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PEAK Grantmaking

Campaign for Black Male Achievement: Q&A With Shawn Dove

Shawn Dove serves as the CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), a national membership organization dedicated to ensuring the growth, sustainability, and impact of leaders and organizations focused on improving the life outcomes of America’s Black men and boys. Started by the Open Society Foundations in 2008 as the nation’s largest philanthropic initiative on this issue, Dove’s stellar management has propelled CBMA into becoming an independent entity, growing its membership to more than 5,700 leaders representing over 2,675 organizations nationwide.

This year, CBMA and its many partners are taking time to recognize CBMA’s decade of impact as well as the challenges America still must address in order to unlock the full human, economic, and educational potential of Black men and boys.

CBMA turns 10 this year—a Campaign that Open Society Foundations made a three-year commitment to. What are some memorable moments CBMA has seen in the past decade that have contributed to the Campaign’s longevity?

We launched CBMA in 2008 to respond to the growing need across the nation for programs, policies, and resources that meaningfully invest in Black men and boys. Life outcomes for Black males lagged far behind those of their White counterparts in all areas, including education, health, safety, jobs, and criminal justice involvement.

It has taken tremendous effort and partnership to stretch CBMA’s initial three-year term limit at Open Society Foundations into a decade of working to accelerate investments in Black men and boys to unprecedented levels, extend the philanthropic shelf-life of CBMA, and ignite a growing field of Black male achievement that has connected and galvanized the nation.

In 2010, we hosted the first Black Male Reimagined Convening along with our partners to encourage influencers in the media and entertainment industries to transform how Black men are portrayed in popular culture and public discourse.

Spinning off as an independent entity in 2015 was an important moment of transition for CBMA. That same year, we launched the initial Promise of Place report. The report was the first of its kind, and it included an evaluation of 50 U.S. cities based on their progress in advancing the life outcomes of Black men and boys.

Convening our flagship intergenerational, cross-sector Rumble Young Man, Rumble national and regional gatherings was also an important moment for CBMA. The gathering has continued to serve as a preeminent movement-building experience for Black Male Achievement leaders. This year, we gathered 24 leaders from our Promise of Place cities in Greensboro, N.C., to launch a year-long fellowship that meshes executive leadership coaching and social movement-building strategies.

In 10 years, we have grown our network of leaders and organizations working to advance Black Male Achievement across the country to more than 5,700+ individual members and more than 2,765 organizational partners. We have catalyzed over $320 million in Black Male Achievement and six national initiatives to anchor our growing field.

CBMA has made progress to build a movement to celebrate America’s Black boys and men as well as to help members grow, find sustainability, and increase community impact as community, state, and national leaders. How has CBMA made progress to build a movement led by Black boys and men?

My leadership of CBMA is more than a career and a profession, it is my calling and ministry. At the heart of our work we want the nation to understand that there is no cavalry coming to save the day in our communities. We are the leaders that we have been waiting for, the curators of the change we seek.

I’ve witnessed thousands of cross-sector leaders of all races and genders embrace this mission and mantra: Black men and boys matter. But there is a paradox of promise and peril for our Black men and boys. We know that the way they are viewed by the broader public shapes how they see themselves, and we want them to see what we see: talent and potential. Through collective effort, focus, and collaboration, we have been able to promote and sustain an asset-based narrative about Black men and boys.

We also regularly bring leaders together so they learn from each other and scale their efforts. Our Rumble Young Man, Rumble gatherings bring young Black Male Achievement leaders together to share promising practices and lessons learned in the field as well as foster collaboration between young Black men across the country.

We are also deepening and spreading our Black Male Achievement Health and Healing Strategies work to ensure that leaders who are at the forefront of creating change are also focused on their own health, healing, and well-being. In the two years since launching this initiative, we have conducted 30 Health and Healing Strategies workshops that have reached nearly 800 community leaders, parents, guardians, mentors, and school personnel in California to help improve the health outcomes of Black Males.

How has CBMA advanced educational equity for Black boys and men?

Ten years ago, new research examining the life experiences of Black men and boys in America shed light on the deep and undeniable inequities they face throughout their lives, particularly in education and economic well-being. With regard to education, the data revealed that more than 50 percent of all African American boys did not finish high school, and only 18 percent of Black males aged 18 to 21 were enrolled in college.

Since then, we have mobilized investments in education at the local level to help city leaders alter the conditions in which our young people grow up and set them on a path to better futures. In 2010, we seeded the launch of the nation’s first African American Male Achievement initiative in the Oakland Unified School District, with the goal of creating the systems, structures, and spaces needed to ensure success for all African American male students. Similar initiatives have since been launched in Seattle, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

How has CBMA advanced economic equity for Black boys and men?

Economic well-being was another primary focus of CBMA when we began in 2008 as an initiative of the Open Society Foundations, rooted in the belief that the country will not realize its promise until each and every person can realize their full, individual potential. Ten years ago, research examining the life experiences of Black men and boys in America told a new story about the lack of equity for them—spanning issues such as violence, education, health, and employment. These numbers and the stark disparities they represented were the foundation for our approach to addressing the social determinants facing black men and boys. These social determinants are barriers to achieving economic equity. To address these barriers, we provide financial literacy training and other workshops on economic well-being at our national convenings and support intergenerational leaders focused on education, workforce development, and entrepreneurship.

How has CBMA collaborated with other national groups to raise the profile of and increase support for Black boys and men? Groups that come to mind are the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, and Cities United.

Leaders in philanthropy, government, and business have not always been focused on mobilizing the necessary investment to ensure that Black men and boys—and boys and men of color, more broadly—were recognized as assets to our communities and country. Our movement would not be possible without thousands of leaders and partners joining CBMA to elevate opportunities and challenges facing Black men and boys.

Over the last decade, our partners and allies have catalyzed multiple national initiatives. BMe Community—an initiative to lift up Black men and boys as assets to their communities and society—has expanded to new cities; Cities United has planted deeper roots in local municipalities across the country to engage city leaders in efforts to curb violent deaths among African American males; and we have seen the emergence of the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color as a philanthropic force to drive additional investments and resources to the growing Black Male Achievement and boys and young men of color fields. CBMA also played an instrumental role in helping former President Barack Obama launch My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative developed in the wake of his speech in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder trial of Trayvon Martin.

Is there anything else the PEAK Grantmaking community should know?

As far as we have come in the last decade, I am intentional in saying we are acknowledging our 10 years, as opposed to celebrating them. Every measure and statistic finds that Black men and boys still face far worse outcomes than their White, Latino, or Asian male counterparts when it comes to violence, education, health, and jobs. These outcomes are the reason CBMA had to become an entity a decade ago, and why we will redouble our efforts for many more years to come.

We still have more work to do before we can say that our country lives up to its ideals and is a place where Black men and boys, and all communities of color, are not merely surviving but thriving.

We must do more to infuse social enterprise and wealth-building strategies into the field. We must work to leverage our investments to increase equity in terms of ownership, entrepreneurship, and social and economic mobility for Black men, their families, and communities.

This is the work we must do as we think back on how and why CBMA began, and what lies ahead before we can declare America as a true place of promise for Black men and boys.

Learn more about CBMA’s highlights from the past decade.