Communities Must Act to Heal Wounds of African-American Boys and Young Men

Too many young black men endure severe daily emotional stress or anguish, which they often strive to avoid by any means necessary. Their daily walk comprises many perceptions or assumptions that paint them as causes of trouble and sources of discomfort or unhappiness. The weight of these perceptions and beliefs are often unbearable and leave many of these boys and young men feeling hopeless, confused and trapped in a society that does not value them.

These feelings of worthlessness have been exacerbated by the recent case and court decision regarding Trayvon Martin. The series of events that led to his death as well as the assumptions and stereotypes about African-American teenage boys and young men were at the center of countless debates across the country.

Addressing the challenges faced by young African-American males requires a multi-faceted approach consisting of targeted public policies and community actions. These may include:
– Support Community Youth Programming
– Teach Parents, Guardians and Teachers the Tool of Social Autopsy
– Initiate Alternatives to Incarceration
– Interface Regularly with African American Male Youth
– Provide Jobs and Supportive Services Leading to Careers
– Celebrate Youth

It is time for America to stand up and realize that this subset of our population cannot be allowed to languish. They have to know that others value their contributions and believe in them. Change begins with our communities’ willingness to invest and trust. Without a sense that their community “cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them” – and is willing to do so on a grand scale – the plight of the African-American male will never change.

(Policy Bridge, a non-profit organization founded to research, analyze and respond to public policy from and African-American and/or underserved community stakeholder perspective, released this research report which is excerpted here.)

Black Male Achievement Resource Guide

Accelerating the Results

This series was developed to help communities promote black male achievement in their neighborhoods by using the Promise Neighborhoods model to coordinate educational, health, and community supports to help children succeed from the cradle to college to career. This guide was produced by the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink with assistance from the Leadership and Sustainability Institute for Black Male Achievement and funding from the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

This guide is applicable to any community working to improve outcomes for black males. It can also be adapted for communities working to improve outcomes for other populations.

Part I is designed to help Promise Neighborhoods systematically identify and address barriers to improve the outcomes of black male children in their communities. It offers step-by-step instructions for assessing their needs and recommends a results-based framework for using this information to make a positive impact in their lives, from cradle to college to career. In doing so, this document describes how to build the infrastructure to plan and implement targeted interventions for children who need them most.

Promise Funding News Update

No New Promise Grant Applications in 2013

The U.S. Department of Education announced that due to the amount of federal funding available through the 2013 continuing resolution budget it will be unable to hold a new grant competition this year for the Promise Neighborhoods program.

However, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced legislation in early June to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and included Promise Neighborhoods funding.

The bill, Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, authorizes grants to Promise Neighborhoods for up to five years, and would make the Promise Neighborhoods program more sustainable by embedding it in the Education Act. This is the second time Sen. Harkin has introduced this legislation.

Meanwhile, Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ) has introduced the Promise Neighborhoods Act, H.R. 2195, which would permanently fund Promise Neighborhoods.

Rep. Payne, Jr., is the son of the late Rep. Donald Payne, Sr., who introduced similar legislation in 2011 as a companion bill to Sen. Tom Harkin’s legislation to embed Promise Neighborhoods in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Earlier in the year, we were hopeful that there would be another round of Promise Neighborhoods grant competition because the federal budget proposal included $300 million for Promise Neighborhoods, a big increase from what was appropriated last year ($60 million).

The US Department of Education FY 2014 budget proposal states, “This initiative supports high need communities that combine effective, cradle-to-career services for children and families with comprehensive reforms centered on high-quality schools.”

Meanwhile at least one state is moving forward with a state-wide Promise initiative plan. On May 3, the California Assembly Education Committee passed AB 1178, the California Promise Neighborhoods Initiative.

This legislation is modeled on the federal Promise Neighborhoods program, and would make California a leader in the nation in providing greater opportunities for children and families at a state level.

US Department of Education’s Secretary Duncan Visits Cleveland Highlights the importance of collaboration in achieving successful education reform

On April 19, 2013, the U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was back in Ohio, visiting both Cleveland and Columbus school officials to discuss education reform efforts ongoing in both cities. During his visit, Secretary Duncan met with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and 21 local school superintendents. His overall purpose was to endorse the Cleveland Municipal School District’s Plan for Transforming Cleveland Schools, known as the Cleveland Plan. As you know the plan, along with a new levy approved by Cleveland residents that bring in needed funds, helped the district avoid falling under the control of a state academic distress commission.

Duncan participated in a roundtable discussion at Anton Grdina Elementary School located in Ward 5, adjacent to the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood, on Cleveland’s education reform plan with Mayor Frank Jackson, CMSD CEO Eric Gordon, and Cleveland’s Teacher Union President David Quolke.

This was a particularly important conversation to the many organizations, funders, and residents that have partnered with Cleveland Schools and the Sisters of Charity Foundation (Promise Neighborhood lead agency) since they continue to work towards excellent schools as a federally unfunded Promise Neighborhood.

During his visit, Secretary Duncan emphasized that the Cleveland Plan could be a strong model of collaboration between the district, union, a democrat mayor and republican governor. Additionally, he commented on the Administration’s commitment to funding early learning.

With only local resources for support, the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood has carved out a strategy that is focused on both short-term needs and long-term gains. Like the Obama administration, the Cleveland Promise Neighborhood is investing heavily in early learning. With over 25% of the neighborhood’s population ages 0-5, a concerted effort is being made to ensure all children are enrolled in a high quality early learning experience, Including home based programs like SPARK. This program was born out of the lead agency’s sister ministry, Sisters of Charity Foundation Canton and has already shown significant gains.

In only its second year serving students and families in the Promise neighborhood, SPARK Central participants are showing an average of 4 points higher score with the most progress amongst the city schools. Also a 2011 study found students participating in SPARK were four times more prepared and moved from band 1 (intense intervention) to band 2 (targeted support).

Foundation President Sue Krey recognized the importance of Secretary Duncan’s visit since it shows the united leadership from all levels of government for education reform.

“We appreciate Secretary Duncan’s visit to Cleveland to support the City’s great momentum in implementing significant education reform,” Krey said. “We are also pleased with the Department’s focus on early learning which nicely aligns with a focus of the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood.”

Promise Director, Sonya Pryor-Jones attended the event on behalf of the foundation and the numerous organizations that make up Cleveland’s Central Promise Neighborhood. During the event, Sonya Pryor-Jones had an opportunity to speak with Secretary Duncan to share the investment and energy by the Promise partners to implement this best practice model in Cleveland. She emphasized that although CCPN was federally unfunded, this community-wide collaborative has set focused goals in a few areas, with a special emphasis on early learning.

Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland also spoke with the Secretary afterwards about the importance of funding projects such as the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. Secretary Duncan shared that the President had $240 million in next budget, and was looking at inter-agency initiatives involving HUD, Justice and Education to address challenges children face outside of school.

Pryor-Jones felt encouraged by the Secretary’s visit. She stated, “the commitments made by our partners to remain focused on our vision that all children from the Central Promise neighborhood will be prepared to go to college and have fulfilling careers is beginning to gain some traction.

“This national spotlight on Cleveland along with all of the hard work being accomplished by many partners, will hopefully accelerate the district’s investment strategy and our Promise efforts to move the needle on student achievement and success as quickly as possible,” Pryor-Jones said. “The community’s children are waiting.”

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland felt today was an important opportunity to stand with the district and other community partners to show our commitment and investment, while urging the Secretary to support our efforts at the community level as well.

Rep. Kucinich Recognizes Foundation’s Work in Congressional Record

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced recently that $3.6 million in Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants will be awarded this year to “assist in the tranformation, rehabilitation and preservation of public housing and privately owned HUD-assisted housing.” The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, which applied for an earlier round of planning grants, will try again. Applications are due in early August. CMHA and other public housing authorities can receive up to $300,000 for planning.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honor and recognition of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland for their groundbreaking work to promote and improve Cleveland’s Central Neighborhood.

“Founded in 1996, the Sisters of Charity Foundation focuses on improving the health status and educational outcomes of Cleveland’s residents and children … They have raised over $330,000 in local funding for the Central Neighborhood and are planning to create a Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood.”