By Calvin Dudley SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)- The Century Foundation recently reported Syracuse has the highest concentration of Black poverty of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country.
In 2000, nine Syracuse neighborhoods were deemed “extremely impoverished” meaning 40 percent or more of the population lives in poverty. Today, almost 30 of these neighborhoods exist, with two-thirds of the population in these neighborhoods being Black.
“It’s a big ol’ cycle that started from really policies implemented years ago that created a impoverished city. It pushed black minorities into the city and kept them out of the suburbs. So it’s like a lot of things you can try to pinpoint, but it all boils . . . it really starts from policies,” said Jared Augustine, a Youth Development Specialist for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Syracuse.
Augustine, a Syracuse native, says Black people in Syracuse have always had less, but the gap between Blacks and whites in the city is increasing.
“Our education is not up to par. We’re not where we should be and that is one of the main reasons why a lot of African Americans are basically in poverty,” says Valerie Hill, the Director of Community Services at the Southwest Community Center.
Hill sees kids who are in poverty everyday while working at the Community Center. She says there are kids who are reading at a grade level significantly lower than where they are supposed to be. Over half of the kids who attend Syracuse public schools are black.
Other community leaders see a lack of development of basic life skills.
“It’s not enough just to give them training in a particular skill or a trade if they don’t even know how to get a driver’s license, how to find their birth certificate, how to show up for a job interview, how to dress for a job interview. Those really basic soft skills that a lot of us take for granted we find that that’s where we really have to start with a lot of people who come from these communities that have really been in poverty for quite a while,” says Luke Avery-Dougherty the Director of Community of Impact at United Way Central New York.
Dougherty says instead of just giving money to those in poverty, training people for jobs is the biggest step in helping so much of the Black community get out of poverty.
“The poverty in Syracuse’s Black community can definitely get better, we just need everybody working together,” says Augustine.