HomeGrown STL rallying cry: ‘Build the village that raises the child’

Community Engagement; Faculty; Social Work

More than 120 people working to improve the lives of black boys and young men in St. Louis participated in the second annual HomeGrown STL Summit on February 8 at the Brown School.

“Build the village that raises the child,” said Sean Joe, the Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor of Social Development, who leads the HomeGrown STL initiative. “You’re part of that village.”

The deadly police shooting of Michael Brown in 2014 highlighted immense regional problems facing the well-being of black boys and young men, spurring the creation of HomeGrown STL, based at the Brown School’s Center for Social Development, to take on long-standing disparities. HomeGrown STL is composed of researchers, service providers, funders and advocates working to strengthen and support the health and development of the 60,000 black males ages 12 to 29 in St. Louis City and County. 

The region suffers from fragmented efforts, and at the summit Joe urged collaboration and “rapid response” to the boys’ and men’s needs. 

“We don’t have a long time for lengthy debates and reanalysis. But we have time for careful planning and action,” he said. “Today’s summit focuses on how we bring this effort to the streets.”

‘Door to door, block to block’

To take HomeGrown STL to the streets, network members will conduct a “Catchment Area Pilot” with the goal of improving the lives of 8,000 black boys and young men ages 12 to 19 – and develop a strategy to scale up for the region. The pilot will be implemented in six ZIP codes, from Jennings south to Delmar Boulevard. “These are areas of great need,” Joe said. 

HomeGrown STL network members will go “door to door, block to block” to identify and connect with the males – and provide detailed, firsthand accounts of their critical needs. Network members also will test the feasibility of using life coaches to connect the boys and young men to area programs and services, and to identify and support the boys’ and young men’s social mobility aspirations. “We need to be committed to them even when they’re not committed to themselves,” Joe said.

The pilot begins in February 2019. Meanwhile, HomeGrown STL members are creating specific action steps for 2018. The afternoon of the summit, they divided into five “Think Tanks”:

Referral Network and Case Management. Service providers must provide rapid, coordinated responses to black boys and young men who move between their service networks. The group examined what it will take to make the vision a reality.

Funding/Forward Promise Fund. To improve the social mobility of 60,000 black boys and men in one generation, St. Louis will need outside, coordinated funding to fuel a unified vision. The group examined what it will take to secure investments.

Healing Policies for Black Males. Healing policies move beyond punishment and lead to programs that help black boys and young men take advantage of opportunities for advancement. The group focused on how to identify, advocate for and develop action plans for policy leaders to implement.

Black Males in the Workforce. Graduation, advanced education and trade schools must lead black boys and young men to a living wage. Network members are vital to conceiving and implementing projects to increase skills development, aid in local job creation and promote business development. The group examined how to close the gaps between education, skill development and gainful employment.

Regional Partnership for Neighborhood Stabilization. Black boys and young men will benefit greatly from services, projects and programs to stimulate neighborhood stability while assisting in removing crime and blight. The group examined how efforts to improve neighborhood and community conditions align with the pilot’s work, and how to use the social mobility of black boys and men as a lens for assessing their impact.

Rebeccah Bennett, founder and principal of Emerging Wisdom LLC, co-facilitated the summit. In addition to the Think Tanks, the event included the panel Leaders for Progress, featuring representatives from city and county government; a presentation about My Brother’s Keeper, which President Obama established in February 2014 to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color; a panel on Partners for Impact, featuring service providers in the St. Louis area; a panel on Champions for Change, featuring young men affiliated with HomeGrown STL partners; and a message about Washington University’s Commitment, from Brown School Dean Mary McKay.

To watch portions of the summit, please see the videos below:

  • Opening devotion 
  • Overview of summit purpose
  • Regional and national opportunity for social transformation
  • Leaders for progress: Ethel Byndom, Cristina Garmendia 
  • My Brother’s Keeper
  • A pilot to improve the lives of 8,000 black boys and young men 
  • Partners for impact: A panel of pilot service providers
  • Champions for change
  • Washington University’s commitment
  • Think tank insights and recommended actions
  • Going forward
  • Closing

This article was originally published by the Brown School’s Center for Social Development.