Harlem Children's Zone

geoffrey canada
Tom Fitzsimmons / Center for Public Leadership

Just a few minutes ago Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) said he'll be stepping down as CEO of the organization. Anne Williams Isom, Chief Operating Officer since 2009, will take over.

The event was held at one of the schools and had the setting and feel of a traditional school assembly. Elementary students sang "lift every voice" accompanied by a teacher on a plugged-in keyboard.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

It seems like everyone has a 'best books' list around this time of year. So we decided to get in on the action. We picked some old books, some new books, some books for kids, some for adults, all of them somehow tied into our State of Opportunity theme.

Without further ado, I present to you [drumroll, please]...

A Not-at-all Comprehensive Reading Guide to Poverty/Race/State of Opportunity Issues

  • The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Lives, by Sasha Abramsky. This book is on my Christmas wish list. It first caught my eye in this New York Times article, and it made the paper's list of 100 Notable Books this year. Here's how the folks at the Times describe it: "This ambitious study, based on Abramsky’s travels around the country meeting the poor, both describes and prescribes." -- Jennifer

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

It’s time to have The Talk.

I know, it’s not going to be easy. Might get a little uncomfortable, maybe make you squirm a little.

But it’s time; it's time to have a frank conversation about race. Now I know some of you listening right now are thinking "Race? Really? It’s 2013. Aren’t we past this by now?"

Good. I was hoping you’d ask that.

I'd like you to meet two young girls, both freshmen at a high school in Grand Haven, MI. Their names are Katie Bridgeforth, age 15, and Dystany Dunn, 14. Both girls are mixed, half white and half black, and they describe their skin as caramel colored.

The two girls ride the bus together to school every day, and that’s where the trouble started:

This wasn’t some isolated incident. The girls tell me about the boy who wore a KKK mask in the cafeteria, another one who wore it during homecoming weekend. Then there was the time a boy came up to Katie when she was taking a test, and he made a joke about slavery and ‘has she picked any cotton lately?’

user PT Money / flickr

Promise Neighborhoods were launched in 2010 by the U.S. government as a way to improve educational opportunities for kids in high-poverty neighborhoods, and  provide residents with "cradle to career" services a la the highly successful Harlem Children's Zone in New York City.

We've written about the  Detroit Promise Neighborhood initiative in the Clark Park and Osborn neighborhoods. They received a $500,000 one-year planning grant from the federal government last year, with the hope that they would receive up to $6 million more this year to implement the plans.

But that didn't happen.

Photo courtesy of Focus Hope

If you've been following State of Opportunity over the past couple months, you've probably heard us talk about the Harlem Children's Zone. It's this 100-block zone in central Harlem that's designed to create a safety net so strong and so wide that no child could fall through and fail. The program covers all kids from birth through college. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

What if we told you there was a man in Harlem who thinks he's figured out how to break the cycle of poverty?

You'd probably want to meet him, right? We sure did.