Black Male Achievement Fellows Make History
By Rashid Shabazz
It is with great pride that I announce the inaugural 2012 class of nine Black Male Achievement (BMA) Fellows. The fellows come from a diverse array of backgrounds, experiences, and identities but share a common vision of supporting black male achievement and transforming our communities, society, and world for the better. The BMA Fellowship is a joint project of the Open Society Foundations and Echoing Green.
This first cohort of fellows include a community organizer and strategist whose vision is to build the self-sufficiency of young, queer, straight, and transgendered people of color to shape a radical new vision of masculinity for black males and a 19-year-old social entrepreneur who wants to improve math literacy among urban youth by creating innovative, fun, and effective educational tools that harness the power of the NBA (National Basketball Association).
These and the other finalists are the kinds of social entrepreneurs we dreamed of when the Campaign for Black Male Achievement was planning the fellowship. More than anything, we wanted to create the space and opportunity for innovative thinkers and doers to give birth to the ideas and solutions to address the most entrenched problems facing black men and boys. We also wanted to make history with the very first fellowship of its kind for social entrepreneurs who are starting up new organizations in the field of black male achievement.
We believe that we must invest in finding the next great idea and solution to advance black male achievement. We want to use the fellowship to support individuals who don't just see problems but think big and bold and see possibilities. We also want the fellowship to further projects and ideas that take risks, disrupting the way we think and approach problems currently.
Although a number of existing key institutions, including current grantee partners, are focused on addressing the crisis facing black men and boys, there is a shortage of new ideas and innovations to address the mounting issues facing this population. What we needed were social entrepreneurs who had a commitment to social issues, and we found them.
The BMA fellowship is modeled after Echoing Green’s successful 25-year-old fellowship program, which has a long track record of identifying and supporting emerging social entrepreneurs who launch new organizations that go on to have long-term, systemic impact on society.
The rigorous BMA Fellow selection process included outside interviewers who have long been leaders in the philanthropic and private sector and who are themselves social entrepreneurs and innovators. Alvin Starks of the Kellogg Foundation, Loren Harris and Marcus Littles of Frontline Solutions, and Rev. Alfonso Wyatt, Founder of Strategic Destiny LLC, were just a few of the people who have been leading efforts on behalf of the black community and black males.
Nothing great happens without collaboration or partnership. One year ago, the idea of the fellowship was simply an idea but today it is a reality. We know that these nine fellows carry the seeds of hope and potential not only for black male achievement, but for our country. We congratulate them for this accomplishment and know they will ensure black men and boys have greater opportunities in the future.
Until February 2015, Rashid Shabazz was a program officer with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement.