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21 posts categorized "Criminal Justice"

It's Time to Make the American Dream Available to All

May 27, 2014

Headshot_geoff_canadaThe barriers to success that black men face have been in plain sight for decades, so it is particularly heartening to see a movement taking shape that is specifically crafted to address these challenges and change the odds for one of the most disenfranchised populations in America.

I was on the board of trustees of the Open Society Foundations when the idea of a black male achievement campaign first came up. While it was obvious that something needed to be done, we immediately found ourselves facing a philosophical dilemma: Was it right to target just one group when other groups also need help?

In a country where cultural and racial relations are as complicated as they are in the United States, people are understandably hesitant to publicly announce they are going to help one group while seemingly ignoring all others. Eventually, we concluded that tailoring our efforts to a group that has a common history and a resulting set of common challenges is absolutely the right approach. Black men in America — while individuals in their own right — are heirs to a unique historical experience. After slavery was ended by the Civil War, black men faced decades of institutional racism, Jim Crow and segregation, public lynchings, and disenfranchisement. More recently, they have been abused and demeaned by a toxic street culture and media stereotypes that glorify self-destructive behavior.

If we are going to close the achievement gap and end what the Children's Defense Fund calls the "cradle to prison pipeline" for black boys and men, we need to take into consideration the insidious context of their situation. Indeed, as the Campaign for Black Male Achievement has taken shape, gaining traction even as parallel efforts have emerged, we've seen how necessary and overdue such an effort is. While there is certainly a lot of day-to-day work still to be done, the narrative and national dialogue have begun to change. Ignorance and fear are giving way to empathy and intelligent action.

We have, in Barack Obama, a president who has given the imprimatur of the White House to the idea that racism will not be sanctioned or ignored by society.  In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting, the president's empathetic response created space for an honest, open, and clear-eyed public discussion of race relations and the stubbornness of racism in America.

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'Under Construction': SEARAC - Washington, D.C.

May 20, 2014

Under 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. For more profiles, click here.

He'd stayed calm as a cop dumped the contents of his backpack onto the sidewalk.

Scenes like this had already played out with most of his friends. Today he was riding his skateboard to school and running late, and now it was his turn to be the law's concern. He was told to take his shirt off so they could take photos of his tattoos. All the while he stood quietly, insisting that he wasn't in a gang, saying softly, "I don't belong to nobody," over and over. But when he saw the cop get angry and toss his skateboard into the street, he ran after it, picked it up, and came right back to the questions. At 14, that plank of wood and those wheels were the only place he felt good.

"What gang are you in?" the officer asked Anthony Hem, a son of Cambodian immigrants. How many times would he have to say it? "I don’t belong to nobody." Finally the officer went to his car, came out with a list of area gangs, and picked one near the top. "He just came up to me and said, 'Now you're on gang file. You're from this gang now, the Asian Boyz'," Hem says. The Asian Boyz are affiliated with the Crips. From now on, that's how the law would see him.

Under-construction-searac-2In a country where conversations about racial equality are focused heavily on African Americans and Latinos, the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center in Washington, D.C., serves a different population. SEARAC supports grassroots organizations that are looking out for kids like Hem, children of refugees who face many of the same issues other minority groups face, like poverty, violence, prejudice, racial profiling, and despair.

The national organization focuses intently on state and national policies and helps organizations like Khmer Girls and Boys in Action in Long Beach, California, and the One Love Movement in San Diego, relentlessly push lawmakers to reconsider policies like the one that put Hem in a gang file with no notification of his parents and no due process for having his name removed. The policy knowledge that SEARAC shares serves as a tool that smaller organizations integrate into their mentoring and cultural education activities. The collaboration helps foster young leaders who can speak for a refugee community still reeling from the effects of genocide and war.

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'Under Construction': Exodus Transitional Community - East Harlem, New York

April 28, 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. For more profiles, click here.

On these blocks in East Harlem it is easy to imagine the entire outside world as a penitentiary. If a man disappears, you can bet he's up at Sing Sing, or Greenhaven, or some other correctional facility with a pleasant-sounding name.

And, as if out of a timeless void, they return.

Earlier this spring, you may have recognized a face on 3rd Avenue that you hadn't seen since 1993. Maybe later that night the name came to you, Michael Rowe, that kid who had a penchant for flashy clothes and who worked at his uncle's Laundromat on East 124th Street. So he's back now, you think. Trees have grown tall since then. There's a giant IHOP on the corner now. That wasn't here back then.

Each year some 2,200 people return from incarceration to this small pocket of upper Manhattan —north from 119th to 126th Street, and east from Lexington over to 2nd Avenue — an area that takes ten minutes to cross on foot. Their return has earned the neighborhood the name the Reentry Corridor. They come back with a felony record and little chance of finding sustainable work, back to households that were unstable years ago and have not been helped by time. Many carry high hopes of making a new life, hopes ten or twenty or thirty years in the making. Within a year, more than half of them will be locked up again.

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'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.

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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.

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[Infographic] Social Impact Bonds

October 26, 2013

This week's infographic, courtesy of the Rockefeller Foundation, looks at pay-for-success, or social impact bonds (SIBs), an innovative financial approach to the chronic shortage of public-sector funds for effective social interventions in which government partners with private foundations and investors willing "to provide upfront funding for early intervention services and provides financial returns on those investments if, and only if, the intervention is successful."

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Philanthropy and the Open Society: A Q&A With Christopher Stone, President, Open Society Foundations

August 22, 2013

Headshot_christopher_stone"George Soros once told a group of people he and I were speaking to that my appointment signaled no change in the Open Society Foundations, because change had been a constant since OSF's birth and would continue into the foreseeable future," said Christopher Stone when we spoke to him earlier this year.  "And that certainly applies to our funding priorities."

Since Stone joined the Open Society Foundations as president in 2012, many have wondered how, if at all, the change in leadership might affect the global network of philanthropies started and funded by Soros, the hedge fund billionaire. After all, Stone succeeded Open Society's founding president, Aryeh Neier, a former executive director of Human Rights Watch, national director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a close Soros friend who led the foundation for nearly twenty years, helping "to make...[it] into a truly international organization." With foundations in dozens of countries around the world, it was unclear -- and concerning to some -- how Stone intended to "streamline" what Soros previously had described in an interview with the New York Times as "a very complex organization." But, as Stone told us when we spoke with him, what Soros was alluding to was nothing more than new ways of organizing the Foundations' work so that it could "achieve more with each grant, program, and strategy."

Before joining Open Society, Stone served as Guggenheim Professor of the Practice of Criminal Justice at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. Prior to that, he served as director of the Vera Institute of Justice, founded the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, and served as a founding director of the New York State's Capital Defender Office and the Altus Global Alliance.

PND spoke with Stone in May and followed up with him via e-mail earlier this month.

Philanthropy News Digest: You were once described by Open Society founder George Soros as an "outsider insider." What did he mean?

Christopher Stone: I think he meant that I've been associated with the Open Society Foundations since the 1990s, but I haven't truly been inside the organization. I've been an advisory board member of the Open Society Justice Initiative since 2004 and an occasional advisor and grantee of the organization since the Open Society Institute was created in 1993. But I've been outside the organization in the sense that I haven't worked directly for Open Society, and I haven't been on any of its governing boards, until now. I can appreciate the organization and understand its history, but I don't have the commitments and am not wedded to any particular elements of the foundations that George Soros, I think, is hoping we will be reviewing over this transition.

PND: What has your varied experience taught you about the potential and limits of philanthropy?

CS: Over the years, I've known a number of foundation presidents and worked with many foundations, occasionally as an informal advisor and mostly as a grantee. Among other things, I've learned that, like other fields, the philanthropic sector is all about relationships; that foundations vary tremendously from one to another; and that they are really dependent in all sorts of ways on their grantees. Not just to execute the projects they support, but to help define and inform their sense of the field. Foundations work hard at getting outside opinions and observations. But it's a hard thing to do, and I think the mutual dependence of foundations on grantees, and grantees on foundations, is not as obvious to a lot of people who assume that the grantee is a supplicant and the foundation has all the cards.

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Prison's Dilemma

August 21, 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 seventh installment of that series (click here for the sixth, "A Dedicated Life: Shirley Sherrod's Ongoing Battle for Racial Cooperation in Georgia," by Ryan Cooper), Glenn C. Loury, the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Brown University, explains how America's overreliance on incarceration adversely affects African Americans and exacerbates existing racial and class inequalities. The essay below first appeared in the Washington Monthly and is reprinted here with the permission of that publication.

Headshot_glenn_louryOver the past four decades, the United States has become a punitive nation without historical precedent or international parallel. With roughly 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. currently confines about one-quarter of the world's prison inmates. In 2008,one in a hundred American adults was behind bars. Just what manner of people does our prison policy reveal us to be?

America, with great armies deployed abroad under a banner of freedom, nevertheless harbors the largest infrastructure for the mass deprivation of liberty on the planet. We imprison nearly as great a fraction of our population to a lifetime in jail (around seventy people for every hundred thousand residents) as Sweden, Denmark, and Norway imprison for any duration whatsoever.

That America's prisoners are mainly minorities, particularly African Americans, who come from the most disadvantaged corners of our unequal society, cannot be ignored. In 2006, one in nine black men between the ages of twenty and thirty-four was serving time. The role of race in this drama is subtle and important, and the racial breakdown is not incidental: prisons both reflect and exacerbate existing racial and class inequalities.

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How Should Philanthropy Respond to Obama's Speech on Black Men and Boys?

July 22, 2013

Shawn Dove is manager of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, an initiative of the Open Society Foundations "to create hope and opportunities for black men and boys who are significantly marginalized from U.S. economic, social, and political life." In collaboration with the Open Society Foundations, the Foundation Center recently launched BMAfunders.org, a go-to resource for data and information related to black male achievement that also highlights the role philanthropy can play in supporting black men and boys. A version of this post appears on OSF's Voices blog.

Headshot_Shawn Dove_How do we as a nation heal from the open wound caused by the Zimmerman verdict? Words from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, offer guidance: "We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now."

I've watched President Obama's speech responding to America's Trayvon Martin moment more than ten times now. And with each viewing, I am increasingly inspired by our president's courageous depiction of the challenges black men and boys face in a society that too often perceives them as criminals and ignores their potential to be productive contributors to this great nation.

Debates about race, gender, the criminal justice system, and states' "stand your ground" laws rattled the country in the week leading up to the president's speech. When he finally spoke, Americans of all races who have devoted their time and resources to improving the life outcomes of black men and boys had divergent reactions -- from sighs of relief, to jaw-dropping disbelief, to tears of joy. Others thought the president's message about how America views, values, and invests in black men and boys was off-base, too late, divisive, and lacking a call to action.

Much of what the president said resonated with me, particularly as a black man, the father of young twin boys, and the manager of the Open Society Foundations' Campaign for Black Male Achievement. What was perhaps most compelling was how he helped the country understand the pain black communities were experiencing by weaving explanations of the complex policies that create the disproportionately large population of incarcerated African American men with his personal experiences of being racially profiled. What also resonated with me was the refrain "Where do we go from here?"

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Emmett and Trayvon: How Racial Prejudice Has Changed in the Last 60 Years

July 19, 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 seriess, 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 second installment of that series (click here for the first, "America's Twentieth-Century Slavery," by Douglas A. Blackmon), Elijah Anderson, the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Sociology at Yale University, explores how racial prejudice in America has changed in the sixty years since fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, visiting relatives in Mississippi, was brutally beaten and possibly shot by a group of men, who later dumped his body in a nearby river, because he had flirted with the daughter of a local storeowner. Anderson's latest book is The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life. The essay below first appeared in the Washington Monthly and is reprinted here with the permission of that publication.

___________

 

Headshot_elijiah_andersonSeparated by a thousand miles, two state borders, and nearly six decades, two young African American boys met tragic fates that seem remarkably similar today: both walked into a small market to buy some candy; both ended up dead.

The first boy is Emmett Till, who was fourteen years old in the summer of 1955 when he walked into a local grocery store in Money, Mississippi, to buy gum. He was later roused from bed, beaten brutally, and possibly shot by a group of white men who later dumped his body in a nearby river. They claimed he had stepped out of his place by flirting with a young white woman, the wife of the store's owner. The second boy is Trayvon Martin, who was seventeen years old late last winter when he walked into a 7-Eleven near a gated community in Sanford, Florida, to buy Skittles and an iced tea. He was later shot to death at close range by a mixed-race man, who claimed Martin had behaved suspiciously and seemed out of place. The deaths of both boys galvanized the nation, drew sympathy and disbelief across racial lines, and, through the popular media, prompted a reexamination of race relations.

In the aftermath of Martin's death last February, a handful of reporters and columnists, and many members of the general public, made the obvious comparison: Trayvon Martin, it seemed, was the Emmett Till of our times. And while that comparison has some merit -- the boys' deaths are similar both in some of their details and in their tragic outcome -- these killings must also be understood as the result of very different strains of racial tension in America. The racism that led to Till's death was embedded in a virulent ideology of white racial superiority born out of slavery and the Jim Crow codes, particularly in the Deep South. That sort of racism hinges on the idea that blacks are an inherently inferior race, a morally null group that deserves both the subjugation and poverty it gets.

The racial prejudice that led to Trayvon Martin's death is different. While it, too, was born of America's painful legacy of slavery and segregation, and informed by those old concepts of racial order -- that blacks have their "place" in society -- it in addition reflects the urban iconography of today's racial inequality, namely the black ghetto, a uniquely urban American creation. Strikingly, this segregation of the black community coexists with an ongoing racial incorporation process that has produced the largest black middle class in history, and that reflects the extraordinary social progress this country has made since the 1960s. The civil rights movement paved the way for blacks and other people of color to access public and professional opportunities and spaces that would have been unimaginable in Till's time.

While the sort of racism that led to Till's death still exists in society today, Americans in general have a much more nuanced, more textured attitude toward race than anything we've seen before, and usually that attitude does not manifest in overtly hateful, exclusionary, or violent acts. Instead, it manifests in pervasive mindsets and stereotypes that all black people start from the inner-city ghetto and are therefore stigmatized by their association with its putative amorality, danger, crime, and poverty. Hence, in public a black person is burdened with a negative presumption that he or she must disprove before being able to establish mutually trusting relationships with others.

Most consequentially, black skin when seen in public, and its association with the ghetto, translates into a deficit of credibility as black skin is conflated with lower-class status. Such attitudes impact poor blacks of the ghetto one way and middle-class black people another. While middle-class blacks may be able to successfully overcome the negative presumptions of others, lower-class blacks may not. For instance, all blacks, particularly "ghetto-looking" young men, are at risk of enduring yet another "stop and frisk" from the police as well as discrimination from potential employers, shopkeepers, and strangers on the street. Members of the black middle class and black professionals may ultimately pass inspection and withstand such scrutiny; many poorer blacks cannot. And many blacks who have never stepped foot in a ghetto must repeatedly prove themselves as non-ghetto, often operating in a provisional status (with something more to prove), in the workplace or, say, a fancy restaurant, until they can convince others -- either by speaking "white" English or by demonstrating intelligence, poise, or manners -- that they are to be trusted, that they are not "one of those" blacks from the ghetto, and that they deserve respect. In other words, a middle-class black man who is, for instance, waiting in line for an ATM at night will in many cases be treated with a level of suspicion that a middle-class white man simply does not experience.

But this pervasive cultural association -- black skin equals the ghetto -- does not come out of the blue. After all, as a result of historical, political, and economic factors, blacks have been contained in the ghetto. Today, with persistent housing discrimination and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, America's ghettos face structural poverty. In addition, crime and homicide rates within those communities are high, young black men are typically the ones killing one another, and ghetto culture, made iconic by artists like Tupac Shakur, 50 Cent, and the Notorious B.I.G., is inextricably intertwined with blackness.

As a result, in America's collective imagination the ghetto is a dangerous, scary part of the city. It's where rap comes from, where drugs are sold, where hoodlums rule, and where The Wire might have been filmed. Above all, to many white Americans the ghetto is where "the black people live,” and thus, as the misguided logic follows, all black people live in the ghetto. It's that pervasive, if accidental, fallacy that's at the root of the wider society's perceptions of black people today. While it may be true that everyone who lives in a certain ghetto is black, it is patently untrue that everyone who is black lives in a ghetto. Regardless, black people of all classes, including those born and raised far from the inner cities and those who've never been in a ghetto, are by virtue of skin color alone stigmatized by the place.

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A New Way to Sustain the Campaign: Foundation Center and Open Society Foundations Launch BMAFunders.org

March 28, 2013

(Shawn Dove is the campaign manager for the Open Society Foundations' Campaign for Black Male Achievement. The original version of this post appears on Philanthropy New York's Smart Assets blog.)

Headshot_Shawn Dove_This June will mark the five-year anniversary of the creation of the Open Society Foundations' Campaign for Black Male Achievement, which was launched in 2008 to address the economic, political, social, and educational exclusion of black men and boys from American society. When I consider the upcoming five-year milestone I can't help but think that the campaign was originally slated to be just a three-year "initiative." But thanks to the determined and focused work of our partners in philanthropy, government, the not-for-profit community, and the private sector, our board extended the campaign's term limit and provided CBMA staff with much-needed breathing room, increased funding, and an opportunity to exhibit bold leadership on behalf of the emerging field of black male achievement.

During the past five years, the work of the campaign, along with the efforts of an evolving group of philanthropic partners and leaders from the policy, advocacy, practitioner, and research sectors, has expanded on the earlier work of funders like the Ford Foundation and the 21st Century Foundation to tackle a seemingly intractable problem. It has been fueled by a broad and diverse sector of organizations that combine a direct services and policy change approach. From the time we launched the CBMA, my daily mantra has been "sustain the campaign" in the belief that the philanthropic sector could not remedy a generational problem facing black men and boys with a short-term grant-cycle mindset.

In partnership with the Foundation Center, we have launched the Web portal BMAfunders.org to facilitate engagement, collaboration, and strategic decision making among funders, nonprofits, and policy makers working to promote positive outcomes for black men and boys in America. It could very well be the pivotal investment that enables this work to gain the sustained philanthropic commitment necessary to overcome the structural and systemic barriers that prevent too many black men and boys from realizing their full potential.

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Newsmaker: Shawn Dove, Campaign Manager, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Open Society Foundations

December 17, 2012

Headshot_Shawn Dove_In October, the Open Society Foundations and the Foundation Center released a report, Where Do We Go From Here? Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys  (40 pages, PDF), which found, among other things, that philanthropic support for African-American men and boys has risen steadily over the past decade, from $10 million in 2003 to $29 million in 2010. At a time when nearly every major indicator of economic, social, and physical well-being shows that African-American males do not have access to the opportunities they need to thrive, the philanthropic sector is working to address this critical need on two fronts: by supporting organizations in the "black male achievement field" and by spotlighting the fact that more needs to be done to tackle racial and economic inequality in America.

In the foreward to the report, Shawn Dove, manager of the OSF-based Campaign for Black Male Achievement, noted that former Open Society board member Lani Guinier has long argued that African-American males are not unlike "canaries in the coalmine," in that their socioeconomic plight foreshadows many negative trends that eventually will affect the broader society. That explains why, for many, the well-being of African-American men and boys is not a "black issue." It is, as Dove said when we spoke to him recently, "an American issue." Moreover, he added, "[g]rantmakers should not enter th[e] field with the expectation that they can parachute in and save the day....We need to look at what's working, and to spread the word about what success looks like."

After more than twenty years working in the fields of youth development, education, and community building, including stints as a director of a Beacon School in Harlem, as creative communities director for the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts, and as vice president for MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, Dove joined OSF in 2008. PND spoke with him in November, shortly after the release of the report.

Philanthropy News Digest: We've been told that America in 2012 is a post-racial society. Is it?

Shawn Dove: I guess that depends on one's definition and interpretation of "post-racial." If one's definition is a society in which there are no racial disparities when it comes to opportunity, access, and equity, I would say, "Not so much." In 2012, America aspires to be post-racial. But judging by the wealth gap, ethnic and racial disparities in access to high-quality education, and the number of people of color in the House and Senate, I'd say we still have some work to do.

PND: Countless studies and papers have outlined the many root causes of racial inequality in America. If the causes are clear, why do large portions of the African-American community continue to be adversely affected by disparities in education, health care, and employment?

SD: You know, that is the billion-dollar question. Two of our grantee partners, the American Values Institute and the Opportunity Agenda, have done extensive research on implicit bias in America, and what their research revealed was that far too many people hold unconscious racial prejudices that affect their decision making when interacting with races other than their own. So while retail sales managers, for example, will say they don't have racist attitudes or are not prejudiced, they'll also resist putting people of color, specifically African-American males, in roles that have direct contact with customers.

Americans of all ethnicities still have an exceedingly difficult time having honest conversations about race. There are a number of organizations and leaders who are organizing people to have discussions about racial disparities in our society, but a lot of work still needs to be done to change the behaviors that perpetuate inequality in this country.

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What Winning Looks Like: Impact & Innovation Forum for Black Male Achievement

October 05, 2012

(Grace Sato is a research assistant at the Foundation Center. This is her first post for PhilanTopic.)

Innovation-impact-forumWhat do New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, philanthropist George Soros, and Harlem Children's Zone founder Geoffrey Canada have in common? They're all passionate about black male achievement. And they all shared the stage at the inaugural Impact & Innovation Forum, hosted by the Open Society Foundations, earlier this week.

At the event, more than two hundred leaders from every sector -- philanthropy, government, finance, media, education, nonprofit, faith -- gathered to hear about efforts taking place across the nation to improve the lives of black men and boys. And while acknowledging the many challenges black men and boys face, forum participants focused on celebrating victories, spotlighting innovative strategies, and building on growing momentum in the field.

Here are some of my takeaways from the event:

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The Case for Using a Social Justice Lens in Grantmaking

August 21, 2012

(Over the course of his career, Michael Seltzer, a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic, has served as a program officer at the Ford Foundation, as president of the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers, and as founding executive director of Funders Concerned About AIDS. A version of this post appears in the summer issue of GMNsight, a new journal written for and by members of the Grants Managers Network.)

Social Justice -- A New Phenomenon?

Social_justiceNo. As early as 1972, in an internal memo to John H. Knowles, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, one of his officers suggested that the foundation use the phrase "Towards Social Justice in an Interdependent World" as a 'unifying theme' to describe its work.

Also, in the 1970s, select small- to medium-sized public, family, independent, and public foundations embraced the practice, language, and ethos of social justice, as evidenced by their early support of the U.S. civil rights movement. Their ranks included such private foundations as Norman, Field, Stern, New World, Taconic, and the John Hay Whitney. Subsequently, the public foundations that comprised the Funding Exchange Network -- the Tides Foundation; women's and LGBT funders such as the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice; and the Black United Fund movement -- joined their ranks. David Hunter, Stern's long-term executive director, served as a mentor and guide for many of these funds. The word justice also appeared in the literature of religiously affiliated grantmakers such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of the U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Jewish Fund for Justice. This was not surprising, since the precepts of justice are evident in the world's major religions and sacred texts.

Subsequently, this diverse set of donors, in terms of their structure and sources of revenues, began to meet annually under the aegis of the National Network of Change-Oriented Foundations. In 1981, the network's successor organization, the National Network of Foundations (NNG), asserted the following two purposes in its mandate:

To be a voice for issues of social and economic justice within the philanthropic community and externally in sectors of the broad community including government, business, labor and education, and to expand the resource base (human and financial) for social and economic justice activities.

As one indicator of the size of this community of funders, also in 1981 the National Network of Grantmakers and the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) in their publication, The Grantseekers Guide, A Directory for Social and Economic Justice Projects, listed more than one hundred foundations and corporate-giving programs.

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Achieving Real Justice: Funding Criminal Justice Reform

January 19, 2011

(Timothy P. Silard is president of the San Francisco-based Rosenberg Foundation, the largest California-based private funder of criminal justice policy reform advocacy. He was recently appointed co-chair of the Recidivism Reduction & Reentry committee of the new California Attorney General's Smart on Crime transition leadership team.)

CSP_LA An ambitious, multiyear plan to reduce the number of women behind bars.

A major push to expand job opportunities for Californians with past convictions by advocating with major businesses and state government to change hiring practices and combat employment discrimination.

An initiative to change the odds for children by preventing childhood exposure to violence and creating a seamless web of support and treatment to help child victims of violence heal and rebuild their lives.

These are just some of the innovative strategies being carried out by public agencies and local and national organizations to address one of California's biggest challenges -- a broken criminal justice system.

As we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century, there is no question that the Golden State's approach to keeping our communities safe desperately needs new thinking. In fact, fueled by decades of so-called "tough on crime" policies that have handcuffed politicians since the 1970s, it is woefully out of touch.

The result? The state has the largest prison population in the country, with more than 170,000 people behind bars. Eleven percent of the state budget goes to the prison system, yet California has the highest recidivism rate in the country; indeed, two-thirds of people released from prison in California are back behind bars within three years. Meanwhile, to balance a budget crippled by massive corrections expenditures lawmakers have been forced to slash funds for education and crucial social services.

The problem is not confined to California. As a country, we spend $212 billion annually on the criminal justice system. Americans comprise five percent of the world's population, but we have 25 percent of the world's prisoners. Nearly 2.4 million Americans are locked up in jails and prisons across the country, most for nonviolent offenses, and an enormously disproportionate number are poor and people of color. And there are now 2.7 million children with an incarcerated mother or father, a number that has quadrupled over the past 25 years. As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to take up the issue of California's overcrowded prison system, it is clear that a fear-driven approach to criminal justice and public safety has taken a real toll on communities across the Golden State and the country.

Despite the formidable challenges, there are many successful, proven innovations in this arena, and there are opportunities for real criminal justice reform on the horizon -- and for California to lead the way nationally. California voters just elected a new governor and attorney general, both of whom take office as criminal justice reformers. In January, as part of his proposed budget, Governor Jerry Brown called for the the elimination of the youth prison system and for low-level offenders to be housed in county-run jails instead of the state’s prisons. Attorney General Kamala Harris has helped build a robust policy architecture around being "smart on crime," which in turn has emerged as a rallying slogan for reformers around the country.

Philanthropy has a major role to play in these efforts. Those of us in the field know that we cannot turn things around nationally or in California without the help of the dedicated advocates and organizations on the frontlines of criminal justice reform. These organizations are working hard every day to attack the issue from multiple angles -- from urging government officials to enact specific policy reforms, to providing direct services and a second chance at life to individuals who are reentering society from prison and jail, to changing the hearts and minds of citizens about the best ways to secure public safety. Yet these organizations and advocates cannot achieve lasting and comprehensive success in this area without significant investment and support from foundations and individual philanthropists.

While criminal justice is an area that has been chronically under-resourced in the past, there are signs of increased interest among funders. The Rosenberg Foundation is part of a newly formed national Criminal Justice Funders Network that counts a growing number of funders among its members, including the Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, California Endowment, Fund for Nonviolence, Omnia Foundation, and Women's Foundation of California, among others.

We partnered in 2009 with the U.S. Department of Justice to convene a major meeting of national criminal justice funders at which more than eighty funders participated in strategic discussions with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and top staff from the Justice Department to identify priorities and areas of potential public/private cooperation. And in 2010, the Justice Department convened a group of funders focused on Reentry and Justice Reinvestment, two of the priority areas identified at the earlier meeting.

But more needs to be done. Because targeted investments by grantmakers in criminal justice reform can alleviate other, often-connected problems, we need to highlight the intersections between criminal justice policy and critical social justice issues such as racial inequality, education, community revitalization, child and family well-being, poverty, housing, and employment and workforce development.

In addition to investing dollars, funders have an unmatched ability to bring together both likely and unlikely allies -- not just reform advocates, but also businesses and community leaders, law enforcement, policy makers, and others -- ensuring that we move beyond issue silos to find common ground, share resources and ideas, and focus collectively on the task at hand.

In terms of facilitating knowledge sharing, funders also can identify and commission research and data on best practices and successes, and help disseminate that knowledge to a broad national audience.

Finally, funders can help to open doors for advocates by making sure that, in discussions and work with public and private partners, organizations and leaders on the frontlines always have a seat at the table.

There are myriad examples of innovative strategies from states and localities across the country that have taken up criminal justice reform, addressing both front-end alternatives to incarceration as well as successful reentry for those returning to their communities from prison and jail. We in philanthropy have the opportunity to lead the way in establishing these strategies as successes that can be replicated and built upon so that they become lasting solutions. It is the only way to achieve real justice and safety for our communities.

-- Timothy P. Silard

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