Thompson: Detroit tops in helping black males succeed
Despite the gloomy news that often clouds Detroit, the city has been ranked tops in a new national report for having more programs than any other city in the nation that are helping black men and boys succeed. The second and third place winners were Oakland, California, and Washington, D.C., respectively.
“The Promise of Place: Cities Advancing Black Male Achievement,” by the Campaign for Black Male Achievement and released Dec. 3, surveyed 50 cities across 29 states that are home to 5.5 million black males and asked about the steps being taken to address the multitude of crises they face. Among the local groups and agencies from the area cited in the report were Minority Males for Higher Education, Flip the Script, Brothers on Patrol, Neighborhood Service Organization’s Youth Initiatives Project, the Manhood Project, Don Bosco Hall Inc. and Detroit Parent Network.
Recognizing black males as assets to their communities in light of the challenges in education, employment and the other areas they face, the report pointed out events that led to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the need to address the root causes of the problems.
“More than 40 years after Dr. King asked, ‘Where do we go from here?’ American society is still grappling with the same sobering question,” said Shawn Dove, CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement.
In a population of 721,459, Detroit has 274,706 black males, according to the report. From 2010-14, high school graduation rates for black boys increased from 63 percent to 71 percent, and for Latino boys the rate increased from 67 percent to 79 percent specifically in neighborhoods such as Brightmoor, Chadsey Condon and Cody Rouge where the Skillman Foundation is making investments.
Tonya Allen, CEO of the Skillman Foundation, who said her organization has committed $2 million to support the My Brother’s Keeper initiative in Detroit, underscored the importance of the report.
“Detroit’s top ranking in CBMA’s index is a great acknowledgment of the efforts to make our city’s comeback inclusive for all,” Allen said. “In order for Detroit to thrive, its people must thrive. With a population that’s 90 percent black and Hispanic, there is no question about the importance of addressing disparities and expanding opportunities for boys and young men of color.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also praised the report.
“I’ve always believed that talent in this world is equally distributed. What hasn’t been equally distributed, however, is opportunity. In Detroit, a central focus is making sure that as the city turns around, there is opportunity for everyone, especially our young men of color,” Duggan said. “That’s why we strongly support President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative through our Grow Detroit’s Young Talent program.”
One of the groups listed in the report is the Milestone Agency that offers an 11-week multifaceted workshop of educational and life skills training to foster discipline and responsibility in at-risk youth ages 12-18.
Emmet Mitchell, executive director of the group, said the crisis of black boys explains the disintegration of the black family.
“The black family has suffered for quite some time. There is a direct correlation between the struggles of the black family and the marginalization of black boys,” Mitchell said. “To rebuild the black family, there must be a concerted effort to educate, empower and protect black boys. They will become leaders of the family and the community. So it’s imperative that they view themselves as assets, not liabilities.”
Mitchell said funding remains a challenge for groups like his that are exclusively dedicated to addressing the deep cultural and socioeconomic challenges of black boys.
“Our primary issue is the lack of commitment from larger foundations to earmark funds specifically for our agency and its partners to provide culturally relevant services to our black boy population,” Mitchell said. “We dedicate over 120 hours per month to research the issues and challenges black boys face, but more importantly how to solve them.”
Detroiter Odis Bellinger, founder of the Male Responsibility Institute, agreed. The institute’s “Building Better Men” program, a part of the Neighborhood Legal Services, is now used in the Detroit Public Schools.
“Our program has been one of the most consistent male mentoring programs for close to two decades, yet we still lack the funding that is needed to further our efforts and extend our reach to young men,” Bellinger said.
Though the new report highlights the short-term successes concerning black boys, Bellinger said the stakes are high.
“At stake for black males is early funeral home processions and incarceration because many adults and organizations do not advocate for more positive narratives for our young men to see instead of the glamorization of negative lifestyles,” Bellinger said. “Community philanthropic foundations should explore funding more genuine mentoring organizations than the symbolic and big name organizations.”
Bellinger said he was drawn to this effort because he grew up fatherless.
“I experienced being fatherless and having major mental and personal issues as a result,” he said. “I promised myself that if God allowed me to escape out of my neighborhood I would spend the rest of my life helping black males reach their dreams.”
Scoring the cities
The Black Male Achievement City Index is based is based on a first-time ever study, comparing 50 selected cities based on their demographic mix, Campaign for Black Male Achievement membership and city-led commitment, targeted financial support and presence of national initiatives supporting black men and boys. The full report can be found at cityindex.blackmaleachievement.org.
According to the index, the Top 10 scoring cities are:
Source: The Campaign for Black Male Achievement