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Speaker criticizes black middle class

With a litany of depressing statistics on the lives of black Americans, Chicago-based educational consultant Jawanza Kunjufu lashed out at the values he says black Americans have come to endorse in latter half of the 20th century.

Kunjufu, who has written several books on motivating and educating black youth, spoke to an audience of 350 Thursday night at the University of South Florida (USF) as part of USF's Black Emphasis Month program.

Too often, he said members of the black middle class spend their time talking only about their few success stories and urging each other to follow the "I got mine, you get yours" philosophy.

In the end, blacks try to move to the suburbs, go to white suburban schools and work with white-run companies, thus turning their backs upon the black community as whole, Kunjufu said.

Yet the successes of the 1.2-million black college students in the country, the mayors of New York and Los Angeles, who are both black, and the Bill Cosbys and Michael Jordans aren't the whole story, he said.

With his felt-tipped pen rapidly listing statistics on an overhead projector, Kunjufu exhorted the group to pay attention to those who aren't doing well in this country.

"African-Americans lead the world in teen pregnancies . . . 61 percent of the our children are jobless . . . 33 percent of black adults live below the poverty line . . . 609,000 black men are in prison, 436,000 are in college . . . average age at death for black men of 63.8 years _ we die before the first Social Security check comes," he said.

"All is not well in America."

Kunjufu called for black nationalism and efforts centered in the African-American community to turn around some of the nation's sad statistics. Solutions include blacks building schools, developing their spiritual relationships and running their own businesses.

Most important: African-Americans need to ask why their communities have so many problems and how best to solve them, Kunjufu said.

"There is nothing worse than a Negro with a good job," he said, "because . . . (he) won't ask the right questions."