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African-American Families Discuss Challenges And Solutions

For the past three years, Portland’s Black Parent Initiative has held a symposium to bring community leaders and families together to talk about ways to address challenges. Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin is headlining the day-long event, titled “Breaking the Cycle, Closing the Gap, Saving Our Boys.”

Charles McGee, president of the Black Parent Initiative, calls the fourth annual event “an interesting but tragic opportunity” to talk about meeting the challenges of raising black children and an opportunity to talk about some of the social factors that violence comes out of, like broke schools and broken families. He says a combination of recent and historical events has brought about a certain urgency in facing these issues head on: the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the 50th anniversaries of both the March on Washington and the murder of Medgar Evers.

Portland native Sharon Maxwell-Hendricks is an African-American mother of four who says the changes she’s seen in some North and Northeast Portland neighborhoods have been “like a cancer.” She says, “When you let it go untreated, it will get worse and worse.” She cites an increase in gang presence, drug use and crime that have affected her family  for over twenty years. Those problems aren’t confined within a few neighborhoods, however. Just days ago, a Southeast Portland family lost their teenage son to a violent crime that police have said is likely to be gang-related.

We’ll talk with Maxwell-Hendricks, Charles McGee and others about the challenges they face, as well as changes they and other community members would like to see.

Are you the parent of a black son? What challenges have you faced? What changes or resources would you like to see in your community?


  • Chris Fisk: Father of one, expecting another
  • Dr. Daymond Glenn: Vice President for Community Life; Chief Diversity Officer; Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at Warner Pacific College
  • Sharon Maxwell-Hendricks: Mother of four
  • Charles McGee: President and CEO of the Black Parent Initiative
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