The state of black boys will be the subject of two forums in Portland this week.

The Portland City Club's Friday Forum will examine the crisis with black boys in schools, around discipline and graduation rates. Hosted by the nonprofit Black Parent Initiative and the city of Portland, speakers will discuss the issues facing black boys, along with steps policymakers, researchers and parents should take to begin to bring about positive change.

"Thirty-five percent of black families in Multnomah County have two parents in the household,” says Black Parent Initiative Executive Director Charles McGee. Black youth in Multnomah County also receive criminal referrals at a rate six times higher than white youth. And black males between 25 and 65 are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed, compared to white males. “With the achievement gap, there’s a broader conversation that’s missing," McGee says. “As a community, we’ve got to take a more proactive role.”

McGee will introduce the topic; other speakers will include Daymond Glenn, vice president for community life and chief diversity officer at Warner Pacific College; and Doris McEwen, deputy director of curriculum and instruction at the Oregon Education Investment Board.

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The conversation will spill over into Saturday with a different audience, parents of black boys.

The 4th annual Black Parent Initiative Parent Symposium, “Breaking the Cycle — Closing the Gap; Saving our Boys,” is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at Marshall High School, 3905 S.E. 91st Ave.

It’s open to anyone parenting African American children in Oregon, focusing on boys.

A teacher from Woodlawn School will talk to parents about navigating their child’s education. A retired teacher from Jefferson High will lead a workshop on building literacy at home. A Warner Pacific professor will talk about college prep at home.

A student from Franklin will read a poem about the impact of the Trayvon Martin case on his life. And they’ll show a video message from Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Marton.

McGee says 350 people attended the parent symposium last year; this year he's shooting for 500. The day of talks, he says, will launch a series of "Parent University" classes that will cover similar topics throughout the year. The symposium is free and open to the public.

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