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City panel seeks to address plight of black men

The Boston City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to create a special commission to address the plight of black men and boys, among the city’s most vulnerable population.

“Black men are particularly vulnerable,’’ said Councilor Tito Jackson of Roxbury, who led the push to create the commission. “Their school dropout rate is twice as high as their white counterparts. They are more likely to be unemployed.”

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Black males are also more likely to be involved in violent crimes — both as perpetrators and as victims — and their life expectancy is lower than other groups, Jackson said.

Jackson said that despite the black community’s significant presence in the city, no formal commission exists that addresses pathways to economic advancement, education, and political influence for black men and boys.

He said the commission will consist of 14 members, representing youths, clergy, and advocates. The panel — the members have not been named yet — will advise the mayor and endeavor to ensure equitable treatment of black men and boys by working with city departments to create paths to success, Jackson said.

The council’s 13-0 approval of the commission comes on the same day that 17 mayors and more than 200 city leaders from across the nation convened for the inaugural Cities United meeting in New Orleans, which aims to address the high number of violence-related deaths among African-American men and boys in US cities.

The two-day meeting, which seeks to restore hope and opportunities to young boys, follows campaigns in Philadelphia, where African-American males are 80 percent of the homicide victims and 75 percent of all crime arrests, that city’s mayor, Michael A. Nutter, said at the event.

With Boston reeling from 11 homicides this year in predominantly minority communities, Jackson said, the city must adopt a comprehensive plan that rescues black men and boys from trouble and creates routes for them to succeed.

“I’m doing it because it’s time,’’ Jackson said. “We have to approach this with a comprehensive plan that will allow us to deal with root causes of the issue rather than the symptoms.”

He said city leaders should see this issue as not solely affecting the black community but all of Boston.

Responding to recent crimes, advocates have focused on black males during faith services and community events. On Wednesday morning, a group of black clergy trekked to City Hall to pray for peace with Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

At the council meeting Wednesday, Councilor at Large Ayanna Pressley said the new commission’s goal is no different from efforts pooling resources to address AIDS or suicides.

“There is an epidemic happening with our black boys,’’ Pressley said, adding that more action is needed to instill the notion that black men can foster peace, head households, and lead their communities.

Material from Globe wire services was included in this report. Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.
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