Introduction from Marcus Littles

Next year’s census is still a few months away, but the Ford Foundation and others are breaking new ground to ensure black males and other hard-to-reach populations are counted. This month’s cover story includes input from Ford’s Thomasina Williams and explores opportunities for your foundation to get involved with the census. We also have a report on the momentum that marginalized males work has gained this fall and an essay that explains why foundations should take the lead in reaching out to men of color through inclusive approaches.


Marcus J. Littles
Chief Executive
Frontline Solutions

Ford Targets Black Men and Other Undercounted Populations for Census Outreach

        The 2010 census is right around the corner, and black males are at risk of being left out.

        According to the Census Bureau’s demographic analysis, the 2000 census undercounted black males 18 and older by 7.67 percent. By comparison, the 2000 census overcounted the non-black population by .29 percent and undercounted black women by only .75 percent.

        Undercounting by the census excludes black males from much of the country’s public, private, and nonprofit life. Census data helps determine the boundaries of political districts and forms the basis of government funding decisions that range from where to place traffic lights to how to allocate billions of dollars of stimulus monies. Businesses use census data to select locations for new grocery stores, retail outlets, and work plants. Nonprofits use it to develop social service initiatives.

        Program Officer Thomasina Williams is leading the Ford Foundation’s efforts to ensure the 2010 census counts black males and other groups that tend to be undercounted. Ford has dedicated over $17 million for activities related to the census or mid-term elections over its 2008, 2009, and 2010 fiscal years.

        “We’re thinking about the census as a political campaign,” she said. “Our grantees are doing public outreach and going door to door. In those jurisdictions that are priorities for us, we want to touch every person.”

        Ford has awarded a $300,000 planning grant to the 21st Century Foundation for its upcoming Man Up, Be Counted campaign, which will organize census outreach efforts in the eight American cities with the largest black male population. After the planning activities are complete, Ford intends to award an implementation grant to help launch the campaign before the census begins in March 2010.

        The campaign will also stage a public messaging component based on Ford-supported focus group discussions with males from across the black diaspora, including Africa and the Caribbean. Black males tend to avoid the census for a variety of reasons. For example, they often fear that law enforcement and child support agencies, landlords, or telemarketers might gain access to their personal information. The messaging component will address these concerns and explain the benefits of being counted.

        Ford encourages other funders to get involved by taking advantage of resources available through the Funders Census Initiative (FCI). FCI educates funders and their grantees about how and why to ensure the census accurately counts hard-to-reach populations, including black males, immigrants, and communities of color. Any funder can join.

        FCI’s website offers useful downloadable resources, such as a model letter to grantees and links to national, state, and local census outreach efforts. Ford’s support is also helping FCI provide weekly informational conference calls and free one-on-one consultation from Census experts.

        An engagement effort similar to FCI’s is available to nonprofits through a Ford grant to the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network for its Nonprofits Count! 2010 Census Campaign. A downloadable toolkit for grantees is available on the Nonprofits Count website.

        Collaboration, however, is just as important as support. Williams points out that any organization—public, private, or nonprofit—can help with census outreach directly through the Census Bureau by becoming a 2010 Census Partner. Partners receive posters and other promotional materials that target hard-to-reach populations.

        Many of Ford’s outreach efforts and those of its grantees will reach black males through online, radio, TV, and print media. A number of utility companies will print messages on their bills to remind customers to fill out census forms. Target and other retailers are also planning to print messages about the census on their sales flyers.

        “There’s no way the Ford Foundation could not be working on this,”
        Williams said.

For more information about how you, your foundation, or grantees can become involved, check out these resources:

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Marginalized Males Work Gains Momentum

         This fall, the philanthropic sector is increasing its focus on marginalized males issues, as evidenced by work during September and October in local communities. Here are some examples of recent gatherings and resources that target the life outcomes of males of color:

  • At the Grantmakers for Children Youth and Families (GCYF) national conference in Minneapolis in September, more than 50 funders participated in the session Working with the Tools in Your Garage: Varying Approaches to the Issues Facing Marginalized Males & Their Families. The session covered a number issues raised by the panel of practitioners and funders.

  • At the Grantmakers for Education (GFE) conference in October, noted youth development practitioner Geoffrey Canada and prominent civil rights activist Jesse Jackson spoke to 400 participants about gross inequities in the education system that disproportionately impact young men of color.

  • In October, the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) and the Open Society Institute's Campaign for Black Male Achievement hosted the premier screening of “Beyond the Bricks," a short documentary that explores solutions to the poor academic performance and low graduation rates of school-age black males in the United States. “Beyond the Bricks” follows two students from Newark, New Jersey as they struggle to improve their life circumstances. The film includes interviews with educators, administrators, elected officials, and activists who offer their observations about the crisis facing young black men.

  • In September, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference featured a screening of the documentaries “Bring Your ‘A’ Game” and “Beyond the Bricks.” The screenings were followed by a panel of scholars, funders, and practitioners who engaged in a dialogue with 200 attendees from around the nation about how to improve the life outcomes of black males.

  • In October, U.S. Representative Danny Davis hosted the E3 Forum: Black Fathers, Families and Communities, a convening of policymakers, advocates, and researchers who want “straight talk” about the progressive scaling back of federal support for low-income Americans. As Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Reauthorization approaches, the convening was an opportunity to discuss how responsible government can transform TANF from a program of entitlement to one of wealth building that provides a new foundation of economic opportunities for black fathers, families, and communities.

        As a community of funders and practitioners committed to improving the life outcomes of marginalized males, we need to continue to be vigilant about opportunities to raise awareness, share learnings, and mobilize our respective communities. But activity alone should not be our measuring stick. Rather, we need to create more access to opportunities in local communities. Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Never mistake activity for achievement.” Our charge is to continue to learn, convene, and strategize as a means and not an end.

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Essay: Foundations Should Help Introduce Inclusive Responses to Young Men of Color

       Over the years I have reflected on my involvement with think tanks, summits, and conferences across the nation and have actively sought innovative strategies to improve a heavily impacted justice system. I have often wondered why we can’t get past the rhetoric, the egos, and the talk. We offer myriad explanations, but invariably produce systemic bandages, not the sustainable practices or responses needed to combat the realities that our multiethnic communities experience. The continued discourse focuses too much on how to diagnose rather than on how to heal, mobilize, and strengthen our communities. As we continue to talk, our communities are deteriorating, families are breaking down, and individuals are suffering. The approach is always top down. We need to begin acknowledging who is not at the table rather than who is always at the table.

        Let’s face it. African-Americans and Latinos face harsher sentencing practices than their Caucasian counterparts.1 Surging incarceration rates have resulted in too many men of color behind bars. The implications do not merely affect individuals. Family and social life destabilize and crime rates rise higher.2 The loss of positive male leadership has an intergenerational impact on how young men grow up and on how they relate to women and to their community. Young men develop more of a propensity to engage in violence, substance abuse, and other harmful behaviors that lead to incarceration.3

        Contemporary treatment and rehabilitation models do not place proper emphasis on the culturally responsive interventions needed to positively redirect these young men. They are suffering from social-historical trauma, violence, systemic racism, and poverty. Consequently, in the words of one commentator, treatment “is not likely to bring about the inner transformation that will end involvement in crime.”4

        The criminalization and mass incarceration of our young men of color must stop. The latest get-tough-on-crime policies (e.g., three strike laws, harsh sentencing) get tough on our families and our economy as well. Incarceration places a heavy burden on the average taxpayer and drains natural resources in the form of human capital.

        So let’s not talk about black, white, or brown America. Let’s talk about one America in which prosperity comes from the people. The shift will begin when conventional leadership embraces unconventional leaders—the hard working parents, struggling students, and community organizers who find themselves too often excluded from higher level discourse. Leadership should not be based on rank or file but by community endorsement, action, and contribution.

        In order to make effective change, the voice of the community needs meaningful inclusion in the planning, managing, and implementation stages of leadership discussions. When given the opportunity, young people, families, and communities will thrive. The community as a collective can act as the captain who steers the ship towards prosperity and accomplishment.

         Now is the time to invest in culturally responsive approaches and interventions for African American and Latino males. Communities of color across the nation have developed a variety of viable and promising responses to the needs of young men. But these responses are not receiving the funding they need from government sources. Foundations must become more active funders and introduce the shift in thinking needed for positive social change.

        John Muir once said, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” As we move forward today, we must do so as a collective. Oftentimes we talk to each other, but we don’t hear. We need concerted community-based leadership with a clear objective of consensus building so theory and application can act as complimentary agents of change.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

        In my own community, I have aligned myself with the peace-building organization Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos. Starting in the 1970s out of the trunk of a car, Barrios Unidos has successfully incorporated into its practice the use of family strengthening, community mobilization, and culture. Barrios Unidos has endured the test of time and is a natural extension of the civil rights era. Its employee base includes professionals and local people who identify closely with the struggles of the community members it serves. It not only responds to the community, it is community. Organizations such as ours have not been properly acknowledged, sometimes even dismissed with contempt, for being too ethnic despite the far-reaching impact of our international work.

        My years of national consulting, advocacy, and ongoing professional training provide me access to what has been fashionably coined as human capital. My topmost interest is public safety and the wellbeing of all citizens.

        Although a variety of intervention and prevention approaches exist, one thing is for sure: we must not engage in a separatist mentality. Ultimately, the vanguard of public safety must not be overly reliant on incarceration, suppression, and law enforcement. A community problem needs a community solution. This will only occur when top-level administrators, practitioners, and grassroots groups actively collaborate in a meaningful, inclusive manner. By including culturally responsive approaches that are supported with research, we can provide the solutions.

1 Austin, James et al (2007) Unlocking America, (p 18) JFA Institute, Washington D.C

2Dina R. Rose and Todd R. Clear. “The Problem with ‘Addition by Subtraction’: The Prison-Crime Relationship in Low-Income Communities.” Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment; Marc Mauer and Meda Chesney-Lind, eds. New York: The New Press, 2003. 181-94; Todd R. Clear. Imprisoning Communities: How Mass Incarceration Makes Disadvantaged Places Worse. New York: Oxford UP, 2007

3 McCord, J. (1982). "A Longitudinal View of the Relationship Between Paternal Absence and Crime." In Abnormal Offenders, Delinquency, and the Criminal Justice System, ed. J. Gunn and D. P. Farrington. Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons.

4Austin, James et al (2007) Unlocking America, (p. 16) JFA Institute, Washington D.C

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In Brief

        Update: The Joint Center Develops Guidelines to Involve Expectant Fathers in Family. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has founded a new commission to increase awareness of the role of expectant African American fathers in pregnancy. Its Commission on Paternal Involvement in Pregnancy Outcomes reported in an October 19 statement that involvement of expectant African American fathers can increase maternal and child health during pregnancy. The commission also recommended new guidelines for research, public health policy, and clinical practice that will encourage greater participation by fathers. The work of the Joint Center addresses research and policy issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color.

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New Resources:

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