April 2018 marked the EA’s fifth anniversary: a time to celebrate our progress, reflect on lessons learned, and plan for a future in which boys and men of color are included in all the opportunities America has to offer. View this video to get a glimpse of what we have accomplished together and our vision for the future.
A group of executives led by the CEOs of the The California Endowment, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations convened their peers for a strategy-and-learning session with funders who had already committed energy and investments to improving life outcomes for boys and men of color.
This unprecedented gathering had a tone of hope and urgency. The foundation leaders shared analyses of the problems and solutions, and they concluded that bold measures outside of traditional philanthropic efforts were needed to address the structural, systemic, and racial inequities that intersect with gender. They committed to forming an alliance to create pathways to opportunity and inclusion that would improve the lives of boys and men of color and, ultimately, the economic and civic well-being of the entire nation.
The timing was right for this effort. Progressive leaders were taking the helm of local, community, and national foundations. Many brought experiences from the fields of health, education, and juvenile justice. They entered philanthropy having already learned tough lessons about how those systems interact with communities of color and how young men of color in particular fared within them. They were determined to change the status quo.
These leaders also knew that individuals and foundations had endeavored in prior decades to tackle similar issues facing boys and men of color, but were thwarted by a lack of collective momentum and investment.
Because of these lessons, the EA’s founding organizations understood that none could succeed alone. They also knew that to achieve success their approach would have to include: being vocal and insistent on identifying racial injustice as a driver of inequality; focusing on changing policy and systems instead of favoring individual-level interventions; and committing to collective, strategic collaboration among a diverse set of foundations.
The founders understood their alliance would be a bold experiment with no promise of success, but they were willing to try.
The EA has added new energy to the movement for boys and men of color and has galvanized top foundation executives to make personal and professional investments in its success.
Meanwhile, the movement blossomed with significant investments, multiple philanthropic collaborations, and new leadership in the private and public sectors. The work leapt into the public consciousness in 2014 when President Barack Obama made a personal commitment through his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which was created after consultation with a number of foundations. New energy and new dollars poured into the work, along with a host of new complexities, challenges, and opportunities.
Throughout these developments, the EA has served as a strategic home to foundations and leaders who want to make an impact locally, regionally, or nationwide. Today, the organization is a burgeoning network of more than 40 national, regional, and community foundations that have developed key infrastructure for the BMOC field and made many millions of dollars in joint or aligned investments. Through its support for a peer network of foundation executives, funder workgroups, rapid response grants, shared learning opportunities, and other activities, the EA elevates the work of foundations serving boys and men of color, helping them to make a deeper and more sustained impact than any foundation could alone.