Black men from all walks of life are gathering next Tuesday, November 13, in Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia as part of BMe—a growing community that encourages black men to “lift up their voices” and tell others about the positive contributions they make in their communities. Teams of videographers are fanning out across city neighborhoods over the next eight weeks, and more than 1,700 men are expected to record videos about special projects and everyday actions they take to strengthen their neighborhoods and help others.
“BMe is based on a simple truth, that there are thousands of black men who are assets to their communities—and we must acknowledge and build upon our assets. No buts, no maybes, no if ands, ” said Trabian Shorters, vice president of communities for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which founded BMe along with the Open Society Foundations. “They start businesses, mentor people, run projects and help others just because they can and because they care.”
Story-sharing is just one aspect of BMe—pronounced “be me”—a growing network of black men committed to making their communities stronger. Through BMe, black men can also connect with each other, exchange ideas and receive resources to advance the positive work they do in their communities. In addition to Knight and Open Society, the initiative is backed by the Heinz Foundation.
After a successful pilot in Detroit and Philadelphia, the program is expanding this year to Baltimore. Events are being held on Tuesday, November 13, in those three cities to issue a “call for stories” that will be featured on the BMe website. Early next year, participants will be able to apply for grants to support their community work.
"BMe's expansion to Baltimore builds upon other successes with community arts initiatives—such as the Black Male Identity project that engaged so many Baltimoreans last year—that help to raise awareness about the importance of elevating positive black male images,” said Diana Morris, director of the Open Society Institute–Baltimore.
Local outreach teams are interviewing men and collecting stories for BMeCommunity.org. Among the men who have answered the call in recent days:
Chris Wilson, who just launched a community business school in the Barclay neighborhood to help people with entrepreneurial acumen learn the skills they need to build successful businesses.
Booker Snow, a former youth coach and counselor for the Detroit Pistons, who helps families in his east side neighborhood deal with personal tragedies by working with Crimestoppers and It Takes A Village Y’All to obtain information about missing people and murder victims.
Antoine Bullock, an entrepreneur who invests in small businesses and helps others in his community start their own businesses, find funding, networking opportunities and business tools.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.