To build beloved communities across America where black men and boys are healthy, thriving, and able to achieve their fullest potential — that is the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's (CBMA) core mission and rallying cry.
CBMA's work is driven by the unwavering belief that black men and boys are assets to our communities and our country, that they possess untapped potential and brilliance, and that they thrive when given opportunities to succeed. We cannot truly prosper as a nation when any group is left behind and forced to exist on the fringes of society. The well-being of black men and boys is directly connected to the well-being and strength of our families, communities, and nation as a whole.
Over the past decade, CBMA has supported leaders in cities across the United States who are working to accelerate positive life outcomes for black men and boys and whose efforts are moving the needle in measurable ways. To chart and track the progress happening in these cities, in 2015 CBMA developed the Black Male Achievement (BMA) City Index, which scores cities based on their level of engagement with and investment in black men and boys. In conjunction with the new index, we released Promise of Place, a first-of-its-kind report series that assessed commitments and targeted initiatives across fifty cities focused on supporting black men and boys. A few weeks ago, we released a follow-up report, Promise of Place: Building Beloved Communities for Black Men and Boys, that explores whether those cities are keeping their promises. Encouragingly, we have found that most cities have in fact increased their investments and actions in support of black men and boys.
The new Promise of Place report finds that, since 2015, 62 percent of the cities included in the index have ramped up their efforts to support black males across a variety of focus areas and needs, with scores based on five key indicators: demographic mix, commitment to black men and boys, presence of national initiatives supporting black men and boys, targeted funding supporting black men and boys, and CBMA membership. Detroit and Washington, D.C., remain the two highest scoring cities, each with a score of 95, while Jackson (Mississippi), Seattle (Washington), Omaha (Nebraska), and Mobile (Alabama) saw the greatest improvements in their scores. Cities not captured in the first report — including Denver and Yonkers, New York — have since become highly engaged in leading black male achievement efforts.
To be clear, the BMA City Index is not a ranking of which cities are doing the best with respect to this work. Rather, it is meant to serve as a starting point to see what commitments and engagements cities are making to black men and boys. It is imperative that city and community leaders hold their cities accountable to these commitments and continue to collaborate on measuring the impact of their efforts.
Despite this progress, however, we still see a continued need for greater investment in black male achievement. As noted in the report, education is just one area of need: 25 percent of African-American children do not graduate from high school on time, compared with the national average of 17 percent. Similarly, the high school graduation rate for black males is 59 percent, compared with 65 percent for Latino males and 80 percent for white males.
In recent years, we have also seen the national discourse become increasingly divided along lines of race, social justice, and equity. In addition to the continued systemic violence against black men, women, children, and communities, we have witnessed tragedies in cities such as Charleston, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis, as well as an increase in hate crimes targeting both African-American and undocumented communities.
Still, there is good news when we look at how mayors and other city and community leaders have stepped up to address the challenges faced by black men and boys. The new edition of Promise of Place finds that even as support at the national level is being eliminated or scaled back, cities are leading the way in deepening and expanding programs and policies that help everyone, including black men and boys.
Ten years into our mission, CBMA likewise is deepening its commitment to the black male achievement movement and to helping all black males achieve their full potential. While we are ready to work at the national level to bring needed investments to scale, we are focused on where we know we can make the most difference — elevating local leaders and hometown heroes who are driving this important work forward in our cities. We are thrilled to be able to highlight these leaders and their dedicated work. Our hope is that the report series and BMA City Index will serve as a roadmap for cities, stakeholders, and all those who are interested in advancing black male achievement.
Sheba Rogers is a Promise of Place program manager for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement and co-author of the second edition of Promise of Place. A native of Detroit, she helps manage CBMA's Promise of Place city strategy and supports CBMA's High School Excellence and Black Male Achievement engagement activities.