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Black Family Development, Inc.

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National Impact Community: Detroit, MI

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Black Family Development was founded in 1978 to strengthen and enhance the lives of children, youth, and families through partnerships that support safe, nurturing, vibrant homes, schools, and communities.

Black Family Development Group Lesson
“In Order To Be A Man, You Have to See A Man.”
- Derek Blackmon, Program Manager

Led by Kenyatta Stephens,  Kevin Bryant,  and Derek Blackmon, the organization invests in mentor models and community building practices that provide positive examples to over 1,720 system-impacted youth and foster connections between stakeholders to create alternative pathways and safer circumstances.

Prior to the pandemic, it used monthly community luncheons across three service delivery areas in the city of Detroit , including schools,  as a central strategy for bringing youth, block clubs, police, the mayor’s office, and the broader village into one room for connection and community.  Youth would form junior block clubs as vehicles for participation in community gardens and other staple projects. Peace and safety walks would challenge street violence and, in collaboration with area businesses, community institutions, and the Detroit Police Department, established ‘green light zones’ that converted locations of repeated violence into safety zones to ensure neighbors could access schools, gas stations, and other essential services without fear.

With the onset of the pandemic, like so many, Black Family Development took their programming virtual, overcoming the technical challenges, and ensuring that the young men in their programs continued to have a

touch point with positive role models and a support system as they navigated transitions in school, life, and community. 

As they encountered the challenges of transitioning to virtual and reformatting their programs, the organization modeled how to maintain motivation through hardship by drawing on staff members’ own family experience, being parents of successful children, as well as the resiliency of their city, rooted in the love they have for where they themselves were raised.

The Harambee Brotherhood Circles retained 40 core youth participants and – despite the Department of Labor designating Detroit an ‘employment desert’ – connected 22 with employment.  The virtual space connects youth with mentors who have a ‘holistic and future vision’ for them. Participants  are exposed to men from the neighborhood who are now pilots, professionals, elected statesmen, who are giving back.  The examples provide models of success that open a sense of opportunity that many youth in the program otherwise are unexposed to.  By providing mentors who look like them, the Circle challenges the common notion participants report that, “I didn’t think people made it out of the neighborhood. But now you’re showing me elders who are doing things,” said Program Manager, Derek Blackmon.

Black Family Development Two Youth Listening
Black Family Development Youth Drawing Positive Messages
Black Family Development Staff
“We have a responsibility as men of the village to sew into that what was sewn into us.”
- Kevin Bryant, MBK Detroit Impact Community Leader

Rooted in the values of integrity, spirit, consistency and commitment, the mentorship program is an essential demonstration of what program designers describe as tenacity and regular celebration of life. Despite the isolation of the pandemic, the virtual circle made sure youth were seen. 

In an example of unexpected outcomes — because of the previous work of luncheons, community walks, and green light zones — it served as a primary place for youth to process the murder of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, and others and the subsequent protests and uprising they witnessed in the summer of 2020. Because of their

connection to the program and their exposure to a broader array of entities in the community, the organization reports that youth formed a more holistic and robust response to the events of 2020. The program experience allowed youth to contextualize what they were witnessing and develop more informed plans of action. 

When thinking about the foundation that drives the program, Blackmon recited a rule he was raised by, “To save the people, you gotta serve the people. To lead the people, you got to love the people.” 

Black Family Development Leadership
Black Family Development Youth In Library
Black Family Development Leadership MBK

Rooted in the values of integrity, spirit, consistency and commitment, the mentorship program is an essential demonstration of what program designers describe as tenacity and regular celebration of life. Despite the isolation of the pandemic, the virtual circle made sure youth were seen. 

In an example of unexpected outcomes — because of the previous work of luncheons, community walks, and green light zones — it served as a primary place for youth to process the murder of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, and others and the subsequent protests and uprising they witnessed in the summer of 2020. Because of their

connection to the program and their exposure to a broader array of entities in the community, the organization reports that youth formed a more holistic and robust response to the events of 2020. The program experience allowed youth to contextualize what they were witnessing and develop more informed plans of action. 

When thinking about the foundation that drives the program, Blackmon recited a rule he was raised by, “To save the people, you gotta serve the people. To lead the people, you got to love the people.” 

Black Family Development MBK Unity in Community
A young Black man smiles at the camera as he sits in a chair in front of bookshelves filled with books. He wears a sweatshirt with the words "Harambee Brotherhood."

Black Family Development, Inc., Detriot, MI

Black Family Development, in partnership with the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, scales restorative practices efforts through youth and adult training through R.E.A.L. (Restorative, Engaged, Aspiring, Leading) Brothers, a cross-racial, cross-generational program focused on restorative practices and gang diversion. A social services agency, Black Family Development has continued to deliver on its commitment to young people and their families, engaging in virtual wellness checks, food distribution, and increasing broadband access.