Ten Leading Foundations Join Forces to Expand Opportunity For Young Men of Color

Foundations will work with Government, Business and Community Leaders to Create New Ladders of Opportunity from Cradle to Career.

    • February 27, 2014
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Washington, D.C.—Today 10 of America's leading foundations announced a joint effort with the White House to help America's young men of color reach their full potential in school, work and life. The foundations are the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, Ford Foundation, Kapor Center for Social Impact, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

In response to the urgent need for solutions, there has been a growing wave of investments to eliminate these barriers and help boys and young men of color connect to opportunity in communities nationwide. The ten foundations have recently approved or awarded $150 million to improve lifelong outcomes for boys and young men of color as part of their existing programming. Those foundations will seek to invest at least $200 million more, alongside additional investments from their peers in philanthropy and the business community.

“All of our sons and brothers need support and opportunities to be successful.  As tomorrow's leaders, young people of color will help define America's future,” said Robert K. Ross, MD, president and CEO of The California Endowment. “Now is the time to work together, invest in these young people and provide them what they need to be responsible and healthy adults.”

Why Young Men of Color

A growing body of research has shown that young men of color face significant barriers that make their path to adulthood especially challenging. They are more likely to grow up in poverty, live in neighborhoods where they are exposed to violence, or attend schools that lack the basic resources that kids need in order to succeed, and they are less likely to have summer job opportunities where they can learn the value of work. As a result of these interlocking trends, young men of color are more likely to drop out of school, grow up to be chronically unemployed, and live shorter, less healthy lives.  

“Now is the opportunity for expanding the field and addressing the policies to help remove the barriers to success for young men of color,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

“When every member of our society has the opportunity to succeed, our communities are stronger and our nation is stronger,” added Kenneth H. Zimmerman, director of U.S. Programs for the Open Society Foundations. “We all have a stake in tapping the potential of young men of color, and we must work together to create more pathways for them to flourish.”

A Growing Movement

The announcement is the latest milestone in a growing movement to ensure that all young people, including young men of color, have opportunities to achieve and contribute to the American dream. Last year, the CEOs of 28 foundations formed the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color, pledging to address these issues, explore promising strategies, and support research to inform effective action. This new initiative aims to link and leverage those investments and commitments—and attract new partners—by making it easier for public and private sector parties to collaborate and spread solutions that work.  

Cities, states, and school districts around the country have also responded with initiatives of their own, often focusing on better ways to help more young men of color stay on track in school, find opportunities to work, and make healthier life choices. President Obama’s decision to establish a federal task force adds even more momentum and national leadership to a cause vital to America’s future.

“Many men of color are already working to make their communities better by helping young people reach their full potential,” explained Alberto Ibargüen, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “They are truly assets to any community, and one of the best ways to help young men succeed is to invest in, connect, and celebrate these grassroots leaders who are already making a difference.”

How the New Initiative Will Work

In addition to ongoing ($150 million) and new ($200 million) investments in programs that help young men of color succeed, the ten foundations are also each committing $750,000 to build the infrastructure to undergird a more lasting multi-sector initiative. This initial funding will help to find and rapidly spread solutions in areas such as early child development and school readiness, parenting and parent engagement, third grade literacy, educational opportunity and school discipline reform, interactions with the criminal justice system, ladders to jobs and economic opportunity, and healthy families and communities. The initiative will also endeavor to change the often-damaging narrative about boys and young men of color, and to promote effective public policy solutions. 

Over the next 90 days, the foundations will assess which approaches have the highest potential to help the greatest number of young men. Those insights will be used to develop a blueprint for action that can leverage existing and new contributions from philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, faith-based institutions, the business community and ordinary citizens. 

“As a father of three sons and grandfather of one, I understand the need for all boys and young men to have opportunities so they can grow to become successful and healthy,” said Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and co-founder of The Home Depot. “As a businessperson, it just makes sense that we invest where it matters most: in our future workforce, communities and country.”

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national culture of health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.

Media Contacts

Melissa Blair

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5937

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Forward Promise

Black men should embrace the broadest definition of health, including how health can fuel their educational and economic ambitions, their dreams, and their well-being.

—Keon L. Gilbert, DrPH, MA, MPA, assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Science & Health Education at St. Louis University's College for Public Health and Social Justice, on "The Invisible Man"