SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Racial Equity and Leadership Task Force was born out of a conversation between Mayor Van Johnson and former Mayor Otis Johnson.
Mayor Van Johnson says they decided it was time for Savannah to look at the truth of our race problem.
“Herein lies an opportunity for us to be able to finally have the grown adult, mature conversation about race and about class in our community,” he said.
Recommendations from the 45 member REAL Task Force are sweeping. They cover six areas of focus: health, housing, criminal justice, environmental justice, education and economic empowerment.
In criminal justice, the task force found that while Black men make up 20% of Savannah/Chatham County’s population, they are 68% of the county’s jail population. Black children are 20% of the population, but 76% of the county’s juvenile justice system.
Among the task force recommendations, adopting a city and county cash bail ordinance and creating a commission to address racial disparity in juvenile justice.
Education also showed a wide gap between Black and white children. Focusing on the third grade, where students start reading to learn, the task force reports less than 15% of Black students are proficient, compared to 52% of white students.
Their recommendation: more study by four groups focused on things like school policies and operations and how they impact Black students.
“The question, when this is all said and done, is what will we do about it? All of it is not under our span of control, but all of it affects us,” says Mayor Van Johnson. He wants the city council to take action on the task force’s recommendations sooner than later.
If you would like to read the entire Racial Equity and Leadership report, click or tap here.