The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is donating $4.7 million to eight organizations in New Orleans and two coalitions in Mississippi devoted to uplifting young men and boys of color.
The grants will ensure that men and boys of color are receiving better opportunities for advancement, and will also aid in closing racial disparities in each respective area. The Mississippi coalitions will evenly divide $2 million over the next two years to tackle the school-to-prison pipeline issue.
According to William Buster, Director of the Foundation’s Mississippi and New Orleans programs:
“There’s multiple barriers that face young people in Mississippi,” Buster said to The Huffington Post. “Removing the barrier of disproportionality of school discipline is something that we’ll take off the table and have the opportunity to focus more on things like reading by third grade or math proficiency.”
In 2015, only 51 percent of Black males in the state graduated from high school, making their graduation rate the third lowest in the country. Through a series of research programs, the Kellogg Foundation aims to reduce these numbers and increase educational success.
New Orleans will receive the remaining $2.7 million to be divided among eight organizations geared towards underserved Black males. Over the span of three years, each of the programs will receive between $150,000 and $450,000.
“The cry is that [they] want access to all those economic opportunities that exist in the community that to some degree, the young people feel like is passing over them,” Buster told HuffPost. “And so nobody can argue that New Orleans has been a success recovering, because the recovery hasn’t been even for everybody. Let’s give young people the tools that they need to engage in the economic pathway that they find and do it in a way that others can see it, pilot it and we hope this is something that others will take on after this grant ends.”
The Kellogg foundation surveyed males ages 15-20 to find out their true needs in accordance to the shortage of resources available to them in New Orleans. The foundation then came up with a 18-month internship programs focusing in areas such as media and culinary art for over 200 males. The grants will allow men of color to experience a range of new endeavors but Buster said that he also wants these changes to shift society’s perception of young men of color.
“They are viewed negatively within society,” Buster told the Post. “There are stereotypes in the media and we believe the best voice for helping people understand their power of advocacy, the asset ability is young people themselves. So we’re supporting them, we gotta work together to learn how to use their voices to learn how to engage the media, to learn how to engage city hall all while learning to hold an internship.”
By developing these opportunities, the young men and boys will gain hands-on exposure to a variety of fields, providing tangible possibilities for them to move past the confines of their environment.