Changing the Narrative: It Takes a Village

Here at Summer Search, we are developing plans to better support our Black and Latino men through our Males of Color Initiative. Specifically, that means enhancing our outreach and enrollment practices to increase the number of Black and Latino male students referred to, and enrolled in Summer Search.

We are also encouraged to see that, across the country, there is a groundswell of recognition of the systemic and institutionalized barriers surrounding these young men, and the need to better serve them.

Our ability to support this endeavor is made possible by the generous support of AT&T, who presented their $437,000 contribution to us at a recent event in Seattle, WA. #ATTimpact

SEA-ATT-check-photo-2Bob Bass — President, Washington State AT&T — with Summer Search Seattle students.

“This is real innovation that supports AT&T’s goal to help all students achieve college success — regardless of race, age, gender, income or zip code,” said Bob Bass, President, Washington State AT&T. “We partner with organizations like Summer Search to help make that happen and to build up our next generation of leaders.”

AT&T also joined us back in October for a meaningful panel discussion on Changing the Narrative for Young Males of Color.

Learning from the Community

As we develop the details behind our Males of Color Initiative, we are connecting and collaborating with other individuals and organizations who are doing similar work. And luckily, it turns out that we have a few colleagues and friends that are leading the way.

Patricia Lee Brown of The New York Times recently profiled some of the groundbreaking work being done in Oakland, CA (one of the communities we serve), by the Oakland Unified School District’s Office of African American Male Achievement.

This program is working to close the academic gap for all of Oakland’s black male students through, as Brown puts it, “a variety of initiatives, including peer mentoring, a student leadership council and conferences that bring together role models and students…”

“Think of it as #BlackMindsMatter.”

And so far, it is going well! The program has been so influential that schools in Detroit and Washington, D.C., are looking to emulate it. In fact, Oakland recently was named one of the best cities for embracing initiatives to improve the lives of black men and boys, according to the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, a national network of nonprofits led by Shawn Dove.

You might remember Shawn as the keynote speaker at our 2015 Annual Meeting, and also a panelist in that same Changing the Narrative discussion with AT&T.

Shawn-Dove-2015-MOC-panelShawn Dove, pictured first from the right, speaking with fellow panelists at Summer Search’s 2015 Annual Meeting.

In that same New York Times article, Shawn, speaking about the development of new programs focusing on young males of color, not just in Oakland, but nationwide, said that “when you start to shift the culture, climate and language of an entire school district, you begin seeing changes… But it takes time.”

A Summer Searcher Leading the Way

One of the teachers leading this culture-shifting work at Oakland Technical High School is Summer Search San Francisco alumnus Lamar Hancock.

Lamar-Hancock-Cedric-R-NYTLamar Hancock (right), talking with Oakland Tech students, including current Summer Searcher Cedric R. (left, white shirt). Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

Lamar, whose work as an instructor and mentor has not only been featured in The New York Times, but also by Inside Bay Area, says of his students: “These kids come from all walks of life, and some from the roughest neighborhoods, but they are able to change, maintain and grow and become masters of their own domain…”

“I want them to learn ‘to upset the setup’ and find their own voice.”

Lamar is not only helping to change the narrative for his students at Oakland Tech, but also at Summer Search, through his work with our Black Male Leadership Group.

In 2011, this group was created by Summer Search staff and alumni to provide a safe space for young Black males to explore their identities, challenge negative narratives and stereotypes, and to express their thoughts on what it means to be a Black Male Leader. This group also acts as a support system to ensure our Black male students succeed in Summer Search.

As an alumni facilitator in the group, Lamar has led conversations with students, alumni and staff around Black history in the Bay Area, as well as discussions decoding recent events covered in the media relating to #BlackLivesMatter.

When describing his career of teaching at Oakland Tech and staying involved with Summer Search, Lamar says that he is “living the dream.”

We at Summer Search are so grateful to have such an innovative community to draw support and inspiration from as we work to make our vision of supporting more young men of color a reality.


Photo credits: Inside Bay Area and The New York Times.

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