Open Society Institute Launches Campaign to Promote Black Men and Boys' Achievement

NEW YORK—The Open Society Institute's U.S. Programs today announced a new campaign to address the exclusion of African American men and boys from the economic and political mainstream in the United States.

Today's announcement comes on the heels of a growing body of research revealing that the isolation and negative outcomes for African American men and boys is more extreme than previously acknowledged. For example, more than 50 percent of all African American boys do not finish high school and a mere 18 percent of black males aged 18 to 21 are enrolled in college. A black child was more likely to grow up with both parents during the era of slavery than today, and nationally 13 percent of black men cannot vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws.

"The promise of America will only be achieved by reversing the outcomes that prevent black men and boys from realizing their potential," said Shawn Dove, manager of OSI's Campaign for Black Male Achievement. "Nothing defeats the spirit of open society more than marginalizing a group of people," said Dove, a community leader with more than two decades of experience in youth development, education, and organizing.

Building on U.S. Programs' previous work to promote racial justice and reduce over-incarceration, the campaign aims to reform educational outcomes and improve economic well-being.

"The problems facing men and boys in the African American community do not exist in a vacuum. This is America’s problem," said Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone and a board member for U.S. Programs.

OSI's campaign, which in its first year will devote $2 million to programmatic development, will support individuals and organizations working to develop alliances among scholars, social justice organizations, the arts and culture industry, as well as other philanthropic endeavors to address black male achievement. The campaign's first grantees are the Center for Urban Families, for its innovative Responsible Fatherhood strategy, which connects a strong direct service program with public policy, and the 21st Century Foundation, for its Black Men and Boys Initiative.

Dove joins the campaign after serving as one of the founding directors of New York City's Beacon School movement in the early 1990s; initiating a public awareness and recruitment initiative called the Male Mentoring Project in response to the lack of African American and Latino male mentors for New York City’s boys; and founding Proud Poppa, a community empowerment publication for African American fathers.

The Open Society Institute, a private operating and grantmaking foundation, works to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve its mission, OSI seeks to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. OSI works in over 60 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as in the United States.