Connect With Us
YouTube
RSS

83 posts categorized "African Americans"

Documentary Film and Gentrification (Part 2)

April 15, 2014

(Kathryn Pyle is a documentary filmmaker and a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. Click here to read part one of this two-part series.)

Poster_holding_groundIn my previous post, I wrote about a handful of documentary films that explore the phenomenon of gentrification. In this post, I'll consider urban redevelopment in a broader sense – with the pressure coming not only from private developers but from city government and, in some cases, endowed institutions with agendas of their own.

Over the past decade, the Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia has offered a variety of programs designed to build the media skills of community activists. Through its Precious Places project, for instance, Scribe has provided video production support to nearly seventy organizations looking to record the stories neighborhood residents have to tell about the buildings, public spaces, parks, landmarks, and other sites that define where they live. The series has been broadcast on WHYY and screened in film festivals and community settings around the country.

A number of Precious Places films focus on the eroding sense of community in urban neighborhoods. Two of those short films address the value of green space and community-based arts and, in the process, challenge public policy assumptions about "redevelopment."

Featuring sixty local gardeners and other residents. La Mott Community Garden (2011) tells the story of a two-acre community garden located just outside the city line adjacent to La Mott, the oldest historically black community in Pennsylvania. Part of a larger twelve-acre parcel deeded to Temple University in 1939, the garden has served the community for more than eighty years. At some point along the way, Temple built the Tyler School of Art on part of the property, leaving the garden intact. But when a new facility was constructed for Tyler on Temple's main campus in 2009, the entire parcel was put up for sale. With support from Cheltenham Township and the Conservancy of Montgomery County, the La Mott Community Garden Group is attempting to save the garden and has requested that Temple donate the garden to the community under a land trust agreement or set a fair market price for the property so it can be purchased by the community. Both options have been rejected by the university, and negotiations are at a standstill as gardening season approaches.

Continue reading »

Documentary Film and Gentrification

April 07, 2014

(Kathryn Pyle is a documentary filmmaker and a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her previous post, she wrote about the promise and failure of humanitarian aid in Haiti.)

Urban_gentrificationThe phenomenon of gentrification – how it gets started, who benefits, and who loses – is a longstanding concern in cities across the country.

But the term describes only the most visible and disturbing face of urban change: the crowding out of lower-income residents from a suddenly "hot" neighborhood by more affluent newcomers. At a time of growing income inequality in the U.S., it's an image that has captured the attention of the media and, increasingly, is sparking public indignation.

Writing in the New York Times ("Cities Helping Residents Resist the New Gentry"), Timothy Williams observes that "the arrival of newcomers to formerly working-class areas…is distinct from previous influxes over the past thirty years" because new arrivals tend to want to live in newer housing, and the condos and loft spaces built to satisfy that demand not only are too expensive for long-time residents but also add to the density of a neighborhood while reducing the ratio of older residents to new arrivals. Williams' article goes on to discuss measures that have been adopted by cities to mitigate the impact of gentrification on longtime homeowners, while a Times article ("Gentrifying Into the Shelters") by Ginia Bellafante notes that creating and maintaining affordable housing for low-income renters in gentrifying neighborhoods requires an altogether different set of measures.

The topic hasn't escaped the notice of documentary filmmakers. Told in different styles and about different places, films such as Gut Renovation (2012), Third Ward TX (2007), and We Will Not Be Moved (1980) identify common elements in the gentrification process -- foremost among them real estate speculation and private housing development, in many cases encouraged by tax breaks and rezoning policies.  

Su Friedrich's Gut Renovation is a very personal account of that process as it unfolded in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, and how that process is displacing the local artist community – of which she is a member. It begins, in 2005, when Friedrich notices the first high-rise condo going up down the street and ends, five years later, with her own building's demolition to make way for the umpteenth luxe condo project in the neighborhood. Needless to say, the redevelopment of Williamsburg continues unabated, affecting the neighborhood’s long-term population of Poles, Italians, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans and irrevocably changing the very thing that attracted artists to the neighborhood in the first place.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (March 15-16, 2014)

March 16, 2014

Gopher_I_LiedOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector. Enjoy....

Communications/Marketing

Guest blogging on Nancy Schwartz' Getting Attention blog, Julie Brown, program director at the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation in Ohio, shares the steps she and a colleague have taken over the last year to achieve "storytelling success" and boost donor engagement at the foundation.

Community Improvement/Development

On the Huffington Post's Black Voices blog, Ashley Wood, Detroit editor for the HuffPo, takes a closer look at the hipsters-are-taking-over-Detroit narrative and uncovers a fascinating (and more nuanced) conversation. As Meagan Elliott, an urban planner and Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan, says at the end of the piece: "I think everyone is open to change. That's what makes the conversation interesting. Everyone recognizes that things need to change here."

Corporate Philanthropy

In Fast Company, Stephanie Vozza explains why every company should pay its employees to volunteer.

Data

Writing on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, Foundation Center president Brad Smith looks at the three types of data (transactional, contextual, impact) foundations need and suggests that "for strategic philanthropy to realize its true potential, foundations need to learn how to manage information (data) to produce and share knowledge. Doing so," adds Smith, "will depend on changing internal incentive systems, in which foundations employ static data primarily as means for approving strategies and monitoring grants."

Giving

Nice infographic on the npEngage site illustrating highlights of Blackbaud's 2013 Charitable Giving Report. Click here to download (registration required) a copy of the report, which includes overall giving data from 4,129 nonprofit organizations representing more than $12.5 billion in total fundraising and online giving data from 3,359 nonprofits representing $1.7 billion in online fundraising.

Continue reading »

Philanthropy, the Affordable Care Act, and Boys and Men of Color

February 26, 2014

(Jordan Medina is health policy fellow at the Greenlining Institute, where he co-authored the report Pathways Out of Poverty: Boys and Men of Color and Jobs in the Health Sector.)

Headshot_jordan_medinaThe United States faces a crisis. We have a staggering racial wealth gap — for every $1 a white family has in assets, the median Latino family has about 7 cents, while the median black family has less than 6 cents. One reason for that gap is that too many boys and men of color are uneducated, disengaged, and unemployed.

This isn't a new problem, but changing racial demographics mean that politicians and business leaders must start paying attention to boys and men of color if America is to remain economically competitive in the twenty-first century. Fortunately, as with every problem, there's a solution. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) presents stakeholders with an incredible opportunity to create a culturally competent health workforce while simultaneously lowering the unemployment rate for boys and men of color. The question is: Do we have the courage and political will to see it through?

The ACA expands healthcare coverage to millions of Americans, mainly those too cash-poor to afford it on their own and those suffering from pre-existing conditions. People of color are disproportionately represented in both groups, while the influx of newly eligible consumers puts pressure on the healthcare and health services industry to expand its workforce to meet the increased demand for care. Given the high levels of unemployment in communities of color, considerable time and money should be spent figuring out ways to better prepare boys and men of color for jobs in the health sector.

This may sound like a difficult task, but a lot of the groundwork already has been laid. A new report I co-authored for the Greenlining Institute highlights some of the ways in which California, the nation's most populous state and long an incubator of public policy experiments, is forging ahead with plans to better integrate boys and men of color into the health workforce.

Continue reading »

‘Under Construction’: Center for Urban Families - Baltimore, Maryland

February 24, 2014

Under-construction-logoUnder Construction is a multimedia online exhibit showcasing some of the best and brightest organizations working with males of color. The UC team of filmmakers, photographers, writers, and nonprofit experts worked directly with each of these organizations for several weeks. The collaborations yielded comprehensive portraits of the services men of color receive. Each profile features a short video, a photography exhibit, a visual program model, and a narrative essay detailing the efforts of these organizations.

Under Construction is a project of Frontline Solutions and was made possible through the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

To learn more about the Center for Urban Families, visit BMAfunders.org.

Joseph Thomas knows how deterioration works. It is the same process for the shuttered blocks of West Baltimore where he was a boy as it is for the man who has no one to talk to. The facades are the last thing to go.

"In prison you have a lot of time to think," says Thomas, who served two years. A quiet, gentle man, he thought about how he had drifted through life since an early age with no one to steer him. Most of all, he thought about his daughters, wondering if he still had a chance to give them what he didn't have, a positive role model. Today, you listen to him talk about his teenage girls, what it means to make it to one of their badminton games, and he almost blushes. He was always in their lives, but he has learned that there are different kinds of presence.

Thomas, 38, is one of more than twenty thousand people who have come through the doors of Baltimore's Center for Urban Families (CFUF), where fatherhood and employment courses re-order their ideas about what a man's life can mean to his family and to the neighborhoods they call home.

The center operates out of an angular, bastion-like building here in Sandtown, where Thomas was a boy. "It was wild," he says. "It was drugs on every corner. It was people getting killed." But in the center's halls, people carry themselves with a refined confidence. They show up on time and sit around boardroom tables, or in large, university-like classrooms. And Thomas, like everybody else, is wearing a suit and tie. "The training wasn't just about training for a job," he says. "It was about succeeding in life."

Founded in 1999 by a former drug addict, the Center for Urban Families has become a model for how to reach urban men, perhaps the country's most underserved demographic. Here in a community that many think of as a "city of neighborhoods," the center's work targets the hardest of these, the street corners that have found infamy as the backdrop of popular television crime shows like The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets.

Continue reading »

'A Small Committed Minority of Believers'

February 18, 2014

(Shawn Dove is campaign manager for the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement. In a December 2012 Newsmaker interview with PND, he discussed the report Where Do We Go From Here? Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys.)

Headshot_Shawn Dove_A generation ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted in Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community?, the last book he published before he was assassinated, that "it will take…a small committed minority [of believers] to work unrelentingly to win the uncommitted majority. Such a group may well transform America's greatest dilemma into her most glorious opportunity."

The great dilemma that King wrote about in 1967 still gnaws at the roots of a nation that was founded on a premise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but was built on a foundation of racial and gender inequality. And while today no single group of people in America can claim that it alone is marginalized — sadly, there are many such groups — it is hard to dispute that disparities faced by black men and boys across a number of indicators, including incarceration, academic achievement, and unemployment, paint a picture of their systemic exclusion from the American mainstream.

The thorny issue of black men and their standing in American society is, of course, not a new one. Yet in light of recent advances in the emerging field of black male achievement, there is reason to hope that the small committed minority of believers who have been working hard to improve the life outcomes and perceptions of black men and boys are swaying the majority of non-believers.

By now, most people have heard that President Obama intends to launch a significant new effort "to bolster the lives of young men of color" in America. Building on momentum that has been growing over recent years, the public rollout of My Brother's Keeper, as the initiative is called, represents a bold response to the challenges confronting so many young men of color. Without a doubt, this is an historic moment for the work and aspirations of many leaders working within and outside philanthropy who have devoted their lives to creating an America where black men and boys can compete on an even playing field of opportunity and realize their full potential.

Continue reading »

For the Success of Boys and Men of Color, A Call to Action

January 29, 2014

(Kenneth H. Zimmerman is director of U.S. programs for the Open Society Foundations. This post was first published on Open Society's Voices blog.)

Headshot_Ken_ZimmermanIn this year's State of the Union address, President Obama opened the door to an opportunity that may be a game changer for millions of boys and men of color in America.

In his speech, President Obama said he believes in the fundamental importance of transforming the lives of young men and boys of color and is committed to bolstering and reinforcing government and private partnerships to work on the issue.

We welcome and are heartened by the president's commitment and recognition that a key part of the effort to increase opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race and gender, is to focus explicitly on helping boys and men of color succeed.

Young men of color face systemic economic, social, and political barriers in their everyday lives. As a result, too many of them are denied educational opportunity, become unemployed, or, worse, face incarceration.

In spite of these barriers, we see men and boys of color overcome the odds on a regular basis —graduating at the top of their classes, achieving leadership positions in corporations, becoming business owners, and being wonderful fathers to their families and valuable members of their communities. They are vital assets to our country, and investing in pathways to build opportunity for them will deliver significant economic and civic benefits to the nation as a whole.

Continue reading »

Newsmakers: Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

December 18, 2013

Headshot_darren_walkerIn September, Darren Walker became the tenth president of the Ford Foundation. Before coming to Ford, where he was vice president of the foundation's Education, Creativity, and Freedom of Expression program, Walker served as vice president for foundation initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation and as chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, where he guided the organization's efforts to develop housing for low and moderate-income families in Harlem.

Recently, Michael Seltzer, a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic, spoke with Walker about the current social change environment, the influence of the foundation's activities on his life, and his hopes for the foundation going forward. Seltzer is a distinguished lecturer at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs and an affiliated faculty member of its Center for Nonprofit Strategy & Management.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is it like to be president of the Ford Foundation?

Darren Walker: Although I've been at the foundation for more than three years, in many ways I still have a lot to learn. I certainly didn't arrive here with any idea I would end up as president. When I walked through the doors of this institution for the first time, it was a transformational experience, because the Ford Foundation represents the ways in which my own life has been changed by philanthropy.

I'm a graduate of public schools. I attended public school in a small town in Texas, and I am also a graduate of the first Head Start cohort, a program that was developed out of Ford Foundation-supported research on early child development at Yale University. After high school, I attended a large land grant university -- thanks to Pell grants, another Ford Foundation-supported intervention -- so I know all about Ford's commitment to public education in this country.

After college, I worked on Wall Street and one day found myself at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, which was hosting a representative of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a creation of -- you guessed it -- the Ford Foundation. LISC had awarded a grant to the Abyssinian Development Corporation for capacity-building initiatives that would allow it to realize the aspirations of the organization's founders, who had a dream in the mid-'80s that Harlem could be a community that could regenerate itself from within. And the Ford Foundation, through LISC, believed in that dream and invested in it. And that capacity-building grant made it possible for ADC to hire me. So my journey, like the journeys of so many others, has been deeply influenced by the Ford Foundation.

I was thrilled to receive a call from the foundation's board chair, Irene Hirano-Inouye, and have her tell me that the board had voted to appoint me president. Actually, I wasn't sure how to respond, beyond saying, "Yes!" because I know that with this job comes huge responsibility, and that I stand on the shoulders of some extraordinary people.

Continue reading »

Data, Research, and Knowledge Tools — Where and When You Need Them

November 12, 2013

(Lisa Philp serves as vice president for strategic philanthropy at the Foundation Center.)

Cover_media_impactEarlier today the Foundation Center, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Media Impact Funders, an affinity group of grantmakers, released a new report titled Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States (20 pages, PDF).

Headlines from the Research

As the most comprehensive and detailed picture of U.S. media-related funding by foundations to date, the research offers a number of new insights:

  • Media-related funding is substantial in size and scope -- 1,012 foundations made 12,040 media-related grants totaling $1.86 billion from 2009-11. If treated as a single category, media-related grantmaking would have ranked seventh in terms of domestic grantmaking in 2011, placing it just behind environment and ahead of science and technology, religion, and the social sciences.
  • Foundations increasingly are focused on media funding -- Media-related grantmaking grew at a faster rate than overall domestic grantmaking from 2009-11 (21 percent increase vs. 5.8 percent, respectively).
  • Funders are reacting to the changing landscape of media in the digital age -- New media investments (Web-based and mobile) outpaced those in traditional media (print, television, and radio) by a factor of four (116.5 percent increase vs. 29.4 percent, respectively).

These findings and many others will be discussed at a Media Impact Focus event on Wednesday, November 13, by a panel of media funders, filmmakers, journalists, and practitioners; analyzed in the coming weeks in blogs, columns, and op-ed pieces written by our project advisors and funders; and updated over time to track the story of how media grantmaking is evolving.

 

Continue reading »

Creating Paths to College and the Urgency of Now

October 29, 2013

(Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant is the interim director of the Youth Policy team at the Center for Law and Social Policy, a D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy organization that works to improve the lives of low-income people. This is her first post for PhilanTopic.)

Headshot_RhondaTI was a STEM whiz as a child — a seemingly unlikely thing for a girl, and an African-American girl at that, to be. In middle school, I attended a magnet program and learned computer programming while taking advanced math and science classes. In high school, I took calculus and physics and learned a computer programming language. My primary interest was engineering, so my school district helped me attend summer programs at area universities. That experience landed me a job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the age of 17.

Although I chose public policy instead of engineering as my life's work, those were the opportunities that put me on a path to college. My middle school and high school offered classes that nurtured my interests in mathematics and science. I had great teachers who used hands-on learning to take basic lessons to the next level. I remember our physics teacher explaining the science behind breaking boards martial arts-style and wading in the Chesapeake River in hip-high boots to learn about plant life. I also had guidance counselors who knew me personally, connected me to summer opportunities that allowed me to cultivate my academic interests, and walked me through the college application process. My family couldn't afford to pay for college. Without these opportunities, it would have been far more difficult to continue my education.

Continue reading »

When It Comes to Health, Place Matters

October 02, 2013

(Dr. Brian D. Smedley is vice president and director of the Health Policy Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C.)

Headshot_brian_smedley.jpg_3The implementation of the Affordable Care Act is an achievement Americans can be proud of. Making sure that all our brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren, have proper health insurance makes us a stronger, more prosperous nation.

Amid this important change, however, we cannot ignore the work that remains to be done, especially in communities of color. Insurance cards are not enough.

To become a society with better health -- not just better health coverage -- we must also look at the role "place" plays in the lives of minority communities.

Where we live, work, and play is surprisingly predictive of lifespan. Within the City of Boston, for instance, people in some census tracts live thirty-three years less than those in nearby tracts. In Bernalillo County, New Mexico, the difference is twenty-two years.

Researchers are releasing Community Health Equity Reports at the Place Matters 2013 National Health Equity Conference today in Washington, D.C. Data from Baltimore, Birmingham, Chicago, New Orleans, and other cities demonstrates that where you live is a powerful determinant for how long you'll live.

Continue reading »

What Innovation in Education Really Means – Doing What Works!

September 06, 2013

(Dr. Tiffany Cooper Gueye is chief executive officer of BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), a national nonprofit that aims to transform the academic achievement, self-confidence, and life trajectories of children living in underresourced urban communities.)

Headshot_Tiffany-Cooper-GueyeWhen the "No Child Left Behind Act" was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January 2002, there were an estimated 141 million cell phones in use in the United States. Today the number of active wireless devices stands at 326 million and the majority of them are tablets or smartphones -- devices that were the stuff of science fiction back in 2002. Needless to say, technological innovation transformed the telecommunications industry in a few short years -- and the world changed forever.

Sadly, we've seen no such transformation in education since the enactment of legislation that was meant to shine a light on student achievement gaps and schools with consistently poor outcomes. Yes, government leaders are quick to trumpet the latest "innovation" in the field and "experts" obsess over every fad and new technology, but poor schools and student achievement gaps are as much a part of the education landscape today as they were in 2002. And that's a shame, because we already have some of the tools and approaches we need to make huge leaps forward in the way we educate our children.

Case in point: summer learning.

Summer learning works, and the lack of it in places where it's most needed clearly compromises student achievement and school success. Indeed, we have decades of research quantifying the reality of summer learning loss and a growing body of evidence about the value of summer learning programs. Yet for millions of children, summer learning loss is an accepted fact of life.

Continue reading »

Labor Day Weekend Link Roundup (September 1-2, 2013)

September 01, 2013

Laborday2013A special holiday weekend roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civil Rights

On its NOW blog, the Georgia Center for Nonprofits commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with a look at the persistant disparities in employment, educational achievement, and upward mobility between Afrian Americans and whites as illustrarted by several recently released reports.

Before the fiftieth anniversary becomes a footnote, be sure to take a look at the ten-part Washington Monthly series on race in America that we re-posted here on PhilanTopic in the weeks leading up to Wednesday's events.

Communications/Marketing

From the folks at Optimind Technology, here's a great infographic with thirty digital marketing statistics you can't afford to ignore.

Impact/Effectiveness

Writing in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, William Burckart, managing director of Impact Economy's North America unit and a contributing author to the forthcoming New Frontiers of Philanthropy (Lester M. Salamon, ed., Oxford University Press), argues that impact investing, one of the buzziest memes in philanthropy at the moment, "is not well understood outside of a relatively small group of early adopters, and even this band of innovators harbors multiple, sometimes-incompatible interpretations of the concept." What's more, writes Burckart, although this "form of foundation investing has long been approved by government regulators," outside of a handful of foundations -- Ford, F.B. Heron, Kellogg, Mary Reynolds Babcock, K.L. Felicitas -- "it is an idea that has never gotten much traction."

Continue reading »

Lincoln Died for Our Sins

August 26, 2013

On August 28, 1963, America witnessed what was arguably the greatest demonstration for racial justice in the history of the country. Half a century after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the looming question of racial equality in America remains.

In the lead-up to the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, PhilanTopic is publishing a ten-part series, sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in which some of America's most important writers explore our race issues, past and present.

In the ninth installment of that series (click here for the eighth, "The New White Negro," by Isabell Sawhill), Jelani Cobb, director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut and author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, examines the themes that, over the last century and a half, have made our sixteenth president "a Rorschach test of sorts" and how those themes are bound to and illuminate questions of racial reconciliation and progress in America. The essay below first appeared in the Washington Monthly and is reprinted here with the permission of that publication.

Lincoln_MemorialThe opening scene of Steven Spielberg's cinemythic portrait of the sixteenth president features President Abraham Lincoln seated on a stage, half cloaked in darkness, and observing the Union forces he is sending into battle. It's an apt metaphor for the man himself -- both visible and obscure, inside the tempest yet somehow above the fray. Lincoln was released in early November 2012, just in time to shape our discussions of January 1, 2013, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Yet with its themes of redemption and sacrifice, Spielberg's film could seem less suited for an anniversary celebration than an annual one. Here is a vision of a lone man, tested by betrayal, besieged by enemies whom he regards without malice, a man who is killed for his convictions only to be resurrected as a moral exemplar. Spielberg's Lincoln is perhaps less fitted to January 1 than it is to the holiday that precedes it by a week.

In fairness, this narrative of Lincoln's Civil War, equal parts cavalry and Calvary, did not originate with Spielberg. The legend of the Great Emancipator began even as Lincoln lay dying in a boarding house across from Ford's Theater that night in April 1865. (In the same way that JFK's mythic standing as a civil rights stalwart was born at Dealey Plaza in November 1963.) In the wake of his assassination, Lincoln the controversial and beleaguered president was remade into Lincoln the Savior, an American Christ-figure who carried the nation's sins. Pulling off this transformation, this historical alchemy, has required that we as a nation redact the messier parts of Lincoln's story in favor of an untainted, morally unconflicted commander-in-chief who was untouched by the biases of the day and unyielding in his opposition to slavery. We have little use for tainted Christs. Through Lincoln, the Union was "saved" in more than one sense of the word.

Continue reading »

The New White Negro

August 24, 2013

On August 28, 1963, America witnessed what was arguably the greatest demonstration for racial justice in the history of the country. Half a century after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the looming question of racial equality in America remains.

In the lead-up to the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, PhilanTopic is publishing a ten-part series, sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in which some of America's most important writers explore our race issues, past and present.

In the eighth installment of that series (click here for the seventh, "Prison's Dilemma," by Glenn C. Loury), Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of many books on the economy, most recently Creating an Opportunity Society, examines the role of race and class in the breakdown of family formation among lower-income American families over the last fifty years. The essay below first appeared in the Washington Monthly and is reprinted here with the permission of that publication.

Headshot_isabel_sawhillIn 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan released a controversial report written for his then boss, President Lyndon Johnson. Entitled "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action" (76 pages, PDF), it described the condition of lower-income African American families and catalyzed a highly acrimonious, decades-long debate about black culture and family values in America.

The report cited a series of staggering statistics showing high rates of divorce, unwed childbearing, and single motherhood among black families. "The white family has achieved a high degree of stability and is maintaining that stability," the report said. "By contrast, the family structure of lower class Negroes is highly unstable, and in many urban centers is approaching complete breakdown."

Nearly fifty years later, the picture is even more grim -- and the statistics can no longer be organized neatly by race. In fact, Moynihan's bracing profile of the collapsing black family in the 1960s looks remarkably similar to a profile of the average white family today. White households have similar -- or worse -- statistics of divorce, unwed childbearing, and single motherhood as the black households cited by Moynihan in his report. In 2000, the percentage of white children living with a single parent was identical to the percentage of black children living with a single parent in 1960: 22 percent.

What was happening to black families in the '60s can be reinterpreted today not as an indictment of the black family but as a harbinger of a larger collapse of traditional living arrangements -- of what demographer Samuel Preston, in words that Moynihan later repeated, called "the earthquake that shuddered through the American family."

Continue reading »

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • "Simplification is by far the most effective way to manage complexity...."

    Felix Salmon

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Tags

Other Blogs