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Columbus Releases New Funding, Hosts Events to Uplift Boys and Young Men of Color

Series of Programs Seek to Expand Opportunities for Young Men of Color

[COLUMBUS, OH] Columbus City Council, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, and Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce have banded together to help young men and boys of color rise.

"Nearly five years ago, I made the conscious decision to help shape and grow a grassroots effort that could balance the scales that weighed heavily against people of color," said Council President Shannon G. Hardin. "This is my commitment to the community of men who look like me. This passion is the foundation of the My Brother's Keeper (MBK) initiative."

The initiative began in 2014 when President Barack Obama called communities to uplift young boys and men of color. In 2016, Mayor Ginther joined then Councilmember Hardin to support the movement by establishing a full-time position dedicated to the MBK Initiative in the Department of Neighborhoods.

“I am committed to making Columbus America’s Opportunity City,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. “But before that can happen, we must first be America’s Equal Opportunity City.  We must work together in order to reach MBK’s key milestones and target barriers to success at the individual, organizational and systematic levels.”

In 2018, Council issued a call to action to the community -- to expand growth and development opportunities to boys and young men of color. 

"For Columbus to truly embrace the My Brother's Keeper initiative, the community must unite efforts and consolidate resources," said Hardin. "That is the basis for the MBK grants to help fund nonprofit programming."

Council renewed its commitment to fund organizations creating opportunities to support boys and young men of color. The grants will disburse a total of $75,000 to nonprofit organizations for their 2020 programming. The request for proposals opened on October 16, 2019.


Envisioning the Future 2019

On Saturday, October 19, 2019, the City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods hosts the 2019 MBK Youth Leadership Conference with the theme, "It's A Different World, Envision Your Future!" The conference will begin at 8:30am at the Columbus Africentric Early College, located at 3223 Allegheny Avenue.

The conference features highly interactive, hands-on career exploration and skills-based training. It is designed to expose boys and young men of color to the careers of the future. This year's event also features student, parent and service provider workshops.

"The work of MBK offers our young men of color access to pathways of opportunity and success," said Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce. "From a panel on trauma-informed care to civic engagement, I am thrilled to see this year's agenda offers a tremendous slate of experts, education and resources."

“It’s important we encourage our city’s youth to consider an array of careers—including the construction trades,” said Councilmember Rob Dorans. "Our community is stronger when young people from all neighborhoods are equally outfitted with the resources they need to plan and prepare for their futures.”


Barbershop Books Make the Literary Cut

The Barbershop Books program provides child-friendly reading spaces in neighborhood barbershops. Working with Columbus City Schools, the program purchased 150 books and created ten reading spaces in neighborhood barbershops in 2016. 

Today, the program has expanded to 33 local barbershops meeting families where they are and making books available where residents feel most comfortable.

"Increasing access to books and establishing a love of reading early in life can have a profound and positive impact on a child’s development," said President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown. "And we know the program works with 91 percent of barbers reporting seeing boys reading daily or almost daily in their shops.”

Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown supported funding for the program that seeks to cultivate a love of reading with one of the most trusted neighborhood resources in the African American community — barbers. 

The City of Columbus continues a multifaceted approach to supporting and uplifting all members of the community.