We applaud President Obama for elevating the obstacles faced by young men and boys of color to a national priority. Boys and men of color must overcome barriers that are rooted in historic patterns of racial bias, segregation and poverty, from stop-and-frisk policies and street sweeps by police in New York, Chicago and elsewhere, to media portrayals that too often stereotype and criminalize, and overexposure to weapons, illegal drugs and alcohol. Such patterns and obstacles are deeply embedded in America’s education, juvenile justice, foster care, criminal justice and healthcare systems – resulting in higher unemployment, overrepresentation in prisons, poorer health and far fewer opportunities for these young men and boys to succeed.
For more than 20 years, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) has funded initiatives to improve the plight of young men and boys of color. Eight years ago, a group of public officials, scholars and community leaders known as the Dellums Commission identified public policies around the country that curtailed opportunities, and recommended comprehensive remedies. Today, our work continues in efforts like the Youth Empowerment Project’s New Orleans Providing Literacy to All Youth program which offers GED and basic literacy instruction. In Chicago’s North Lawndale community, where unemployment hovers around 27 percent, the North Lawndale Employment Network created Sweet Beginnings, a unique transitional jobs program that trains formerly incarcerated individuals to harvest honey from bees at local apiaries, and uses the honey to make all-natural skin care products. The recidivism rate for Sweet Beginnings employees is below four percent, compared to the national average of 65 percent.
Supporting grantees that assist males of color is a key component of America Healing, our extensive racial healing and racial equity effort. No demographic bears the burdens of inequity more intensely than these young men and boys. Many believe America has moved beyond race, but sobering and persistent economic, health and educational disparities present a different reality in communities of color. WKKF is committed to helping families and communities heal old wounds, and change hearts, minds and deeply held and often-unconscious biases that cause the structural inequities holding back young men of color and others in our society.
We hope to launch new coalitions, partnerships and allegiances that will serve as a blueprint for addressing the social challenges that we must overcome so our nation’s continuous journey toward healing can move forward. We urge that the unprecedented initiative announced by President Obama build a broad commitment from all Americans to find strength and unity in our differences. Our collective futures are at stake.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to help break the cycle of poverty by removing barriers based on race or income that hold back children, so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.