Blog Entry Narrative Change, Capacity Building

The BMA Paradox of Promise & Peril

2015 has been a profoundly paradoxical year mixed with ample doses of both progression and painful reflection for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement. From our spin-off from the Open Society Foundations into an independent entity last February, the continued expansion of our field and capacity-building support for CBMA members through efforts like the Social Innovation Accelerator, Echoing Green BMA Fellowship and #BMAGive, and the building of our own internal staff and infrastructure -- the last twelve months have been equal parts inspiring, challenging, motivating and stretching for myself and the CBMA team.

As we prepare for a new year, clearly the conditions and challenges we face as a nation call for CBMA to stretch even further in its mission to ensure the growth, sustainability and impact of leaders and organizations committed to improving the life outcomes of Black men and boys.  The past year has been full of reminders of why CBMA is so strongly needed and dedicated to being the catalyst for the BMA movement. The launch of President Obama’s MBK Alliance injected more mission fuel into a movement already galvanized by thousands of what I refer to as the Hometown Heroes and Local Leaders on the ground working hard for social and racial justice.  And this year’s releases of books and films like REACH: 40 BLACK MEN SPEAK ON LIVING, LEADING AND SUCCEEDING, QUESTION BRIDGE: BLACK MALES IN AMERICA, and 3 ½ MINUTES 10 BULLETS-- all of which CBMA is proud to have supported -- have contributed significantly to the shifting narratives and public perceptions around Black males in America.

Yet not all of these reminders have been positive. Racial tension, police violence and systemic injustice continue to become more magnified in cities and communities across the country. The murders of Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, the tragic church shootings in Charleston, the shocking truths revealed behind the killing of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, and the news there would be no indictments of officers who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice have each been one stark reminder after another that the path towards building Beloved Communities for our nation’s Black men and women remains long and winding.  

I believe where there is challenge and adversity there is also promise and hope. Why wake up everyday and fight if we’re not going to believe in the hope and promise of this work? Back in April, CBMA’s “Quantifying Hope: Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys” highlighted the cross-sector investments that are building the field and improving opportunities for Black men and boys to achieve and reach their full potential. In November we released our new report “The Promise of Place: Cities Advancing Black Male Achievement”, along with the first-ever Black Male Achievement City Index, which lift up how place-based strategies in U.S. cities are laying the groundwork for Black Male Achievement nationwide. The foundational message in these two reports remind us that there are no silver bullets to solving the many problems we face, but there are certainly golden opportunities that we must maximize and leverage for the change we’re striving for. 

These resources, along with our existing capacity-building support, movement-building activities, and efforts to elevate an asset-based narrative about Black men and boys in America will equip leaders and organizations in the CBMA network with the data and framework necessary to launch your work into the New Year. As commemorated at this year’s Rumble Young Man, Rumble event, the love and dedication with which we approach our collective mission has the power to drive results and create the change we want to see. Nothing happens without leadership, and the changes we are seeking in this nation will not happen unless there is massive commitment to supporting the leaders and organizations that are on the ground making change happen. That is why CBMA exists.

Looking back on all that we’ve accomplished in 2015 as both an organization and as part of the larger BMA movement, I am heartened by the promise and possibilities before us. One of CBMA’s foremost priorities in 2016 is to identify a Bold Goal that will continue to propel us, and the field at-large, forward in a big way -- a process that we have already begun and look forward to sharing with you early next year. 

In the meantime, we are being propelled into the New Year by the power of focus, which helped CBMA evolve from what was supposed to be a three-year campaign launched almost eight years ago into the growing independent entity it is today. In 2016 CBMA intends to focus with increasing intentionality on the following five CBMA Building Blocks:

  • Building the CBMA Enterprise: Together, with the staff and board, growing a thinking, doing, learning, growing and teaching organization that serves as the catalyst for a growing BMA movement.
  • Building CBMA Capital: It will take significant resources to realize the mission we have in front of us and to chart the course toward the North Star goal of creating a Billion Dollar Mega-Fund for Black men and boys.
  • Building the CBMA Brand: Keeping the unapologetic message front and center that Black men and boys are assets in our society.
  • Building CBMA Community: Growing strategic partnerships and strengthening the CBMA network of leaders and organizations.
  • Building CBMA Value: Forging a path toward the realization of a Bold Goal that change is indeed possible and we can help elevate the data on positive life outcomes for Black men and boys in America.

For now, I urge us all to make time to rest, reflect, and recharge for the journey ahead. The CBMA team looks forward to embracing the continued challenges and opportunities before us and is grateful to be on this journey with you. 

Wishing You and Yours a Peaceful and Prosperous 2016!

Shawn Dove, CEO

The Campaign for Black Male Achievement

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