Many black men are positive role models

Charles W. Bowser mentored a virtual Who's Who of the city's most successful black politicians. With programs like the Campaign for Black Male Engagement, there may be many more to come.

Kudos to the Knight Foundation for becoming a partner in the Open Society Foundation’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement. BME (pronounced “Be Me”) wants to dispel negative stereotypes by recognizing black men and boys who are trying to improve their communities.

“We want to shine a light on the brothers who help others achieve, who involve neighbors, friends and strangers in things that uplift the community,” said Trabian Shorters, a Knight Foundation vice president.

The Open Society said the campaign responds to a growing body of research that shows black males lead increasingly threatened lives. “We believe in communities where black men and boys lead in solutions, participate in decision making, and are fully engaged in all issues and opportunities affecting their communities,” it said.

BME asks black males, 14 and up, to go to to share their stories about how they are serving their communities and leading others to service. Participants 18 and older will also be eligible to apply for grants to fund community projects. Winners will be selected by the “online BME community.” Currently, the program is only available in Philadelphia and Detroit.

An invitation to participants said, “We just want to share stories about the good things that black males do for their community, how you serve your neighborhood and your city, and how you inspire others to join you. … you may not always realize that you are an example for the future leaders of our communities.”

Shorters said he and other black men have become too accustomed to commenting on the negative role models in their lives, absent fathers in particular. One day, he said, he was confronted by a woman who asked, “You didn’t have a grandfather, an uncle; your mom never dated a man who showed you the right way to go?” He said it was as if the woman had switched on a light.

“I had become so used to focusing on what was missing that I neglected what was there,” said Shorters. The BME program will shine a light on black men who too often get little or no recognition for their work.