New efforts to change stereotypes and encourage African American young men

October 30, 2014

UWM is working to change the stereotypes and the prospects for young African American males through a collaborative effort called the African American Male Initiative. “This effort is a merger of two initiatives aimed at black youth to help them be successful,” says Jim Hill, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs. The collaboration grows out of Saving Black Boys – an initiative that Gary L. Williams, director of the Black Cultural Center and the Institute for Intercultural Research, started at UWM several years ago – and efforts on the part of Student Affairs to recruit and retain African American males and assure they graduate. Williams’ initiative, which included a forum in 2012 and a summit for African American Youth in 2013, aimed to address challenges such as a soaring high school dropout rate, a pipeline that often ran straight from school to jail for many; few job opportunities; and a society that often viewed these young men as intimidating or uneducable. The goal of AAMI is to combine the efforts of UWM faculty, staff and students with those of other community initiatives to engage and empower the community to change biases and empower these young men to help reshape their future. This year the group is joining with the city of Milwaukee, Community Advocates, Center for Youth Engagement, and many other community organizations to host a kick off for Boys and Men of Color Week (Oct. 26- Nov. 1). This opening event will be at 10:30 a.m., Monday, Oct. 27, in the UWM Student Union Ballroom. The AAMI is also planning another summit on Dec. 17, anticipating that 600 middle and high school young men will attend. In addition to the Division of Student Affairs, UWM’s African American Student Support Services, Black Cultural Center, Institute for Intercultural Research and Inclusive Excellence Center are all involved in the efforts. And, a new group, Brother to Brother, will involve UWM students in outreach and mentoring to African American high school students. In addition to MPS, the Wauwatosa, Racine and other local districts have requested information, says Hill. “These young men can talk to students about making the transformation from high school to college.” One of the key supports UWM can provide to these efforts is the research and evaluation component, says Hill. “With the limited resources available, it’s important to find out what’s working and what’s not.” Related research projects on black male joblessness, black male incarceration and organizing local resources and priorities are already underway through the Center for 21st Century Studies, the Research Center for Urban Education Leadership, the UWM Center for Economic Development and the Employment and Training Institute It’s also vital that UWM builds a connection with these young men, says Williams. “They need to see that they have options and there are people who care for them and who can provide them with what they need to have success.” The AAMI group would eventually like to expand its efforts to include Latino young men. “The percentage points may differ, but young black and brown men face many of the same challenges. They’re not graduating from high school and too many are involved with the criminal justice system, Hill notes” The committee leadership for the AAMI effort includes members from a variety of different areas of campus. They are: Decoteau Irby, assistant professor of administrative leadership in the School of Education; Jim Hill, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs: Monique Liston, Women’s Resource Center; Emmanuel Ngui, Zilber School of Public Health; Jeffery Roman, Community Advocates; Robert Smith, Global Inclusion and Engagement and Cultures and Communities; Simone Smith, Institute for Intercultural Research; Warren Scherer, Inclusive Excellence Center Gary L. Williams, associate professor of educational policy and community studies. For more information, email sobmymke@uwm.edu.