An effort is underway to empower people of color and to address racial disparities in the Quad Cities.

Tracy White is director of the newly-formed African American Leadership Society which she says aims to bring together donors, volunteers and mentors, to give kids a better shot at life.

“We must face the reality that not everyone enters life under the same circumstances,” White says. “They don’t have the same advantages, they don’t have the same opportunity. Not everyone is going to relate to hunger and poverty. Not everyone is going to understand low graduation rates and high dropout rates.”

According to the United Way of the Quad Cities, black residents in the area fall behind whites on a slate of economic, academic and health metrics.

Pastor Mason Parks, a member of the AALS, says they’re working to address those gaps, by pulling in volunteers, donors and mentors.

“We are not our circumstances, we are not our past, and we definitely are not our mistakes,” Parks says. “Helping these young men understand that they don’t have to be what people think, what people say or what people expect them to be based on their culture and their surroundings.”

The United Way report says more than half of African-American preschoolers in the Quad Cities live in poverty, compared to 15% of white preschoolers. It also says nearly half of African-American households in the area are led by a single mom.

To get the organization moving, the AALS has set goals to recruit 100 new donors, volunteers and mentors within its first 100 days.

Thanks to Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio