As we enter into our second year of our partnership with the Open Society Foundations to support the 2013 Black Male Achievement Fellows, we are reminded at the essential nature of collaboration and commitment between organizations working towards similar goals.
The Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs support efforts to advance equality, fairness, and justice with a focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized communities and the most significant threats to open society in the United States today. In particular, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement aims to address the exclusion of large numbers of black men and boys from economic, social, educational, and political life in the U.S. In partnering with Echoing Green to identify and fund emerging social entrepreneurs who are dedicated to creating innovative solutions to advance the lives of black men and boys in the United States, Open Society Foundations recognizes the role of social entrepreneurs in addressing these particular needs and concerns.
“We are seeking visionary leaders who are generating new ideas for black male achievement in areas like fatherhood, mentoring, college preparatory programs, community-building, supportive wage work opportunities, communications, and philanthropic leadership,” explained Shawn Dove, manager of the campaign. “We have been encouraged by the more than 1,900 individuals who have heeded this call and applied. We remain inspired by the vision of our Fellows, riled by the statistics they share, and even shed tears reading the stories woven into these missions. We look forward to the BMA Fellowship infusing innovative and disruptive ideas that serve to strengthen the field.”
The diverse 2013 class of Black Male Achievement Fellows consists of eleven individuals representing eight organizations: five working to establish proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) amongst youth, two striving to restructure the prison experience, and one focusing on teen health and pregnancy.
“Though I work now in public education, my career started behind bars,” reflected 2011 Echoing Green Fellow Mark Hecker, founder of Reach Incorporated. “My current work is preventative in nature, but the importance of prison reform remains close to my heart. That’s why I’m so excited about welcoming the two organizations that will fundamentally interrupt two pipelines to prison. The Reset Foundation will aim to end recidivism while The School Justice Project ensures that juvenile delinquents never become adult inmates. And, when it comes to STEM, I always feel obligated to mention something. You know what’s the best predictor of performance in STEM subjects? READING! We need to get black males reading.”
“This is an exciting beginning,” Mark continued, “but it is just that, a beginning. From this point forward, these organizations will be challenged to cut corners, to work with easier populations. But, that’s not enough. It is only through a commitment to the betterment of every single individual that true change will occur. I welcome these organizations to the family, and I’m excited to watch them tear down the walls that surround too many of our citizens.”
In a society too often ready to close doors, the combined message of Open Society Foundations and Echoing Green is one of inclusiveness and positivity. As 2012 Black Male Achievement Fellow Donnel Baird said simply, “the Fellowship gave me permission to believe my ideas were viable.”
— Echoing Green (@echoinggreen) June 19, 2013