Though President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative has experienced far-reaching success in various communities and on college campuses across the country, criticisms have surfaced related to the lack of focus and inclusion of girls and young women of color. There is no doubt that the My Brother’s Keeper initiative has done much to provide mentorship, summer jobs, academic enrichment, and job placement opportunities for Black men. However, critics argued that My Brother’s Keeper should be broadened to be more inclusive of young women of color. In many instances, Black girls and young women face equally significant academic, social and economic challenges. For example, Black girls have the highest rates of school suspension of any girls. They are more likely to be victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking. Black women also earn lower incomes than any other racial or gender group.
The issues facing Black girls and women cannot be solved overnight but what must occur is a more serious call to action. A good example is a recent report titled, “Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected,” which calls for the development of policies and programmatic interventions that address the challenges facing Black girls and other girls of color. In particular, the report presents evidence that supports the need for elimination of inequities within educational environments that often lead to Black girls and other girls of color facing greater risks than those experienced by other racial and gender groups.
Without question, organized advocacy efforts are important in helping to address social and racial inequality. For example, similar to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, two recent movements #BlackGirlsMatter and #SayHerName were created to bring attention to issues facing Black girls and other girls of color related to racial injustice and police brutality. To date, both of these social justice movements have made significant progress in raising awareness of issues faced by Black girls and women. Despite the success of these movements, there is still more room for new approaches to advocate for and bring awareness to challenges and barriers faced by Black girls and women. One such strategy involves engaging Black males at HBCUs in the creation of advocacy efforts for women who attend these institutions.
Though women make up 61% (IPEDS, 2013) of the students enrolled at HBCUs, they still face challenges and barriers related to gender inequality. What follows is a list of advocacy efforts that Black men attending HBCUs could steward to help raise the awareness of issues faced by Black girls and women:
- Fraternities at HBCUs could partner with sororities to create social media campaigns that focus on issues of social justice among Black girls and women. Partnerships among Greek letter organizations would create large-scale efforts to increase national visibility.
- Black males could volunteer with local women’s rights organizations. Volunteering can often enhance the effectiveness and broaden the reach of local civic engagement activities.
- Black males could volunteer with local NAACP, 100 Black Men and Urban League chapters and help establish initiatives aimed at advocating for Black girls and women.
- Black males initiatives on HBCU campuses that are an outgrowth of My Brothers’ Keeps could partner to help establish similar initiatives that support Black girls and women.
- Black males could mobilize and co-sponsor a campus or local community event that brings in invited speakers or women’s activists who highlight the challenges faced by Black girls and women.
Though progress has been made to increase awareness of the barriers and challenges facing Black girls and women; addressing issues of inequality and social justice works best when it includes allies and advocates. Because HBCUs have a strong history of civic engagement, creating opportunities for Black males to advocate for Black girls and women is an approach that deserves attention. The start of making real progress in the advocacy for Black girls and women will only come through the collective efforts of many and the time is now to take a stand so that the violent incidents we have come to realize against young Black girls do not become commonplace within our society.