Our work in New Orleans poses a particularly challenging, yet motivating, question: What does success look like for black men and boys when we consider the mountain of inequities and injustices they have historically faced here?
Discrimination has produced staggering negative outcomes for black men and boys in the areas of education, work, and incarceration, to name a few. Fortunately, there is a treasure chest of hope found in communities throughout New Orleans and in the advocates and leaders who possess a “mountain-be-moved spirit” that enables them to envision progress five years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the floods.
We asked some of these leaders to define their vision for black men and boys in New Orleans.
In 2008, the 21st Century Foundation, with support from Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), expanded its Black Men and Boys Initiative to New Orleans. There, they support coalition-building and leadership development activities of groups seeking to improve the life outcomes of black men and boys. Trap Bonner, executive director of Moving Forward Gulf Coast, the 21st Century Foundation’s lead organization in the region:
When our organizing and advocacy efforts are successful, our New Orleans Black Men and Boys Coalition will have contributed to creating an atmosphere and environment where our men and boys can thrive. On the state and federal policy level, black men and boys will be the creators, not merely the recipients, of public policies and programs that address the whole needs of our community. We will have de-railed the school-to-prison pipeline in New Orleans and will have won victories for higher quality, culturally competent public education for our boys.
Patrice Sams-Abiodun, a board member of Women In Fatherhood Incorporated—a CBMA grantee—and the executive director of the New Orleans Fatherhood Consortium, believes in strengthening support for responsible fatherhood policies and programs:
By addressing and supporting black men as fathers we can improve the well-being of children, families and communities. The New Orleans Fatherhood Consortium, a collaborative of government and nonprofit social service organizations, fatherhood providers, researchers, funders and fathers envisions a New Orleans where the role of fathers is reclaimed in families and healthy lifestyles are created, so that neighborhoods are strong.
James Logan is program director for YouthLine America, Inc., which has led an organizing and community mapping initiative in collaboration with the Greater New Orleans Afterschool Partnership, resulting in the creation of a youth-produced website, neworleans.ilivehere.info. He sees opportunities through the crisis of Katrina:
Remembering the events of five years ago, a win for black men and boys in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast would be for them to have the tools and ability to create better opportunities and structures than those that existed pre-Katrina. The tragedy has given black men and boys in the Gulf Coast the opportunity to reinvent the structures and opportunities available to them from the ground up!