Former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, left, shakes hands with friend and former NBA player Archie Clark after he launched his Bing Youth Initiative that involves mentoring and other activities. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)
Former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing sent a message Wednesday that help is on the way for Detroit youth when he launched his Bing Youth Initiative that involves mentoring and other activities.
“We have a strong message for you today: We have not forgotten you,” Bing said at a news conference at the UAW-Ford National Program Center on Jefferson Wednesday afternoon. “We don’t want you to give up on your future, and we are here to help you achieve your dreams. But first we have to help you beat the odds. Failure is not an option.”
Bing, a National Basketball Association Hall of Famer, launched the initiative, an umbrella for several organizations to provide mentoring and other programming for young people, with Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Jack Martin, United Auto Workers Vice President Jimmy Settles and former NBA and National Football League players at Wednesday’s event.
The organization’s efforts will begin this summer with a five-week camp for about 1,200 youth at four schools. The collaborative project between the UAW-Ford and the Detroit Public Schools will provide etiquette classes, resume building and interviewing skills, character building and self-defense classes.
“If our city is going to come back, it’s going to be about us,” Bing said. “I don’t think there’s anything more important than giving of ourselves to these young men.”
Bing’s initiative is in line with several others launched recently. Earlier this year, City Council members James Tate and Andre Spivey launched the Black Male Engagement Task Force to address high unemployment rates, drug use, lack of education and the poor quality of life faced by African-American men.
The city's unemployment rate has hovered around 15 percent during the past few years — about twice the state’s average. Detroit had a higher homicide rate for children through age 18 than any U.S. city its size or larger in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available.
And 80 percent of new Detroit mothers are unmarried, compared with 42 percent of all Michigan moms. This means they have less financial and emotion support than women with husbands.
“No other place probably needs it more than Detroit,” Settles said. “We have to stop being a community of people that complain or look at someone else to resolve some of the problems we have. It’s time for all of us to give back. It’s now time for all of us just to give a little more. Now is our time to turn around the city.”
Bing added: “The payback is we keep some of these young men out of prison.”
During Wednesday’s news conference, Bing also announced the creation of his own mentoring program called BINGO — Boys Inspired through Nurturing, Growth and Opportunities. This fall, the program has plans to work in East English Village and Cody high schools as well as Marcus Garvey and Mackenzie K-8 schools.
An informational session on the program will be June 25 at the UAW National Center.
Rayshon Johnson, 16, said the mentoring program “will be a nice thing for young males.”
“I hope our school gets a lot out of it,” said Johnson, a student at East English Village High School on the city’s east side. “I hope to be a better young man and learn a lot in life. It means a lot.”