National headlines about the St. Louis region often focus on the negative. Crime and unemployment statistics frequently paint a grim picture, especially for young males of color. With the fourth anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, local thought leaders are taking the lead on changing this narrative with the launch of the “HomeGrown Black Males” essay series in the St. Louis American.
The project began with a collaboration between St. Louis American Managing Editor Chris King and Sean Joe, Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor of Social Development at the Brown School. The duo recently spoke about the project on St. Louis on the Air.
According to King, the weekly Thursday columns will feature African-American men “rethinking St. Louis as a place where young Black males want to grow up and live.” The year-long series has already featured Rev. Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation; and Stefan Bradley, author of “Upending the Ivory Tower: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Ivy League” and chair of the department of African-American studies at Loyola Marymount University.
Sean Joe stated that changing the narrative around Black boys and young men starts with believing that change is a possibility. He also believes that a new narrative will improve the lives of every person in the St. Louis metro area. “The more we can engage them and help support and invest in them, the better position our region will be in economically,” Joe said.
This series dovetails with the mission of HomeGrown STL, an initiative that Joe created four years ago in response to the death of Michael Brown. HomeGrown STL convenes diverse regional stakeholders with the goal of improving regional capacity and efficacy of programs designed to increase social mobility for Black boys and young men. The goal, says Joe, is a 100 percent increase in social mobility, within a generation, for the 60,000 Black boys and young men in the St. Louis area. The organization works to provide technical assistance, professional development opportunities and evidence-based practices to help advance collective impact throughout the city and county.