The other day, I came across Gene Marks’s controversial Forbes article, “If I Were a Poor Black Kid.” It describes economic inequality as the most important issue of our time, as marked by President Obama in a poignant speech he gave recently in Kansas. Marks, a white, middle-aged tech writer, discusses how if he were a poor black kid, he would make sure to receive the best grades possible. But the obstacles poor black kids face in this country go far beyond studying hard and getting straight A’s. The article grossly minimizes the reality of inequality faced by black people and other disenfranchised groups. Marks clearly does not understand what life is like for poor black kids.
Though I’m on staff at the Campaign for Black Male Achievement here at the Open Society Foundations, I’m not a black kid either. I’m Latina and can only speak to my own experience. But whatever our ethnic or racial background, it’s much more important to fight inequality than it is to waste time claiming what we would do if we were someone else. In the last quarter of 2011, the campaign’s grantees and partners did just that.
Highlights include three exciting new partnerships. With Echoing Green, we announced a new fellowship program for individuals dedicated to improving the life outcomes of black men and boys in the United States. It is the first fellowship program of its kind that targets social entrepreneurs who are starting up new organizations in the field of black male achievement.
With the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, we embarked on a new campaign that will highlight the stories of black men and boys, celebrating and supporting them so they can lead others in strengthening their communities. The Black Male Engagement project piloted this year in two cities, Philadelphia and Detroit.
We also partnered with Root Cause in launching a Leadership and Sustainability Institute to bolster the efforts to improve the life outcomes of black males in the U.S. The project will strengthen the capacity of the campaign’s grantees and other nonprofit organizations working within the field of black male achievement.
In addition to these partnerships, we granted funding to the following organizations:
- Fathers, Families and Healthy Communities Initiative
- The Black Star Project
- Philadelphia Leadership Foundation’s Healing Communities
- Urban Underground
- Urban Institute
- Mentoring USA
- UCLA Labor Center’s Los Angeles Black Workers Center
- Equity Center at Indiana University
- Southern University System
- The Foundation Center
- Art on Purpose
- Third World Press