We are sharing what we and our partners have been learning through reflection in our Looking Back, Moving Forward blog series. This series is part of our Reflection, Analysis, and Planning (RAP) Process, which the Foundation is engaging in as our Moving the Needle (MTN) 2.0 strategic plan draws to a close and we prepare for what comes next.
The Boys and Men Opportunity Success Team (BMOST) is determined to show you that what you see and hear about black and brown boys and men isn’t the whole story. And by dissing our classmates, coworkers, and colleagues, we’re all paying the price.
How are we “dissing” folks? Let’s start with visibility. Boys and men of color are invisible until they aren’t in Central Arkansas.
Think about it. How many students living south of I-630 in Little Rock do you hear about who are graduating summa cum laude? How often do you see restaurant owners and chefs from Little Rock’s African American and Latino communities provide cooking lessons on local morning talk shows? How many entrepreneurs getting their start on 12th Street have you met on an evening newscast? They’re there, I promise you, but they might as well be invisible.
Now, how often do you read about violence in southwest Little Rock? How often do you see young, black male faces on the nightly news because they’ve been arrested and convicted? You know they’re there because you hear and see them all over the local news. The story folks begin telling themselves, because it’s the only story they see, hear, and read, is that our fellow residents are lazy, violent, and criminal.
But where are the stories about scholars, entrepreneurs, and community leaders of color?
BMOST is an initiative led by organizations and educational institutions committed to creating a #BetterNow for our classmates, coworkers, and colleagues. Their vision is that boys and men of color, empowered to succeed in their schools and careers, strengthen the Central Arkansas community. Together, BMOST partners are doing their part to continuously improve how their organizations serve our neighbors in Central Arkansas using data about how they are supporting the success of historically marginalized males in school and the workplace. BMOST partners know they can’t do this alone, which is why they are re-shaping the narrative through advocacy and online storytelling to build a community of individuals and organizations committed to creating a #BetterNow for boys and men of color.
The story we’re telling ourselves about our classmates, coworkers, and colleagues–a false story that keeps getting told on the radio, on TV, across the Internet, and in our newspapers–is creating how we think about them. And that’s a problem. When our teachers tell themselves this story about our classmates, they see students who don’t apply themselves and misbehave. When our coworkers and employers in Little Rock tell themselves this story, they inaccurately see potential employees and coworkers as unqualified or lazy. Ultimately, that costs us because we’re not preparing our future workforce, we’re not providing folks the jobs they need to build our community, and we’re putting up unnecessary obstacles in front of brilliant innovators and entrepreneurs who can drive our shared economic progress forward.
So do your part to make boys and men of color visible more for what they’re achieving and accomplishing within our community than for what a few of them aren’t. When all of us tell a better story and encourage one another to do the same, we’re not just improving how we view many dismissed members of our community, we’re also supporting our classmates, coworkers, and colleagues by acknowledging how valuable they are to our future.