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Conference offers solutions to black family problems

The black family is an endangered species, but it can be the moral force that saves a troubled urban America, says Joseph H. McMillan of the University of Louisville. ``Black people themselves threaten their own families from within, and mainstream demands challenge black families from without,'' he says.

Dr. McMillan, assistant provost and a professor at the University of Louisville, finds inspiration in his work as coordinator of the university's National Conference on the Black Family, which ended its 14th annual session recently.

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``We look at the black family from a black viewpoint,'' he says. ``We see a black society which once looked to its family and its extended family for strength. The extended family included ... relatives ... neighbors, the church, the Jim Crow [segregated black] school, and the black talented tenth [what black historian and educator W.E.B. DuBois called the most able blacks].''

Today, McMillan says, the conference is a surrogate extended black family offering fresh solutions to old problems with academic tools:

Research and ongoing studies by black scholars. ``We can no longer let white professionals define us and set our goals,'' McMillan says. ``We can do for ourselves.''

Involvement of the black community. ``Our conference leaders bring their studies to community people for implementation,'' he says. ``We have helped organize the Ohio Black Family Coalition, which touches base with people in 15 Ohio cities....''

Black people doing for themselves. ``The black family conference is an example,'' he says. ``The University of Louisville underwrote the conference when it was started in 1972, but ... today [it] pays its own way.''

Success is no guarantee that one can escape black-family problems, he says. ``I know because I'm a native of Louisville working at home after making good in Michigan for years,'' he explains. ``Even with all these goodies, I haven't escaped from problems many black families face. I have a son in prison.'' -30-{et