our communities and empower them to meet and exceed their vast potential. To do so, it is imperative that we fully comprehend the existing state of affairs and work together strategically to create the progress needed.”
While the report is a major first step, according to Dean, it is meant to be a catalyst for increased dialogue and research into African-Americans in Arizona. More information is needed about where the community stands and what it needs to grow and prosper. Little data have been collected since the end of the state’s Black Town Hall in 1997.
“The time has come for continuing efforts to better understand this community, and to level the playing field so that African-Americans in Arizona have the same status as all other Arizonans,” Dean says.
The full report will be online at www.asu.edu/asuforaz.
Publication of the report coincides with the Urban League’s 44th annual Whitney M. Young Jr. Awards Dinner at 6 p.m., Feb. 29, at the Marriott Camelback Inn, chaired by Crow. The Rev. George Brooks Sr., a civil rights activist and the founding pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church, will receive a posthumous award at the event. GPUL will give a corporate award to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arizona, and another individual award will be announced that night.