Join the Movement for Black Male Achievement

Thirteen years ago, documentarians Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson decided to film their son, Idris, and close friend, Seun, from the time they entered kindergarten to high school graduation. The journey of Idris and Seun turned into the award-winning documentary American Promise, which will premiere this evening at 10 p.m. on the PBS POV (Point of View) series.

The national television premiere—the film has already been released theatrically—will allow more people to share in a moving exploration of diversity in New York’s elite private-school world and our society’s struggles with identity, race, and class.

American Promise shatters stereotypes and forces us to see black boys in their full humanity. Black boys are our sons, our brothers, our neighbors, and our children. Black boys are our future lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, farmers, sanitation workers, coders, and yes, presidents.

To leverage the film’s impact, Joe and Michèle started the American Promise Campaign to foster dialogue, discussion, and debate through community screenings with parents, youth, educators, and policy makers. The campaign also serves as a resource for those who may be moved by the film in different ways and have unique roles to play in the broader campaign to advance black male achievement. 

The Fledging Fund and the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement support the campaign because we believe that films can spark movements, and can and do have social impact.

The full power of documentary films often manifests when the lights come up. People want to connect with the issues in new ways and become involved. It’s critical to have tools and resources in place so that when the viewers ask, “What can we do?” there are clear answers.

We invite you to watch this compelling, brave, and moving story, and to visit the campaign’s website and find out how you can get involved. The American Promise Campaign is ready to provide all of us with an opportunity to have real impact in improving the life outcomes for all black boys. 

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Now is the time to get as many Black institutions as possible to join this campaign, that is, churches, NAACP, Urban Leagues, and other organizations as well.

Thank you Shawn for this note...if churches, the Urban League, NAACP, and others joined this campaign we would see real change

How do communites and others join the campaign without reinventing wheel where are the collaboration opportunites?

This is awesome, but can black women be included too?

I was fortunate enough to listen to Dr. Monique Morris, author of Black Stats, and she made me aware of some very startling statistics. It turns out black women have similar problems to black males but we've been excluded from the conversation because everyone compares our numbers to black males. But that doesn't make any sense from an empirical standpoint. We should be being compared to other females. Women of all races generally have lower rates of incarceration and higher rates of education compared to their male counterparts. It's stupid to say black women are ok based on comparisons to black males.

As a former teacher, my black girls needed these supports just as much as the males. And the problems played out differently in the areas of sexuality, American ideas of femininity, and treatment from the opposite sex of all races.

As a black woman and a graduate student, I experience a world where gender issues speak to the experience of white women and race issues are largely focused on black men. There's no space for me in the conversation. This lack of space forces me to be vocal because if I don't speak up, no one will. And it's painful to say, but in my personal experience in the ivy league grad school space, black men are embraced far more than black women are. There are fewer of them so that may increase their value. Some of them date outside our race, which I have no problem with, but I still face some backlash when I do the same (although I have no choice since there aren't any available black men). I personally feel that black women are hated no matter what we do-- if I were a single mother, I'd be condemned for that. As an educated woman, I'm expected to be loyal and fight for a race that only wants me when they don't have any better options. And even when they have better options, I'm expected to be on standby. What role am I expected to play here? There are scores of beautiful, single, professional black women. Maybe we shouldn't feel that marrying outside our race is disloyal. Our sons will still be black by America's standards. Then we can stop repeating the same cycles of men growing up with no fathers or female members of our community who could potentially raise strong families, being forced to opt out for lack of potential mates.

The stereotypes placed on black women make it challenging even within the black community. And I feel the narrow focus on black male issues may unintentionally undermine the interests of our population as a whole because it's basically saying that black women don't need any help or our issues don't matter. When black women are abused by police and no one talks about it, blamed for the failings of our sons or just left out of the conversation all together, how can we feel like we are valued at all? How can our men recognize our value? I think the only way to really make a change is if we shatter stereotypes on both sides- internally and externally. Then we can build each other up.

I definitely recognize the fact that race related problems play out differently for men than for women, but we ALL face similar problems. I love that we are talking more about the needs of black men, but I'm worried about the long term consequences of excluding black women.

This is good news particularly since the recipients will be black boys, the seeders of the race who need to be adequately prepared for their transition into manhood. his initiative should be embraced by all Americans. As a nation we cannot hope to compete in a world economy when a large portion of America's talent and potential remains untapped. However, I hope we utilize the power of collaboration in our efforts to seed hope and put transformational tools into the lives of minority boys in America.

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