William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust announced more than $5 million in new funding over the next three years to improve the life outcomes of young Black men and boys aged 16-25.
The grant will support creation of two civic leadership fellowships for young men in Lexington and Louisville, KY, in partnership with local city leaders and advocates, along with national partners coordinated by Cities United. The fellowships will be directed toward young men impacted by community violence.
“We must work more collaboratively if we are going to make sure all of us can live in communities that are safe, healthy and hopeful,” said Anthony Smith, Executive Director of Cities United. “Investing directly in our youth, their families and the communities they call home is part of our new vision for real public safety—one that lights a path to real hope and opportunity for all. The data and our experience show that real public safety requires investments in prevention and community building, not simply increased law enforcement or incarceration.”
These fellowships will encourage young Black men and boys aged 16-25 to invest in their futures, and offer opportunities for education, jobs and careers combined with leadership development and mentoring support. Young people in the two cities will be selected based on their potential and need.
The fellowships are rooted in the belief that young Black men are assets to our communities and cities. They are creative, resourceful and whole, and if given the right support system and opportunities, they will thrive.
Cities United recently received a planning grant for the fellowship from the James Graham Brown Foundation. The fellowships will be a collaborative initiative, with the cities of Louisville and Lexington partnering with their local workforce, education, criminal justice housing and social service partners to prepare up to 120 young Black men to be the next generation of civic leaders. The fellowships will invest directly in young people to shape their leadership and skill building, while learning directly from their lived experience with broken systems that produce community violence, and applying those learnings across city policies and programs.
“When we invest in young people, we invest in a brighter future for our city. In Lexington we are making significant investments to identify and stamp out root causes of violence. This program, working at the individual level, will expand and support our efforts. Thanks to everyone involved for this unique opportunity,” said Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.
“We believe in our young people and are excited about this opportunity to build on our existing youth and community building efforts through Zones of Hope and the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “We look forward to working with Mayor Gray of Lexington to cultivate community-led efforts to reduce violence and ensure that all citizens, no matter race or ZIP code, have the opportunity to reach their full human potential. We will not succeed unless we all work together, including local and national funders who can direct much-needed resources to our communities.”
Lexington and Louisville were chosen because of the commitment from their mayors and their partnerships with Cities United, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement and other local and national organizations focused on creating better outcomes for young Black men and boys, their families and the neighborhoods they call home.
The partners will capture lessons from Lexington and Louisville, to use the fellowships as a model for investing in young leaders in other parts of the nation, where mayors and city leaders are also directing efforts to advance 21st century public safety, provide pathways to opportunity and reduce violence against young Black men and boys.
“We have been locking away and warehousing our most talented young people for far too long,” said Dr. Dorian Burton, William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust Assistant Executive Director. “Young Black men are assets to our communities, and when provided with the right support and resources, they will thrive. Leaders in Lexington and Louisville have created a real opportunity to show how cities can build equitable pathways for success for Black males, and drive systems-level reform in their communities. I am hopeful that other national investors, the private sector and the state will embrace these initiatives and invest additional dollars to scale their work to other cities and states.”
Both Louisville and Lexington will be identifying and resourcing a group of grassroots, “on-the-ground” service providers who have specialized skills and relationships needed to effectively engage these young men of promise.
Other local partners include Louisville Urban League, Metro United Way, New Legacy Reentry, KentuckianaWorks, Legal Aid Society, Simmons College, Bluegrass Community & Technical College, Jefferson Community & Technical College, Bluegrass Workforce Investment Board, Fayette County Public Schools, Fayette Circuit and District Court, Urban League of Lexington – Fayette County and Lexington Leadership Foundation. National partners include #Cut50, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Cities United, JustLeadership USA, Essie Justice Group and BMe Community.