Good news. Reversing the exclusion of Black men and boys from opportunities and benefits accorded other groups has become a priority for a growing group of philanthropic organizations. For instance, in 2008, the Open Society Foundations (New York) launched a national Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA). Subsequently, the Leadership and Sustainability Institute for Black Male Achievement (LSI) that originated in CBMA’s guidelines and principles, was added as a part of CMBA The Leadership Institute’s mission: “…Ensure the growth, sustainability and impact of leaders and organizations across the public, private and non-profit sectors committed to improving the life outcomes and systemic change for Black men and boys.”
The purpose of the LSI is to support leaders and organizations working to improve the life outcomes of Black men and boys. Barriers rooted in socioeconomic dynamics, public policies and structural factors help drive statistics such as: Less than 50% of Black males complete high school within four years vs. 80% of white males; the unemployment rate for Black males over the age of 20 is 17.4%, nearly double the national average; one in nine Black males between the ages of 20 and 34 is in prison compared to 1 in 100 in the U.S. adult population; and Black male students are 3-5 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers for the same infraction.
In two years, the LSI objective was to establish infrastructure and management of the LSI; develop nation’s most robust network of leaders and organizations that are advancing Black male achievement (BMA) work; provide 300 leaders and 150 organizations with leadership development and organizational sustainability services. In five years, that 1,000 leaders in organizations make measurable progress through policy and practices on expanding work opportunities, strengthening family structures and attaining educational equity; increased philanthropic and government resources invested in the field; catalyzed creation of a “Corporation for Black Male Achievement” to sustain the work over a generation.
In California, current foundation investments aimed at improving conditions for Black men and boys (BMB) include Boys and Men of Color’s (BMoC) Leadership Round Table in Oakland funded by the California Endowment (TCE) and the African American Male Achievement Initiative—Oakland USD funded by Open Society Foundations. The Oakland USD African American Male Achievement (AAMA) Program has been incorporated throughout the school district. It is actually a new department focused on African American males that oversees systematic change in the OUSD, including the way the school district thinks about its curriculum, classroom pedagogy, instruction, and community and parent engagement. (A similar program that addresses the specific needs of African American Males is sorely needed in the Los Angeles Unified School District.)
Last month, the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color’s (BMOC) Leadership and Sustainability Institute for Black Male Achievement (LSI) held its first meeting in Los Angeles. Panels focused on LSI as an “opportunity” and on “what’s happening now to further Black male achievement in California.” Breakout sessions explored successful, supportive networks, policy and systems change, promising practices and capacity-building.
Very likely, even Blacks concerned with the issue are unaware of these programs that focus exclusively on assisting Black males. It should be mentioned that foundations too are beginning to focus on this extremely important issue.
On April 7, 2013, leaders of twenty-six of the nation’s leading philanthropic organizations met to consider issues facing men and boys of color in the United States. The group pledged to form an alliance to address these issues, noting “with alarm the rates of violence and incarceration, particularly among Black males and boys of color. (This is somewhat surprising and takes on added significance coming from so many leaders of major philanthropic organizations.)
As important, perhaps more so, is that there is now an Association of Black Foundation Executives. Among other accomplishments, it has published a report on the major funding investments in California focusing on opportunities and challenges facing Black men and boys. Two such investments were cited earlier: The African American Male Achievement Initiative, Oakland USD and the Alliance for The Boys and Men of Color’s Leadership and Sustainability Institute for Black Male Achievement. Investments targeting Black males are a major paradigm shift from the “color-blind” orientation of most Black leadership in recent years.
Let’s applaud this emerging, unapologetically African American- centered leadership and become actively involved in supporting their efforts to assist Black men and boys which is to our collective benefit.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org