Introduction from Marcus Littles

Making the case for an advocacy effort related to marginalized males issues is the cover story of this month’s issue of the MMFG e-newsletter. Loren Harris tells us why we as a field need to engage a good lobbyist in Washington. This issue also covers the 21st Century Foundation’s work on the documentary film by Mario Van Peebles, “Bring Your ‘A’ Game,” along with an examination of fatherhood, given the passing of Father’s Day earlier this month.

The e-newsletter will go on hiatus over the remainder of the summer, as philanthropy slows down to prepare for a busy fall. But you’ll receive our next issue early in September packed with news about what’s happened during the preceding two months and what will happen this fall. Stay tuned!

Yours truly,

Marcus J. Littles
Chief Executive
Frontline Solutions

The Field Needs Effective Advocacy, a Commentary by Loren Harris

        On a daily basis the halls of the Sam Rayburn House Office Building are replete with professionals well compensated for their prowess to convince, cajole, and even manipulate the public opinion and votes of members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Hard at work on behalf of various corporate, legal, and a few nonprofit interest groups are the contemporary political salespeople, otherwise known as lobbyists.

        The best lobbyists have clear targets. They know the essential committees and committee members who must be “reached” to support and vote for their interests. The nascent field of work concerned with improving outcomes among marginalized males has no such representation in the Rayburn Building.

        Advocates for marginalized males employ no lobbyists. In fact only a few House members have, of their own volition, lifted a pen to sponsor legislation explicitly concerned with improving the plight of black and Latino youth. Members need to represent the collective interests of their constituency and their nation. Black and Latino youth are part of that constituency, and doing what is best for them is part of what is best for all.

        As the marginalized males field builds momentum, its leaders must also establish a beachhead for effective advocacy in the nation’s capital. Lawmakers and their staff are like the rest of us. They are busy people who respond first to agendas that are most readily before them. It is perfectly legal to use philanthropic investments for educating, informing, updating, and advising lawmakers about the issues facing marginalized males and their communities.

        Financing the capacity to do this work well makes good business sense for foundations. Organized philanthropy alone has insufficient financial capital to adequately address and solve the challenges facing males of color. Conventional wisdom says that foundations will eventually shift their interests to other pressing social concerns. Given these considerations, leveraging the considerably deeper pockets of the federal treasury would be a prudent approach.

        In spite of corporate bailouts, declining profits, shrinking foundation assets, and dwindling program budgets, the philanthropic community remains well positioned to collectively support smart advocacy in Washington on behalf of marginalized males. While there are several paths to consider, three are highlighted here, in no particular sequence of hierarchy:

  • Engage a lobbyist: Foundations could contract a seasoned lobbyist from inside the Beltway who could become an effective advocate on priority issues of the marginalized males field.
  • Engage a think tank: An alternative approach would be to provide restricted funding to promote marginalized males priorities within an existing D.C.-based think tank or advocacy group.
  • Place an RFP for alternative advocacy ideas: A third option would be to develop a competitive proposal solicitation process for alternative advocacy ideas that a panel of grantmakers in the field would review.

Each of these advocacy ideas has merits and limitations. The broader point, though, should not be lost. If the marginalized males field is to advance the health and wellbeing of males of color, occupants of the Rayburn building (and Russell Senate Office Building) must be engaged early and often.

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Bring Your 'A' Game

        Twenty-First Century Foundation's (21CF) Black Men and Boys (BMB) Initiative has recently added a new tool to its arsenal, the groundbreaking documentary film “Bring Your ‘A’ Game” (BYAG). The film focuses a national spotlight on the challenges affecting black men and boys and facilitates 21CF’s work in identifying, highlighting, and supporting strategies that address the BMB crisis. The film was produced in partnership with actor/director Mario Van Peebles and producer Karen Williams.

        21CF will use screenings of the film and associated community discussions to catalyze transformation in the lives of urban youth. Innovative technologies and a cinematic style influenced by popular culture add flair to BYAG’s examination of strategies that have improved the lives of black men and boys. The film underscores the importance of educational achievement and high school graduation to survival and success in
today’s world.

        Interviewees include such black male icons as Richard “Dick” Parsons, Chris Rock, Spike Lee, Dr. Cornel West, Ice Cube, Mayor Cory Booker, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Russell Simmons, Kevin Liles, Lupe Fiasco, Hill Harper, Damon Dash, Kevin Powell, Melvin Van Peebles, Geoffrey Canada, Bruce Gordon, Alan Houston, and others.

        21CF seeks to be at the forefront of changing the BMB crisis by building a framework for local coalitions, collaborative efforts, and durable partnerships across all sectors of society. The foundation’s BMB initiative helps communities work together on the critical issues collectively identified as a paradigm of change for this crisis.

        “Bring Your ‘A’ Game” will air exclusively on BET on Sunday, September 13th
at 9 p.m. EST.

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New Report Urges Philanthropy to Reexamine the Role of Fathers in Black Families

         “Family Matters” is a new report by the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) that directly challenges commonly held perceptions of the “the black family.”

        The report touches on foster care and gender identity/sexuality, but focuses on fatherhood and the extent to which societal beliefs and public policies about black fathers impact the wellbeing of
black families.

        The report presents several recommendations for how philanthropy and the public sector can improve support for black fathers, including:

  1. Developing public policies that reach beyond marriage and family formation to support families and communities of all kinds;
  2. Developing public policies that reform welfare and child support policies that promote the presence of fathers instead of discouraging it;
  3. Funding research efforts and piloting more innovative programs that address the intricacies of today’s families of all shapes and sizes; and
  4. Embedding support for employment into programs, which can reduce the prevalence of fathers who leave their families because of the stigma of not successfully fulfilling their role as a financial provider.

        Interviews with three national experts on fathers and their role in black families form the basis of the report. The experts are: Dr. Waldo Johnson, Jr., Associate Professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration; Loren Harris, Principal of Thinking Man Consulting and former Program Officer at Ford Foundation; and Shawn Dove, Manager of the Open Society Institute's Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

“Family Matters” is available to ABFE Members and can be accessed by visiting
ABFE’s website.

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In Brief

        A Virginia-based nonprofit that leverages resources for mentoring organizations nationwide, MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership began work on a collaboration to provide more mentoring opportunities for Native American males. The collaboration includes the Indian Child Welfare Association and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. The first outreach effort will increase Native mentoring groups’ awareness of $1,000-stipend opportunities through the Mentoring Children of Prisoners: Caregiver’s Choice program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

        Hoax accusations against black males have gained increased attention in the national news of late. Earlier in June, NPR ran a report on racially based hoaxes by profiling a white Pennsylvania mother who falsely accused black males of a crime. Another high-profile hoax accusation occurred during this fall’s election when a white female McCain supporter falsely accused a black male Obama supporter of a violent assault against her, as reported by the Huffington Post.

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New Resources:

Visit our Resources page for details on these and other reports, articles, and links.

Check out the new "Media & Events" section on our Resources Page

July Event: July 16 Webinar: “Reparable Harm: Assessing & Addressing Disparities Faced by Boys and Men of Color in California,” from 2-3 pm ET

Link: Mentoring Children of Prisoners: Caregiver’s Choice program

Film: “Bring Your 'A' Game”

Film: “Equinox”

Film: “Men II Boys"

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