This summer we entered the second year of the Black Male Achievement (BMA) Fellowship program, which supports social entrepreneurs dedicated to advancing the lives of black men and boys in the United States. This relatively new program was launched by the Open Society Campaign for Black Male Achievement and Echoing Green. While we are still in the process of welcoming the new 2013 BMA Fellows, it’s a good time to reflect on what we have learned from our inaugural class.
The 2012 BMA Fellows have exceeded our expectations, leveraging the program’s resources to raise over $2.5 million beyond their initial stipends, securing numerous organizational partnerships, and receiving crucial technical assistance as they establish their programs.
Just this past month, BMA Fellow Donnel Baird and his project BlocPower received a $2 million investment from the U.S. Department of Energy to help low-income communities access energy efficiency while connecting unemployed black men to green jobs.
As Donnel worked with the federal government on the grant, his affiliation with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement was a crucial factor as the Department of Energy weighed the risk of investing in this young startup.
Mentor relationships have proven to be crucial as the fellows navigate the operational challenges of launching and managing a social enterprise while also ensuring they are improving the lives of black men and boys.
Each of the BMA Fellows benefitted from support, consulting, and mentorship from the broad field of researchers, practitioners, and mentors within the field of black male achievement. For example, Khalil Fuller’s mentor Marcus Littles from Frontline Solutions ensured Fuller attended his meetings with more than talking points, and that he shared his real passion for the achievement of black men and boys. This allowed Khalil as a 20-year-old social innovator to impress people with his youth and intellect while reminding his audience of the urgency to help black boys.
Marquis Taylor’s mentor, Richard Murphy, even as he was terminally ill with cancer, offered advice and reviewed Taylor’s program plan. In the months since Murphy's passing, Taylor has grown his program into a model for youth leadership. He has also expanded his program to Boston and will be a featured speaker at the U.S. Attorney’s Project Safe Neighborhoods Gang Prevention Summit.
In planning for the BMA Fellowship, we knew that the investment by the Open Society Campaign for Black Male Achievement was not just about giving monetary support to these fellows. Since day one, this partnership has been about opening up novice social entrepreneurs to a community of peers, experienced mentors, and advisors who are deeply committed to the personal growth of these social change agents and their commitment to black men and boys.
Combining the resources of our two organizations has laid the groundwork for transformational impact in the structural barriers to black male achievement. These barriers are not new, but the BMA Fellows are catalyzing innovative solutions that could be game changers for black men and boys.