6/9/14 — Foundations Announce Plans for Spending $194-Million to Improve Lives of Young Minority Men

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
By Maria Di Mento

Eleven foundations that are among grant makers that plan to give a total of $200-million over five years to increase opportunities for young minority men laid out a blueprint for spending most of that commitment yesterday at this year’s annual Council on Foundation’s conference.

The 11 foundations are the Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, California Endowment, Open Society Foundations, and the Annie E. Casey, Nathan Cummings, Ford, W.K. Kellogg, John S. and James L. Knight, Skillman, and Robert Wood Johnson foundations. 

The move, announced in February, is partly in answer to a call President Obama made to foundations in his State of the Union address in January to help improve the lives of young black and other minority men. The philanthropies’ efforts are intended as a complement to the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

The grant makers are awarding the following totals:

  • Five are giving $81-million to overhaul the criminal and juvenile-justice system.
  • Five are investing $55-million toward creating safer school environments and reducing suspensions and expulsions at elementary and secondary public schools.
  • Seven are directing  $26-million to minimize implicit bias in the news media against young minority men.
  • Another seven are awarding $21-million toward helping local and government agencies and groups raise money from other national and local corporations, foundations, and others for programs that seek to increase opportunities for minority men and boys.
  • At least six are providing $11-million to support the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, a program that originated at the Open Society Foundations.

Equal Opportunity

The program is important for a number of reasons, said Thomas Perez, U.S. Labor secretary, at a panel discussion at the Council on Foundation meeting, but especially because as the baby boomers retire, the need will grow for young workers in professions and trades.

Young minority men, he said, should have an equal shot at gaining the expertise and skills to land those jobs. But they can’t do that without the education and exposure to things that will make them active participants in society.

“Things like mentorships, apprenticeships, summer jobs are important as the work force, and especially the trades work force, ages,” said Mr. Perez.

The more people able to get jobs, he said, the better off the nation’s economy and Social Security system will be.

But the grant makers’ commitment has implications beyond economic impact, said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. The project, he hopes, will go a long way to combat implicit racism.

“The core of what we’re talking about is a very controversial, very combustible issue,” said Mr. Walker. “We have a population of Americans who are very vulnerable and have been throughout their history in this country.”