CBMA's Top Five Moments of 2017

by Janet Dickerson

As we prepare to close out yet another eventful year in Black Male Achievement, CBMA has been reflecting on key highlights from the past twelve months that have helped propel our mission forward, and elevate the leaders and voices moving the needle in improving life outcomes and opportunities for Black men and boys.

Given the many exciting events and activities that took place throughout 2017 it was a challenge to identify just five! Read on for our top moments, and join us on social media with your own top five using the hashtag #BMAMoments!

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1. MLK Now 2017 

On MLK Day 2017, CBMA again joined with Blackout for Human Rights to host the 2nd Annual “MLK Now”, a free event celebrating the words and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK Now takes place at the historic Riverside Church in New York City -- where Dr. King delivered his pivotal 1967 speech, “Beyond Vietnam” -- and brings together a cross-section of artists, performers and thought-leaders to pay homage to Dr. King and historical figures like Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Sojourner Truth, Angela Davis, Patrice Lumumba, Fred Hampton, Shirley Chisolm, and Ida B. Wells, among others. 

The program for MLK Now creatively intersperses speeches from revolutionary figures and heroes with musical and spoken word performances, as well as a panel discussion on some of today’s most urgent human rights issues. Some of the influential artists and entertainers that have performed at MLK Now include Chris Rock, Olivia Wilde, Q-Tip, Harry Belafonte, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Octavia Spencer, Michael B. Jordan, Uzo Aduba, Andre Holland, Anika Noni Rose, J. Cole, Adepero Oduye, India.Arie, and more! 

Since launching in 2016, MLK Now has been a consistently sold out event of nearly 3,000 people, attracting a livestream audience of more than half-a-million people, and becoming a number one trending topic on both Twitter and Facebook. To see why, you can view the full livestream of MLK Now 2017, and watch below for a powerful performance by Chicago-based Artist, International Peace Activist and CBMA Member Jessica "F.M. Supreme" Disu.

2. Inaugural Building Beloved Community Leadership Fellowship (BBCLF) Convening

In June, CBMA convened the first gathering of the inaugural Building Beloved Community Leadership Fellowship (BBCLF) cohort at a three-day leadership institute in Greensboro, North Carolina. Hosted in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership and the Beloved Community Center, the retreat was an opportunity for the twenty-four fellows to bond and build camaraderie with one another, and to learn valuable leadership tools and techniques to advance their BMA work. Read here for first-person reflections from some of fellows who were in attendance.

It was also at the convening that Fellows shared compelling project ideas to create or continue within their respective cities. Recently CBMA awarded mini-grants to select BBCLF fellows to help seed small-scale projects that will hopefully inspire other leaders in the broader BMA field to model and/or scale up. 

3. 2017 Promise of Place Convening

On October 11th to 13th, CBMA hosted its first Promise of Place (PoP) Convening at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY. This gathering brought together a cross-section of committed leaders from cities including Detroit, Milwaukee, Oakland, Louisville and Baltimore, where CBMA has built on-the-ground partnerships and collaborations to deepen our Black Male Achievement efforts in local communities. 

The PoP convening created space for more than 60 leaders from ten cities to exchange best practices and set aspirational goals that will guide our collective work to improve life outcomes and opportunities for Black men and boys. The timing of the convening couldn't have been better, taking place as CBMA prepares to release Promise of Place 2018 -- an update to our 2015 report and BMA City Index that highlights cities leading the way to improve the lives of young Black men and boys, assesses local progress, and lifts up promising areas of policy and practice that can be expanded and deepened. Stay tuned for news and updates on the forthcoming PoP report slated for release in January! 

In the meantime, watch this inspiring talk on "Risk, Urgency and Momentum" delivered at the convening by CBMA CEO Shawn Dove.

4. The Year of Rumble

In 2017 CBMA expanded its signature event Rumble Young Man, Rumble! to include regional convenings in the cities of Detroit (last July), and Baltimore (last October), engaging nearly 600 intergenerational leaders this year. In addition to the annual Rumble held each year at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY, these regional gatherings provided the opportunity for an even deeper dive into the work being driven in each city around supporting and uplifting Black males and their communities locally.

Image from Rumble Detroit, July 2017 (Photo Credit: Salahadeen K. Betts)

Image from Rumble Baltimore, October 2017 (Photo Credit: Salahadeen K. Betts)

5. Organizational Growth and Transition

Organizationally, 2017 represented a year of significant change and expansion for CBMA, as we bid farewell to long-time staff, and also welcomed new members to our still-growing team! In October Rashid Shabazz -- who served as VP of Communications and had been part of CBMA since its inception at the Open Society Foundations in 2008 -- transitioned from the organization into a new role as the inaugural Chief Marketing and Story-telling Officer at Color of Change. In honor of Rashid's many contributions to the Black Male Achievement field and movement (chief among them his creation and curation of content elevating positive images and perceptions of Black men and boys, and his formation, alongside our partner the Perception Institute, of the Black Male Re-Imagined event and multimedia series) CBMA hosted a special celebratory event at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) to acknowledge and pay tribute to all that Rashid had accomplished in his time at CBMA. For reflections in Rashid's own words, read his personal letter here.

In the last quarter of 2017, CBMA was thrilled to welcome two new staff members: Felecia Webb, our new Vice President of Development who is leading CBMA's fundraising and communications efforts; and Wes Tolbert, who serves as Rumble Young Man, Rumble Associate and is supporting the initiative's growth, as well as other areas of CBMA's work.

The addition of Felecia and Wes to the team capped off what has truly been an eventful year at CBMA! This growth also further underscores how CBMA continues to build our organizational infrastructure and strengthen our capacity to be both a catalyst and supporter of Black Male Achievement at the local and national levels. 

What are your key highlights from 2017? Share them with us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram using the hashtag #BMAMoments!