Black Methodist Leaders Launch 'Male Investment Plan'

Thousands gather at the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia, S.C., for the March 1-3, 2010, Great Gathering. (Photo: Jeff Chambers)

Leaders from the nation's three largest Black Methodist denominations unveiled a new plan this week to curb social problems among black males as their historic "Great Gathering" event drew to a close.

The program, called the Male Investment Plan (MIP), was presented on Wednesday to nearly 5,000 attendees of the "Great Gathering" event, which took place in the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia, S.C. and brought together members of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church for the first time in 45 years.

"We are going to leave this place united and committed, and I know it's going to be a success because all of you here are going to do your part to make it work," said Bishop Warren Brown, Chair of Bishops for the AMEZ, told the audience during the program's launch.

Designed for African American males ages 5 to 25, the MIP will feature Saturday workshops dealing with issues such as life skills, career options, self esteem, anger management, spiritual enhancements, study habits, and financial literacy.

Organizers hope the program will steer black males away from trouble that could possibly put them in prison, which is trend that one "Great Gathering" speaker said is the biggest crisis for the black community since slavery.

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, told the crowd during her speech that more black males are imprisoned today than were enslaved in the 19th century.

"A black boy, if he is born today, has a one in three chance of going to prison in his lifetime; a black girl, a one in 18 chance. This is a disastrous figure," Edelman said. "Our prisons are filled with black fathers and black mothers, and we have got to turn it around, and we have got to break this cycle."

In a videotaped message of encouragement to the gathering, President Barack Obama noted: "As members of the black Methodist community, you know the challenges we face as Americans and you know the challenges the African American community faces in particular. You also know that through unwavering determination and steadfast faith each of us can rise above them and help our brothers and sisters do the same."

He continued: "In the face of overwhelming odds you've always known that together we have the power to build a better world for the next generation. This historic meeting is the next chapter in that incredible legacy and I promise you that my administration will continue to work ... to address the serious challenges that confront us."

The MIP program is set to be launched in 13 regions across the country, beginning with the Washington D.C. metropolitan area in May.

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