According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics and research from the Brookings Institution, Black men are underrepresented on just about every scale of measure in society—education, income, jobs and life expectancy. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated those disparities.
Institutions of higher education have worked hard to build and promote diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives over the past decade and raise the conversation on supporting and empowering non-white populations. And there has been a considerable charge since the pandemic began to focus on Black men, who are 18% less likely to hold any forms of degrees than white males and who still earn about a third less every week.
The lone institution dedicated to educating Black men, Morehouse College, is hoping to drive new conversations that change the narrative. This week it launched the Black Men’s Research Institute with a mission of countering “conflicting narratives, distrust, and ambiguity with a clear, authoritative voice on the experiences of Black men.”
“The institute will be a positive force for promoting richer, more nuanced understandings of how Black men affect and are influenced by their communities,” said Kendrick Brown, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Morehouse College. “The BMRI will also strengthen the intellectual discovery, discourse, and scholarship at Morehouse in areas related to LGBTQ history, culture, and social challenges, as well as sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny.”
Professor Derrick Brown, the executive director of the HBCU STEM Undergraduate Success Research Center, will be associate director of BMRI. Among its goals are:
- Creating the first Black masculinities studies minor and an online certificate program at a historically Black college or university
- Developing and showcasing an annual symposium, public lecture series and community projects that address policies related to Black men
- Being a driving force in helping faculty launch curricula around Black masculinities that can be utilized by other colleges and universities
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The initiative is part of a four-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that aims to bring consciousness to the societal, economic and cultural impacts and barriers that have impacted Black men both here and abroad.
“The BMRI will fill a void in research, scholarship, curriculum, and public engagement to reveal a holistic understanding of the experiences of men and boys of African descent in the United States, Africa and the African Diaspora—from their expressions of gender and identity to the overt and subtle ways that systemic racism and inequalities affect them in myriad socio-political, economic and cultural contexts,” said Clarissa Myrick-Harris, Morehouse’s chair of the division of humanities and professor of Africana studies. “Just as important, the institute will explore and share ways that Black men and boys have—and continue to—overcome barriers and find ways to empower themselves, their families and communities.”
Morehouse officials note that previous efforts undertaken to study Black men and their outcomes have had “a deficit approach” and failed to properly address many factors that affect their paths in life, from gender and sexuality to political influences. Traditional stigmas associated with Black men often undercut their potential, achievements and ability to be more upwardly mobile.
“It is imperative to promote an integrative and inclusive perspective on the diverse expressions of Black masculinities and amplify collaborative thought leadership and social justice scholarship,” officials said. “The Institute will promote intellectual engagement that is grounded in humanities, humanistic social sciences and creative arts by advancing open intellectual discussion across disciplines and scholarly communities.”