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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 August 2007, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Call for black role models scheme
50 Cent
Many young black boys see rappers like 50 Cent as a role model

Black boys need positive role models from within their own communities to tackle underachievement, a report says.

The Reach panel of experts, from fields including education and business, says too often role models for young black men include rappers who glamorise guns.

The report says this could cost the UK 24bn over the next 50 years through taxes and criminal justice costs.

The Men's Room charity said black youths need "a greater diversity of images and portrayals".

The report was commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Schools call

The group wants a national programme to encourage lawyers, doctors, teachers and others to become mentors.

Black boys and young men desperately need a greater diversity of images and portrayals
Clive Lewis
Reach group chairman

It says that, too often, celebrities and rappers who glamorise crime become the role models for young black men.

The report also calls for stronger relationships between schools and the parents of black boys and urges inspection body Ofsted to make sure all schools strive to close the academic gap between black and white pupils.

And it recommends the formation of a national umbrella organisation to bring together relevant voluntary groups which face "significant barriers" to getting funding from the government.

Reach group chairman Clive Lewis runs The Men's Room charity which helps young black men to achieve their potential.

Raising the aspirations of black boys would enable them to make "an even greater contribution economically, culturally and politically to Britain", he said.

"Black boys and young men desperately need a greater diversity of images and portrayals, showing that black men can be, and are, successful in a wide range of careers including business, teaching, the law and health care."

Tim Campbell
Tim Campbell won the first series of The Apprentice

There was "an economic and social imperative" to raising aspirations, he said.

"In turn this will help to create a more skilled workforce, reduce crime and the fear of crime, decrease the pressure on the criminal justice system and provide a boost to the British economy."

Peer pressures

Rosemary Reid, sister of murdered teenager Jessie James from Manchester, said that young black boys were often pressurised by their peers into such dangerous behaviour as joining street gangs.

"There is a lot of pressure these young people are put under," she said.

"If they see, for example, one of their friends going off the path - meaning going to join the gang members - then they feel under pressure thinking 'Oh well, maybe we should do the same'."

Wanoo Seshmi, of the From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation, said boys need self-confidence to reject the gangs that are vying for their attention.

"A lot of young boys have been brought up in a toxic environment... where they're being taught to become victims.

There is a lot of pressure these young people are put under
Rosemary Reid

"And I believe in order for us to solve it peer mentor is a good one, business is a good one, but essentially, we need to teach young people to have a positive relationship with people."

Education and business

Tim Campbell is the winner of the first Apprentice TV series and founder of The Bright Ideas Trust, which aims to support business entrepreneurs of the future.

He told the BBC he would like to see money spent on education and business opportunities for young black males.

"The emphasis on role models is just a small aspect of addressing some of the issues particularly with black boys in the community," he said.

"I'd rather spend a lot more resources opening up educational opportunity and business and economic opportunities for individuals because that's where we're going to make a real impact."

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears is broadly welcoming the report but the government will give its official response in three months.

The East London Boyhood to Manhood project

Do all young people need role models?
Not sure
7273 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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