By Michael Karpman
With support from the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, NLC recently convened local leaders from 18 cities to discuss two new initiatives to expand opportunities for young men of color.
At a meeting held February 4-5 in Washington, D.C., these local officials, youth leaders, and community activists launched a Young Men of Color Network that will be coordinated by NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF Institute). The network will connect city officials as they identify and share best practices for helping young men of color succeed. Meeting attendees also helped lay the groundwork for an upcoming national initiative in which NLC will provide selected cities with technical assistance as they take steps to promote black male achievement.
Shared Sense of Urgency
The formation of the Young Men of Color Network builds on a growing, grassroots movement to improve outcomes for the nation's most disadvantaged children, youth and young adults. Together with foundations and an array of national and local stakeholders, city leaders are increasingly taking action to address persistent disparities in student achievement, employment, incarceration and homicide rates between young men of color and their peers.
NLC has been an active supporter of these efforts, and has worked with cities for nearly a decade to reengage "disconnected youth" between the ages of 16 and 24 - many of whom are young men of color - who are neither in school nor employed, with support and guidance from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. More recently, NLC became a partner in the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, which was launched by the Open Society Foundations in 2008 to create hope and opportunity for black men and boys who are marginalized from economic, social, educational and political life in the U.S.
As part of this campaign, NLC published an in-depth municipal action guide on City Leadership to Promote Black Male Achievement last fall to highlight steps that city leaders can take to reduce racial and gender inequalities in the areas of education, work and family. Through the Young Men of Color Network and City Leadership to Promote Black Male Achievement technical assistance project, NLC will continue to advance local initiatives focused on eliminating these disparities.
Young Men of Color Network
The inaugural Young Men of Color Network meeting focused on the role the network could play in helping cities address some of the major challenges to increasing support for young men of color, including a lack of leadership, knowledge and resources. Participants discussed the need for data-driven approaches, strategies for building public will and forming broad-based coalitions, and opportunities to learn best practices.
A panel of local elected officials who are leaders of NLC constituency groups offered their perspectives on areas requiring city involvement, particularly in forging stronger connections between education and employment. New Haven, CT Alderman Sergio Rodriguez, immediate past president of the Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO) constituency group, highlighted some of the effective alternative pathways to graduation and workforce development programs that serve young Latino men.
Rochester, NY Councilmember Adam McFadden, president-elect of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO), described his city's Operation Transformation initiative, which helps unemployed young men pursue a GED. "If you want to fix education in my city, you have to fix it for African-American males," said McFadden.
Campbell, CA Mayor Evan Low, president of the Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials (APAMO) constituency group, discussed the value of reaching out to communities of color to better understand diverse cultural backgrounds, particularly among Asian Pacific American young men. Mayor Low promoted STEM (science, technology, mathematics and engineering) education programs as a strategy to better prepare all young men of color for the workforce.
City Leadership to Promote Black Male Achievement
During the second day of the convening, speakers from New York City, Philadelphia and Oakland described key aspects of major local initiatives to promote black male achievement, and youth leaders from Atlanta and Philadelphia led a discussion on how to engage young people in advancing a black male achievement agenda.
Details: In the coming weeks, NLC will issue a request for proposals to participate in a new technical assistance project on City Leadership to Promote Black Male Achievement. For more information about this project or the Young Men of Color Network, contact Leon Andrews at (202) 626-3039 or firstname.lastname@example.org.