Historic Fellowship Seeks to Improve the Lives of Black Males

Historic Fellowship Seeks to Improve the Lives of Black Males

The Campaign for Black Male Achievement's Shawn Dove discusses how his organization is providing opportunities for social entrepreneurs and activists

Mychal Denzel Smith

by Mychal Denzel Smith, July 09, 2012

Historic Fellowship Seeks to Improve the Lives of Black Males

Shawn Dove

talk a little bit about why that was important?

Dove: Basically it’s all Black male achievement. Black males encompass all aspects of American society. And so while the Campaign's lead investment areas were around work, education and family, we thought it was really important to just open up the field and areas of fellowship applicants and bring on the best and talented people. For example Markese [Bryant] and John [Jordan], co-founders of Fight for Light, have an innovative model in environmental justice in a space where not enough Black males number one, work; and number two, [are] serving as social innovators and creating jobs forever.

The overall premise of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement is that the point of departure and launching point is Black men and boys. But that’s the narrow angle lens. The wide angle lens is that this is a community building strategy which is inclusive of women, [and] the LGBT community. It’s really a community building strategy. Our portfolio, to this point, has included women and invested in single mothers raising Black boys. And so, for example, the Brown Boi Project exemplified our ongoing strategy of incorporating the LGBT community and looking at masculinity and building bridges between the heterosexual and gay communities.

EBONY: Going forward, what other types of programs would you like to support?

Dove: Well that’s the thing about it, we are open. We aren’t going to box ourselves in and say that only these ideas and these type of people need apply. Obviously we would continue to look for social innovators around our core investment areas of education equity, increasing 21st century working wage opportunities, and strengthening family structures because that’s at the heart of our strategy. But also arts and culture. We would be looking for leaders or fellows that may want to flip the script in the field of philanthropy and how philanthropy approaches this issue. So we are just really excited about what will come down the pipe for the next round of fellows. And i want to say that there is an amazing demand across the country for something like this. We had eight fellowship slots and 1300 people applied for just eight fellowship slots. And it just really proved to us that there is a vast number of leaders and social entrepreneurs that are looking for support, platforms, resources, and a launching pad that an Echoing Green and Open Society Foundation fellowship like this can provide them.

EBONY: What is the legacy you hope these fellows leave?

Dove: Wow. That they’ve created change. A legacy that they had a big bold idea for change, that they will look back and say that their initiative did something that has never been done before. It doesn’t have to be that complicated because we are really looking to transform the outcomes that Black men and boys are experiencing. Change systems and structures. So, the legacy is that the playing field in the United States for Black men and boys around opportunity, access, and equity has been leveled; and that the Black Male Achievement fellows have been amazing idea generators to help level that playing field.

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