MacArthur Genius Fellow to share his antidote to ‘disease’ of youth violence

Joseph Marshall Jr.
Joseph Marshall Jr. Courtesy of Omega Boys Club

For 30 years, educator and MacArthur Genius Fellow Joseph Marshall Jr. has been doling out an antidote that he says can cure the disease of youth violence, and he will share what he calls his prescription as part of the 2017 Conversations on Race Scholar Symposia on Friday evening at Sacramento’s Trinity Cathedral.

Marshall’s message comes just a few months after Sacramento Bee reporters revealed that 114 teenagers had died violently in Sacramento County between the beginning of 2007 and June 2017. The bloodshed, they said, claimed honor roll students and street gang soldiers, young fathers and children of immigrants.

Marshall, the co-founder of the Omega Boys Club, has guided 225 young African-Americans to college graduation. “Street Soldier: One Man’s Struggle to Save a Generation, One Life at a Time,” the book Marshall co-wrote with veteran journalist Lonnie Wheeler, chronicled his effort in 1996.

“I have developed a list of risk factors, much like there are risk factors for heart disease or other illnesses,” Marshall said. “Then I crafted a whole prescription that...changes the way young people think, that changes the way they act, that deals with the emotional residue that they have and that gives them some rules to live by that will prevent them from relapsing.”

Other youth-development nonprofits offer opportunities such as school or jobs, Marshall said, but he found that approach didn’t work for him. When he first started out, he said, he had a young man give up gang life and promise to complete college if Marshall could find a way to pay for it. But later, Marshall discovered that the student resorted to selling drugs on campus when he ran out of money.

“I had changed his locale, but I hadn’t changed the way he was inside,” Marshall said. “When things got tough ... he just reverted to what he knew best.”

Yet, nonprofits such as Sacramento’s Improve Your Tomorrow do find success by offering kids a chance at college. Founder Michael Lynch has sent 66 young men to college, mentoring them for the opportunity starting in seventh grade. Lynch founded his nonprofit, in 2013 after earning a business degree from Humboldt State and a master’s in public policy and administration from Sacramento State.

“We went from 17 young men in April of 2013 to now serving 700 young men across 10 schools, so schools and school districts realize that IYT is doing something unique amongst young men of color,” Lynch said. “As far as success, ...we’re sitting at about a 96 percent college attendance rate after high school and an 89 percent four-year-college acceptance rate.” The organization is holding its fundraiser on Nov. 3. For information, go to www.improveyourtomorrow.org.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee


What: Dr. Joseph Marshall will share his prescription to help cure youth violence. .

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Church, 2620 Capitol Ave.

Cost: Free

Information: www.eventbrite.com/e/conversations-on-race-dr-joe-marshall-tickets-38204163682?aff=es2