Tonya Allen: Quantifying hope for young men of color

Editor's note: This blog is being republished with permission from the Foundation Center and Campaign for Black Male Achievement's joint report, Quantifying Hope: Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys.

At a March meeting in Detroit, a number of stakeholders committed to improving outcomes for young men of color sat around a table, sharing the one word they felt defines how they’re experiencing the beginning of citywide work on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

Adults shared words such as “powerful,” “encouraged,” and “committed.” All good things to hear.

When it came time for the one youth participant, a

quantifyinghope

Source: Quantifying Hope report

senior from Detroit’s East Village Preparatory High School, to share, he paused and said quietly, “I just feel loved.”

That’s one of the best things I’ve heard in a long time. I want all young men of color in Detroit and across the nation to know, without a doubt, they are important to our future, they are worthy of our investment, and they are indeed loved.

As president & CEO of The Skillman Foundation, chair of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, and co-chair of the nationally-focused Executive Alliance alongside Bob Ross from the California Endowment, I have the honor of being in a position to drive what’s happening locally, in my city of Detroit, as well as across the country.

What I see – and what I try to push -- is a swelling momentum. In Detroit, stakeholders are meeting on an urgent schedule to create a citywide plan to improve outcomes for these young men. That plan will include four platforms for action – education, health, workforce development, and safety. I’m encouraged to see who is at the table; they include not just longtime partners who have devoted decades to this work and know it well, but also new partners, including representatives from the city’s business sector, bringing unique ideas, energy, and resources.

In late spring, in accordance with the White House’s MBK playbook, Detroit will host a summit to share the final report of policy analyses and recommendations with the community. By 2020, our goal is to see graduation rates for young men of color reach 90 percent in the city of Detroit. In the six neighborhoods where we work in Detroit, we’ve already seen these rates go up almost 20 percent since 2008. With the right intention and alignment of community partners, we know we can reach this mark.

Nationally, because of concerted efforts like the Campaign for Black Achievement, I’ve seen scores of foundations and corporations commit to work toward the same goals. This alignment of actions has the potential to address disparities affecting young men of color in an unprecedented way.

Overall, in Detroit and across the country, I see two concurrent threads. One is a recognition that we must change the narrative and recognize that these young men are assets. The other is the recognition that our young men, these assets, are in many ways hurting.  What I see is an America that is enmeshed in a crucial moment, where young men of color need our collective action more than ever. They deserve our support and our commitment.

They deserve our love.

Tonya Allen is the president & CEO of The Skillman Foundation. Follow her on Twitter @allen_tonya. Download the full Quantifying Hope report here.

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