Creating an environment that supports racial healing and eliminates barriers to opportunity for young men of color is critical to the future and success of Mississippi. To that end, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) announces new grant commitments totaling $3.8 million to 26 community organizations in the state working to help set young men of color on the path to success. Grants range from $60,000 to $150,000 over three years and continue WKKF's more than 40 year commitment in the state.
Collectively, the community organizations are working to change the conditions young men of color in Mississippi face by building a comprehensive network of support from birth into adulthood, developing their educational, emotional, physical and economic potential. WKKF is partnering with the network of grantees to advance, connect and share on-the-ground solutions and create brighter futures for Mississippi's children. The grants align with the foundation's commitments to improve the health, education and financial stability of vulnerable children and their families.
"By focusing on young men of color in the state, these local organizations are working to develop some of Mississippi's next generation leaders," said La June Montgomery Tabron, executive vice president and treasurer of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "We look forward to what we'll learn over the next three years and to sharing those lessons broadly."
Mississippi is one of WKKF's four priority places in the United States and the foundation has committed to the state for at least a generation to achieve a shared vision for Mississippi's vulnerable children, families and communities. The foundation is especially concerned with the legacy of structural racism, which has resulted in disproportionate numbers of children of color, particularly boys, being unprepared to thrive in society. This investment will support community-led solutions and new strategies to achieve racial equity for young men of color in the state.
The 2013 Kids Count Data Book released by The Annie E. Casey Foundation confirms that young men of color in Mississippi are in need of support and resources to help them succeed. The report shows almost one-third of the state's children live in poverty, half of whom are African American. Low family income negatively impacts children's academic proficiency across the board. Children of color score disproportionately lower in language and math than their white peers, and males consistently score lower than their female counterparts. These are some of the same areas of need being addressed by the WKKF grantee partners.
"Young men of color are the very people who should be leading in our communities," said William Stallworth, executive director of the Hope Community Development Agency in Biloxi. "Our organization works with young men 13-19 years old. We want to identify those who have leadership capacity and build on it through offering positive role models, interpersonal relationship skill training and job skills. If we can put those same leadership qualities to work in a positive direction, we can then change the direction of the lives of many more young men who these leaders already influence."
This targeted community-based grantmaking strategy in Mississippi comes in the wake of WKKF's recent America Healing Conference. The America Healing initiative explores ways for communities to engage in authentic efforts to address racial bias and to heal the racial wounds of the past. The foundation stands on the premise that by bringing the issues of racial inequity to the forefront, communities will be able to move beyond them for good.
To learn more about WKKF and its work in Mississippi, visit wkkf.org/where-we-work/united-states/mississippi. Learn more about the America Healing initiative at wkkf.org/what-we-support/racial-equity/america-healing.
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