The all too common narrative of unarmed black men killed by police officers reached an all-time high this past summer. The killing of Michael Brown, an 18-year black male, by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, a small suburb of St. Louis brought national attention to an ongoing (and often underreported) problem of police brutality towards black men. Organizations like The Institute for Black Male Achievement (IBMA), a national membership network of over 1,500 organizations working to improve the life outcomes for black men and boys at the local, regional, and national level, are working to change the narrative surrounding black men and boys. It is imperative to remember that the events of Ferguson are neither random nor senseless acts of violence. Rather, they deserve national attention. As IBMA notes:
[the] well-being of black men and boys has a direct influence on the strength of their families, communities, and as a nation as a whole. Yet, they live shorter, poorer quality lives with fewer opportunities than their counterparts across racial and ethnic groups...There is no better reason or time to invest in black men and boys than now.
Ferguson, a predominately black suburb (68%) of 21,000 people, employs only 3 black police officers out of their 52 sworn police. The national discourse surrounding the recent death of Brown is polarized and marred with racist rants that demonize and belittle the plight of black men in America. At its core, Brown's death and the ensuing protests from this summer are a microcosm of the oft-ignored racial tension that has been brewing across the country. In particular, the media has played its part by reinforcing negative stereotypes of black males as thugs, completely dehumanizing the likes of Brown, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, and many more who have had their lives unnecessarily cut short by police officers.
IBMA is dedicated to tackling long-standing systemic barriers to black male achievement so that black males can all have an equal opportunity to lead successful and meaningful lives. One program, IBMA's Social Innovation Accelerator, selects individuals who have shown tangible results in improving the life outcomes of black men and boys and gives them a year of one-on-one capacity building support. Seven leaders were selected from an applicant pool of 175 for the inaugural cohort in 2013-2014.
To learn more about IBMA, please visit their website.