There's a crisis looming out there that's some say is more serious than AIDS and is ruining more lives of young blacks and Hispanics than cancer and other deadly diseases.
And not enough is being done to stop it, experts say.
This killer is a complex mix of social ills striking thousands of minority males, leaving many of them unemployed, unhealthy, uneducated, ill-equipped for parenthood and in many cases, dying a violent death.
Tomorrow, the Hartford Board of Education will convene a symposium on minority males to discuss this crisis. Titled "Changing the Face of Tomorrow" the half-day conference will bring together dozens of prominent city and state experts to discuss the issue.
"We have what is thought to be a first-class industrialized country that has within its borders a third world country," said Dr. Anthony S. Morgan, chief of trauma surgery at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center.
"As a public health concern you have more [young minority] people dying from shooting and trauma than from AIDS," he said. For example, he noted that more young black men between 15 and 34 die by homicide than by any illness.
Morgan will bring his grim message and wakeup warning to the medical community at the symposium on Saturday, when he joins people such as Hartford Superintendent of Schools T. Josiha Haig, defense lawyer Joseph Moniz, Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa Cofield, Deputy State Education Commissioner Benjamin Dixon and others from the public and private
"It's important that we raise the consciousness level of our community," said Haig, who asked school administrators Amador Mojica and Carol Wright last spring to plan the symposium. "What we need to do is to create more strategies to connect students to programs that already exist."
Mojica, whose remarks Saturday are titled "A Population at Risk," said the data are startling. From dropout rates to teenage pregnancy to low birth weight babies to death rates, young minority males are suffering much more than the rest of the population, Mojica said.
"I am going to give the public a picture of the African American and Hispanic plight. And right now it is not a pretty picture that we paint. We are losing these youngsters at a very early age," said Mojica, who is principal of Barnard Brown School.
"The public better wake up and demand a whole lot more from the leaderhip in this country," Mojica said.
The symposium features individual remarks by Haig, Mojica, Wright and Dr. Julio Morales, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. There will also be two panel discussions featuring local educators, legal and health experts and others.
"This is the first time the community will come together to discuss this issue," said the board of education's Sheldon Neal, who along with Lois Sharpe and Dorothy Billington helped plan the conference. "Hopefully it will set the stage for some things to happen in the future. It is extremely important. We are losing too many of these young men."
The symposium will begin with a continental breakfast at 8 a.m. at the Community Renewal Team offices at 555 Windsor St. in Hartford. The program begins at 9 a.m. and lasts till about 1 p.m. The entire event is open to the public