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'Rebranding' views of young black males

The Campaign for Black Male Achievement looks at black men and boys not as problems to be fixed but as individuals with potential.

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    Former NBA basketball star Magic Johnson attends President Obama's unveiling of the 'My Brother's Keeper' initiative at the White House Feb. 27, 2014. The program aims to improve opportunities for boys from minority groups.
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Beginning in February, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, a program based at the Open Society Foundations since 2008, will be spun off from the foundation and operate as a separate organization.

The change reflects the growing national interest in programs aimed at helping young black men.

In 2013, for instance, more than 40 foundation leaders created the Executives’ Alliance, a group that looks for ways to expand opportunities for young minority males. Last year, those efforts attracted interest from the Obama administration, which resulted in the president announcing the launch of an effort called My Brother’s Keeper in his State of the Union speech.

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Together the White House and philanthropy and business leaders designed programs to support minority boys and young men, with foundations and corporations chipping in more than $300-million in support.

Funding programs for young black men is gaining "unprecedented momentum," says Shawn Dove, who managed the campaign at the Open Society Foundations and will lead the new effort.

Mr. Dove says his "north star" wish is for the campaign to attract $1-billion. So far, the group’s budget is more modest, but it has gotten support from several other organizations.

Open Society Foundations provided the spinoff with an initial five-year grant of $10-million. Mr. Dove says five other organizations, including the Robert Wood Johnson, John S. and James L. Knight, and Skillman foundations, the California Endowment, and Casey Family Programs have also provided support.

He expects revenue of about $4.5-million this year and plans to offer up to $2-million in capacity-building grants to organizations that promote an "asset based" approach to funding programs for young black men.

"It’s not about looking at black men and boys as something to be fixed but as assets and individuals in a group with potential," he says.

In addition to making grants, the organization, which claims 3,000 individuals and 2,000 organizations as members, plans to focus on "rebranding" negative stereotypes of black males and helping members share ideas.

Initially, the Open Society Foundations provided the campaign with $5-million a year in grant-making capacity. It’s budget was tripled to $15-million a year in 2011 and 2012. Around that time, Mr. Dove began to sense that other foundations might be willing to chip in support.

In 2012, he created the Institute for Black Male Achievement, which attracted $2-million from Open Society and $2.6-million from other foundations.

Having tested the waters, he began to press for a spinoff the following year, confident other foundations would continue their support.

"We needed to create an entity that isn’t dependent on one foundation. We need an endowed philanthropic enterprise that can lean into this issue," he says. "A two- or three-year grant cycle is not going to solve things."

Until the campaign completes filing with the Internal Revenue Service, its finances will be handled by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Open Society announced the spinoff in December, and on Monday [Jan. 19] the group held a "soft launch" in Detroit at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorative event that featured a screening of the movie "Selma," followed by a panel discussion.

This article originally appeared on the website of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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