We know about research on the disparate treatment of black students compared to whites:
"For the same offense, Black students are three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their White peers."
We know about the disparities in employment among blacks compared to whites:
"White job applicants are 50 percent more likely to get a call from prospective employers than Black applicants with 'ethnic-sounding ' names."
We know about unfair drug laws that have ravished communities of color:
"People of all races use and sell drugs at remarkably similar rates; however, Black youths are 48 times more likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses than their White peers for identical drug crimes."
These statistics come from Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), a national membership network that seeks to ensure the growth, sustainability, and impact of leaders and organizations committed to improving the life outcomes of Black men and boys. However, what's more difficult to know is what's being done in cities to halt the onslaught of disadvantages experienced by African-Americans, particularly Black men and boys.
City Index for Black Male Achievement
CBMA aims to answer these questions with The Promise of Place: Cities Advancing Black Male Achievement and its Black Male Achievement (BMA) City Index, which scores 50 cities, home to approximately 5.5 million or 30 percent of all Black males, according to their visible level of engagement and committed action on behalf of Black men and boys.
Its website includes an interactive national map, with detailed scoring data and downloadable scorecards for all 50 cities scored in the BMA City Index. Detroit, Oakland, Washington D.C., and New Orleans have the highest Black Male Achievement City Index Scores.
How is your city faring?
Support for Boys and Men of Color in Metro Atlanta
Atlanta is 12th on the report index. Not bad, but the city can certainly do better.
To get answers about how Atlanta can improve its support of Black men and boys, Foundation Center South and The Annie E. Casey Foundation's Atlanta Civic Site organized "The Boys and Men of Color: Perspectives on Their Support in Metro Atlanta" at the Loudermilk Center on September 20. This event brought together leaders of organizations serving men and boys of color, specifically Black and Latino males. In addition, representatives from foundations, colleges, and various community organizations joined the conversation.
Most statistics concerning Black boys and men are well documented. However, major gaps still exist in understanding what is being done and who is doing it in the field of black male achievement. Building a Beloved Community: Strengthening The Field of Black Male Achievement seeks to fill this gap by mapping the major sectors involved: philanthropy, nonprofits, research, and government. The report also examines opportunities for other constituencies to become more involved.
"We must be the change we wish to see in the world."
Keynote speaker Shawn Dove, CEO of Institute for Black Male Achievement, reiterated Gandhi's sentiment with his emphatic plea for Atlanta's leaders to passionately progress toward higher achievement levels collaboratively because "there is no cavalry coming to save the day!"
What Atlanta and other cities need are committed leaders who are "obsessed" with improving outcomes for boys and men of color. With the entire South garnering only 28 percent of funding geared toward supporting Black males, there are significant challenges in helping to build capacity of organizations focused on Black male achievement, Mr. Dove said.
Advocates for boys and men of color in Atlanta and elsewhere must get involved locally. Before we have impact, we must have engagement. Many communities may not have billionaires, but they may be strong in "willionaires," individuals willing to invest time and money in the community to create positive impact.
While Mr. Dove unabashedly advocates for black boys and men, he clearly articulated that his passion does not mean that he doesn't love girls and women in the community. Often when there is specific emphasis on Black boys and men, people erroneously believe that he or others are against girls and women, which simply is not the case.
Following Mr. Dove was a panel discussion and Q&A session, led by Phoenix Leadership Foundation Chairman James "Jay" M. Bailey. The panel included:
- Kaliq Ballard, Student, Next Generation Men
- Markese Bryant, Sustainability Lead, Remix: The Soul of Innovation
- Catrina DaCosta McAfee, Executive Director, LaAmistad
- Yolanda Hawkes, Cabinet Chair, African-American Partnership, United Way of Greater Atlanta
- Lafreddie Smith, Program Manager, Phoenix Boys Association
The discussion centered around reframing the topic to discuss Black boys and men as assets in the community. In order to be an asset to the community, one generally has to have a healthy state of mind. Due to significant traumas experienced by many boys and men of color, training in healing and stress reduction is vital to their mental and physical health, which can impact their economic health. For healing to occur, real discussions addressing the concerns of Black boys and men need to happen. They also need a safe space for these discussions to take place.
Issues of economic empowerment and adaptive fundraising sparked dialogue about the power of communities of color benefiting from their creativity. Markese Bryant highlighted how communities would be better off if the wealth generated from the creativity originating there stayed there.
Another hot topic that generated much discussion centered on educational pathways and opportunities. Lafreddie Smith emphasized the importance of having multiple educational paths. Instead of focusing so much on college, trade schools and community colleges should be equally as esteemed and valued as options for further growth and development. Learning trade skills and attending community colleges can play a vital role in preparing men to be self-sufficient and do it for less money than the cost of obtaining a college degree.
The need for greater mentoring and exposure for boys and men as well as creating cultures that do not glorify dropping out of high school are important for communities of color. The panelists agreed that by working together, we can continue to make progress on shifting this pervasive mentality. Collaboration is particularly crucial in Atlanta. When organizations in our communities collaborate, share data, space and sometimes resources, they can provide the support structures needed to help Black boys and men navigate their environments and create paths of achievement.
Rubye Sullivan, Senior Associate with Annie E. Casey Foundation's Atlanta Civic Site, shared statistics to better understand the local landscape, mainly the fact that 65 percent of children in the City of Atlanta live in communities with low or very low Child Well-Being. The Child Well-Being Index provides greater insight into the challenges facing communities especially communities of color.
Despite these complex challenges, hope remains. Attendees left inspired to connect, collaborate, and most importantly, to act. Not only do Black boys and men of color need support, the organizations providing this support need the brawn of all sectors working collaboratively to improve the life outcomes of this vulnerable yet powerful population.
One promising call to action was to join the Boys and Men of Color Executive Director Collaboration Circle, organized by Foundation Center and Annie E. Casey Foundation's Atlanta Civic Site to help nonprofit leaders learn how to position their organizations to generate more resources and build a stronger network to sustain their programming for Black and Hispanic boys and men. Qualifying groups will compete for a grant of at least $25,000 to pilot their concept beginning in Fall 2017.
ASIA HADLEY is Virtual Services Assistant at Foundation Center. Previously she worked as Training Coordinator at the Center's Atlanta office, served as vice-president of the Atlanta Nonprofit Professionals, and volunteered as a grant funding peer reviewer for the Commission for Service and Volunteering.
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