HPJ Fellow Spotlight: Seth Rose

The Hilliard P. Jenkins Fellowship (HPJ Fellowship) is a summer program that allows undergraduate students to take part in the work and efforts of Frontline Solutions. For this “Where are they now?” series, past Fellows look back on their summer experience and share what they have been up to since their time as a Fellow.

Seth Rose, 2013 Fellow

Seth Rose, 2013 Fellow

Seth Rose is a Senior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill majoring in Political Science and minoring in Education. Seth is strongly interested in poverty and policy in the United States. Looking into anti-poverty initiatives, he examined The Harlem Children’s Zone in an extensive policy brief highlighting the organization’s strategy to eradicate poverty among children. Seth also served as head editor of Talking Sidewalks Literary Magazine featuring writing and artwork by individuals who experienced poverty and homelessness. He was also an advocate at the Community Empowerment Funds helping unemployed individuals gain access to capital and financial resources. In the summer of 2013 he served as an HPJ Fellow.

What attracted you to the Fellowship?

The work and interests of Frontline aligned with the questions I was asking myself and the interest areas I was looking into- particularly with regard to men of color issues. I was interested in Frontline and they did that work in the real life.

What part of the job did you find most fulfilling?

I really enjoyed the conferences I went to. I went to A Gathering of Leaders and I enjoyed seeing and listening to folks who have been doing this work for a long time. The other gathering I went to was of leaders of faith and it was beautiful to see how people channel their faith into social justice work. The people I talked to at that conference were brilliant and fascinating.

What have you been up to since the fellowship?

I studied abroad in Chile during my spring semester, worked as a teacher through Breakthrough Collaborative, and this year I started writing a column about social justice and racial issues for the Daily Tar Heel.

How did the fellowship influence the work you do now/the work you want to do in the future?

I wouldn’t have known what it meant to do foundation work. FLS gave me an eye into that world of social change and it gave me confidence in terms of being able to do what I believe in and do it well.

What professional experience were you able to gain?

Maneuvering through interactions with people. I had never been in a professional environment before and this was my chance to interact with people like Micah, Marcus, and Ryan. That was a big thing for me- understanding how that worked. Other than that, I did a good amount of writing and that will absolutely serve me in whatever professional career. It was mostly subtle things- influence, and values, and subtle observation.

Applications to be a 2015 HPJ Fellow are currently live. Click here for more information and to apply: http://bit.ly/HPJ_app

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HPJ Fellow Spotlight: Alayah Glenn

The Hilliard P. Jenkins Fellowship (HPJ Fellowship) is a summer program that allows undergraduate students to take part in the work and efforts of Frontline Solutions. For this “Where are they now?” series, past Fellows look back on their summer experience and share what they have been up to since their time as a Fellow.

Alayah Glenn, 2012 Fellow

Alayah Glenn, 2012 Fellow

Alayah Glenn is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she majored in Public Policy and African American Diaspora Studies. While at UNC she served as the Associate Director of Mentoring for Movement of Youth, the Membership and Elections Chair of the Black Student Movement, and Co-President of the Caribbean Student Association. Currently, Alayah resides in Montgomery, Alabama where she works as a Justice Fellow at the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a non-profit organization and law firm that challenges issues of racial discrimination and poverty.

Long before Alayah made her way to Montgomery she served as an HPJ Fellow in the summer of 2012, an experience she largely credits to 2011 Fellow and now Frontline Consultant, Khayla Deans.

“I have to give a lot of credit to the persistence and diligence of Khayla. We were in a class together on Racial Justice and American Law and we were both passionate about racial injustice and how it relates to American history. We would have conversations about social issues and I would express my desire to work to challenge those issues. Khayla said it [HPJ Fellowship] changed her perspective on what policy can do, direct action, and what non-profits can do. That’s not something I had ever considered. It had never occurred to me that you could work towards the symptomatic aspects of policy issues while things were getting done.”

As an HPJ Fellow, Alayah played a critical role in the Black Male Engagement Project, a project started by the Knight Foundation. As part of the project, she was able to travel to DC to work with Frontline partners and sit-in on meetings with the president of the Knight Foundation.

“Not only was I there as a support to Frontline, but as a face. My input was encouraged and valued. That was very generous of the partners but it affirmed a sense of confidence that I was here for a reason and that I did bring something that no one else brought to the table. That was really fulfilling because I felt that I had a lasting impact.”

One of her most memorable roles involved hiring program directors for the BME project.

“I had just turned 20 and I was hiring people. I was going through applications, I called people, and I had phone interviews with them. Marcus (Senior Partner) had complete faith in me, they felt that I was capable and they allowed me to show them that I was”.

Overall, Alayah recognizes the positive impact the fellowship had on her. For one, she notes she would have never met Bryan Stevenson (Executive Director of EJI) nor heard of the Justice Fellowship had it not been for Frontline’s annual Gathering of Leaders event. As a Justice Fellow, Alayah’s work has centered on research for their upcoming 2015 Calendar which aims to educate people on racial bias in the U.S and its continued impact on our society.

“The calendar includes provocative pictures and side-bar text that re-imagine what was happening during the era of Reconstruction, contextualizing what really happened so that when we look at issues like mass incarceration or racial bias we can say it didn’t just come out of nowhere. Instead, it is due to the kind of experiences that people of color had decades ago”.

In addition to her research, Alayah plays a role in supporting EJI’s clients. “We go see how they are doing [in jail], making sure that they are being treated well. It’s important that they know that the people who represent them, care about them”. As she delves deeper into racial injustice and poverty issues at EJI, Alayah is quick to note her continued dedication to working to the change the legal system and combat various social injustices- something the fellowship helped her realize.

“I can’t express how much the HPJ fellowship completely changed my perspective of what was possible for me and what change could look like. It was impactful to my career trajectory and what I could even dare to want in my career and how I can be part of changing my community. I don’t have to be stuck in just one thing, HPJ taught me that you don’t have to choice one interest, you can do it all.”

Applications to be a 2015 HPJ Fellow are currently live. Click here for more information and to apply: http://bit.ly/HPJ_app

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HPJ Fellow Spotlight: Evan Coles

The Hilliard P. Jenkins Fellowship (HPJ Fellowship) is a summer program that allows undergraduate students to take part in the work and efforts of Frontline Solutions. For this “Where are they now?” series, past Fellows look back on their summer experience and share what they have been up to since their time as a Fellow.

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Evan Coles, 2014 Fellow

Evan Coles is a Senior at Princeton University and studies in the Religious studies department with expectant certificates in Creative Writing Poetry and African-American studies. Evan hopes to merge his communications and research skills from the classroom with practical experience in the public sector to be an advocate for his community. During his time at Princeton, Coles has been selected as a researcher for the Leadership Alliance, a pre-PhD program, to conduct research on the literature of 20th century Black Marxists. This past summer he served as 2014 HPJ Fellow at our Philadelphia office.

What attracted you to the fellowship?

EC: I loved the idea of working at a non-profit. I consider advocacy on behalf of boys and men of color to be one of my prime interests and focuses.

What part of the job did you find most fulfilling?

EC: I was able to wear a number of different shoes and get a sense of what non-profit work looks like from a holistic point of view. From going to Washington to New York to Philly all within a week. I got a sense of the amazing work that gets done on all fronts: non-profit, foundation, and government.

What have you been up to since the fellowship?

EC: Now I am looking at Grad schools in pursuit of my MFA in writing. So we’ll see. Perhaps a year abroad as well.

How did the fellowship influence the work you do/ the work you want to do in the future?

EC: It was really eye opening and I developed a sense of self-reliance. I got a sense of how office life is carried out and the wonderful sense of community that arises from assisting one another.

What professional experience were you able to gain?

EC: Beside buffing up my excel and Powerpoint skills, I think I really learned how to engage not only intellectually but also shrewdly. I learned that work gets done with colleagues, but lasting change can only be affected when one feels connected emotionally and mentally to the work and those they work with.

Applications to be a 2015 HPJ Fellow are currently live. Click here for more information and to apply: http://bit.ly/HPJ_app

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HPJ Fellow Spotlight: Lindsay Rosenfeld

The Hilliard P. Jenkins Fellowship (HPJ Fellowship) is a summer program that allows undergraduate students to take part in the work and efforts of Frontline Solutions. For this “Where are they now?” series, past Fellows look back on their summer experience and share what they have been up to since their time as a Fellow.

Lindsay Rosenfield, 2012 Fellow

Lindsay Rosenfeld, 2012 Fellow

Lindsay Rosenfeld is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she majored in Global Studies and Anthropology. While at UNC she provided support for survivors of sexual violence at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, worked as a team photographer with Silent Images, and served as an HPJ Fellow in the summer of 2012 at the Philadelphia office. Most recently, Lindsay served as a New Sector Alliance Fellow under the Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE) program in Chicago where she worked with Benevolent, a crowd-giving platform that helps provide funds to low-income families in need of one time support to overcome obstacles along the path to success.

 

What attracted you to the HPJ Fellowship?

LR: In previous summers I had experience enacting social change in a direct way. During the school year at UNC, I worked for the local rape crisis center. I was comfortable with enacting change in the programmatic sense but I recognized that real social change requires all sectors. For me what stuck out [about the HPJ Fellowship] was the opportunity to have conversations and be in the same room with people who had the same goals but different methodologies. Frontline was a nexus for that- being able to rub elbows with the business guys and the academics.

What part of the job did you find most fulfilling?

LR: That summer in Philadelphia represented a lot of different things for me: How much trust and faith the staff has in the fellows, (My class was the 3rd class and that summer the presence of fellows doubled Frontline staff), the amount of trust that Ryan [Bowers, Senior Parnter] had in my ability to do things I had never done before, and the ability to navigate my own professional and intellectual experience. Both Alayah (2012 Fellow) and Liza (2012 Fellow) were involved in the Black Male Engagement foundation project and I told them (Frontline staff) I wanted in and everyone was onboard with me taking the next steps. I think those opportunities are rare. The fact that all the partners and staff were so committed to my own professional development set me on a path to demand those experiences. I have the skill set to say “these are my experiences” and be able to advocate for myself.

What aspects of work are you in now?

LR:  I’m currently in Chicago, finishing up with New Sector Alliance where fellows hold fellowships in social enterprise. There is mentorship and every week we have different seminars to learn some very tangible skills: logic models, salesforce, what social enterprise is… it’s very high touch and hands on.

How did the fellowship influence the work you do now?

LR: For me it solidified my commitment to the social change umbrella. It challenged me to think of ways to enact change while not necessarily being the person on the ground. That’s an easy and comfortable role to put myself in. Working alongside Ryan allowed me to see the different ways that people can enact the same mission and how critical it is to be strategic.

Applications to be a 2015 HPJ Fellow are currently live. Click here for more information and to apply: http://bit.ly/HPJ_app

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Under Construction: Growing Kings — Birmingham, AL

This post, written by Janelle Harris, first appeared on Philanthropy New’s Digest’s PhilanTopic blog. PND and PhilanTopic are services of the Foundation Center.

Under Construction is a multimedia online exhibit showcasing some of the best and brightest organizations working with males of color. The UC team of filmmakers, photographers, writers, and nonprofit experts worked directly with each of these organizations for several weeks. The collaborations yielded comprehensive portraits of the services men of color receive. Each profile features a short video, a photography exhibit, a visual program model, and a narrative essay detailing the efforts of these organizations.

Under Construction is a project of Frontline Solutions and was made possible through the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. For more profiles, click here.


There’s an old saying that goes, A boy is born, a man is trained.

In the hodge-podge of races, cultures, ethnicities, and companion traditions that is America, there’s no formalized, hard-and-fast entrée into manhood. Sans a singular rite of passage, it just kind of happens from family to family, community to community. Getting a driver’s license, losing one’s virginity, graduating from high school or college and joining the workforce, turning 18 or 21 (depending on whom you ask) — all have been pointed to as touchstones in the shaping of masculinity. Fathering a child is perhaps the most significant of all, but the consensus view holds that, the mechanics of biology aside, the ability to procreate does not make a male a father — nor make him a man.

The absence of active dads in black and Latino communities has been well-documented as the by-product of systemic social factors and poor personal decisions. Whatever the reasons, the result is boys growing up without real-life role models and male figures able and willing to offer their time, wisdom, and emotional maturity to boys looking for the way forward. Mentorship doesn’t necessarily substitute for the absence of a biological parent, but it often does provide boys and young men with support and encouragement from older guys who can relate to them because, not too long ago, they were them.

There’s another old saying, this one originating somewhere on the continent of Africa, that goes, It takes a village to raise a child. Growing Kings is part of that village for the families of black and Latino boys in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Showing, Not Telling

To see the Growing Kings staff in action is to watch the organization’s mission come to life. In partnership with six schools in the city, Growing Kings’ programming today reaches elementary, middle, and high school-aged boys of color categorized as “at-risk” — of dropping out and giving up on their education, of being dragged into the impersonal maw of the juvenile justice system, of settling for less than they deserve and are capable of.

Growing Kings In-School Session_IMG_9144BW

Photo by Jamaica Gilmer

At Hayes K–8 School, fifteen brown boys form a single-file line that chugs clumsily through the doorway of the school library. They’re an animated bunch, stifling the urge to kick and jump and unleash all the other aerial gymnastics young men their age perform on impulse. In time, they’ll learn to walk into a room in a way that commands attention, not hijacks it, especially when some of them figure out that a genteel swagger is a much better way to impress girls.

For now, it’s endearing to watch them try to conform to the behavioral expectations not only of library staff — one senses those rules are more easily disregarded — but to those of the men who lead Growing Kings’ outreach. The gentlemen who hold weekly court at Prince Charming, a program that promotes literacy, math, and critical thinking for fourth- and fifth-graders, are among the only positive male figures in many of the boys’ lives, and their respect for them is almost palpable. Boys may giggle and goof off, but they’re watching these men closely and modeling themselves accordingly.

Program manager Justin Williams motions to one student to join him in front of the group, which is now seated at two long wooden tables reminiscent of the ones at just about everybody’s elementary school just about everywhere. It’s only a week into the new academic year and Williams, who hasn’t had an opportunity to master the boys’ names, asks the young man to introduce himself.

Justin Williams, Program Manager fascilitating GK Session_IMG_9035BW

Justin Williams, Program Manager facilitating a Growing Kings Session. Photo by Jamaica Gilmer

Hands shoved in his pockets, the boy balks at being the center of attention and twists at the waist nervously, propeller-style. “My name is Terrence McNeal.”

Williams puts a hand on his shoulder to calm the boy’s jittery nerves and gently corrects him. “Mister.”

The boy starts again, hands still deep in his pockets but his body steady and head higher. “My name is Mister Terrence McNeal,” he says, a smidge louder and with more assertiveness than the first time around. And so begins the process of growing a king.

The Mission to Inspire Change

Justin Sims, a Growing Kings program manager who operated his own nonprofit for boys prior to joining the organization, believes that developing early leadership skills is one of its distinctive offerings. “We set expectations and affirmations for them. We explain what goals are, help them set them, and watch their growth throughout the year,” he says. “We challenge them on leadership, character, and morale to become the best students they can be, no matter what’s going on at home or in the neighborhood.”

Marcus Carson, Executive Director of Growing Kings_IMG_8763BW

Marcus Carson, Executive Director of Growing Kings. Photo by Jamaica Gilmer

Before Growing Kings became a movement, it was the brainchild of Marcus Carson, then a 24-year-old Birmingham native who was living in Charlotte, working as a financial analyst, and wanting to do something more for his adopted community than watch important issues get pushed to the fore, then fall back into limbo. “I felt like there was more that I needed to do,” he says. “I wanted to do something that addressed black and brown male youth in a way that would be effective.”

The universe responded by handing him a pink slip. Typically, that’s not a great thing. In Carson’s case, it proved to be all the impetus he needed. He’d been praying for a chance to effect change. And now he had been given one. He didn’t get a substantial severance package like some of his colleagues, the kind that makes it easier to take a risk such as starting a nonprofit organization when you’ve never even volunteered for one. “I walked away with about two weeks’ salary,” he says, laughing, “so I was like, okay, now it’s for real.”

Using his finance background and his MBA from Florida A&M University, Carson crafted a business plan and, in 2009, launched Growing Kings in Birmingham, even though he was still living in Charlotte. His original plan was to shape the organization’s development from his adopted city, but buy-in from educators in Birmingham City Schools was enthusiastic and he soon changed his plan. Those partnerships also afforded him on-the-job training that shaped the Growing Kings’ curriculum.

“What I originally proposed wasn’t as appropriate as I thought, because I would encounter sixth-grade students who were twelve and thirteen years old who couldn’t read,” says Carson.

As a result of experiences like that, he and his team decided to focus on literacy, with a special focus on elementary students in the Prince Charming program, using magazines like Sports Illustrated for Kids to sharpen their reading skills and entertain them at the same time. Boys were asked to read aloud, something a lot of boys are hesitant to do in the presence of their peers, creating a link between public speaking skills and leadership. Carson and his team also decided to work on bolstering their young charges’ interest and skills in math.

When those kids are promoted to middle school, they advance to Measures of a Man, a program that focuses on personal responsibility and character, and in high school they transition to Scholars and Gentlemen, which gives them a real-time platform to discuss issues such as sex, relationships, and social pressures around things like drugs and alcohol. An additional focus on careers and entrepreneurship affords them a chance to shadow professionals, come up with business ideas in whatever field they may be considering, and refine their goals for the next chapter of their lives.

Mentorship Magic

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Photo by Jamaica Gilmer

Virtually every street in Birmingham has a story to tell, often one involving a juxtaposition of the valiant struggles fought decades ago in the name of civil rights and more immediate challenges. The city’s history is a reminder of how far we’ve come, but the latest statistics make clear how much remains to be done. For example, one out of every 15 African-American men and one of every 36 Hispanic men in Birmingham are incarcerated, compared to 1 in every 106 whites. Similarly, African-American and Hispanic youth make up two-fifths and one-fifth, respectively, of the city’s incarcerated population.

The Growing Kings curriculum reinforces the power each and every boy has to make thoughtful decisions and stay out of the juvenile justice system in the first place. Most of the men from the community who volunteer to teach and mentor kids are Birmingham natives who have experienced both the joys and frustrations that come with growing up in the area.

Charlton Holt, a childhood friend of Carson’s, has been a mentor since the organization started and embraces the impact he can have as an accomplished adult who is not a relative. “Every kid wants to show their best face to their parents, because your parents judge you, buy your clothes, give you an allowance. But your mentor doesn’t do any of that,” he explains. “We’re like big brothers. It’s not, ‘I have authority over you’. I just want to see you succeed.”

Most of the men in Growing Kings had a strong male figure in their own lives, so they appreciate the immeasurable benefits of being such a presence for someone else. A young man in his mid-20s became William Spells’ mentor back when Spells was in high school and, Spells says, it changed the course of his life in three lasting ways: 1) he got his act together; 2) he was introduced to his career path; and 3) he eventually became a mentor himself, joining Growing Kings two years ago to work with middle school students.

His mentor’s candor was exactly what he needed at the time. “He pulled me to the side and was like ‘Hey, you need to slow down’. He built a personal relationship with me, and I started taking his advice more seriously. He got me involved in the business program,” says Spells, who’s built a career in real estate. “What he taught me and the things I learned from him had a big impact on my life.”

Building Up Brotherhood

The hallways at Malachi Wilkerson Middle School on Birmingham’s west side are alive with encouragement to dream big, bold dreams. Pennants representing colleges from all over the country are pinned to bulletin boards and hang from the ceilings. Artwork splashed on the walls encourages students to work hard and stay focused. Most of those students have the potential to do everything and anything those affirmations urge them to do, but distractions outside of school too often pose an irresistible lure. The decision to stay on track is easier when boys find others who have committed to do the same thing.

Growing Kings In-School Session_IMG_9020BW

Growing Kings in-school session. Photo by Jamaica Gilmer

Raquez Jackson, a seventh-grader at the school, admits he wasn’t at all enthusiastic about joining Growing Kings when his principal initially approached him about the program. “I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t want to be in that’,” he says, smiling. After his first day, though, he was sold. “I was like, ‘I love this group. I want to be in here to help be better in my life.’ I want to be successful and achieve my goals and not go to jail.” An aspiring architect or maybe a professional football player — he’s currently a cornerback on his neighborhood team — Jackson is at the age when aspiration, any aspiration, should feel, sound, and be completely possible, for boys of color, as for any other kid.

He’s also benefiting from the example set by the Growing Kings team members who meet with him every week. The lessons they offer about brotherhood are subtle and understated, but powerful nonetheless. He and his friend, Jordan Thomas, established a camaraderie inside the program. “We met in Growing Kings one day when we were having class. I asked him what his name was, and he asked me what my name was, and after that we started talking and being friends.” It was that simple. It should always be that simple.

Now they are “like brothers,” he says, which is a big deal for two boys who might have ended up pitted against each other because of the misdirected machismo that prevails in so many communities of color. The spirit of brotherhood modeled by the Growing Kings team isn’t expressly warm and fuzzy, or packaged in a we-are-the-world sentimentality; instead, it reveals itself in the relationships that develop among the men and the boys who would be men. For all the myths and stereotypes propagated about black and Latino males, Growing Kings is proof that the truth is what you make it.

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