MBKCCC funding from 2020-2021 occurred amidst the backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic hardship, and nationwide racial justice uprisings. The murder of George Floyd and other Black men and women in the summer of 2020 sparked nationwide protests and heightened attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and issues of racialized police violence. The cumulative impacts of all of these events on the communities that our grantee alumni serve were widespread and severe.
The Obama Foundation and MBK Alliance responded to the 2020-21 crisis context with additional supports for MBKCCC sites, including:
Extending flexibility on existing grants, allowing sites to repurpose up to 20% of their grant to support COVID-related needs
Offering sites the opportunity to apply for additional funding up to $50,000 per organization (In Fall 2020, MBK granted and disseminated approximately $1 million in additional funding to the 19 MBKCCC sites.)
Increasing the beyond-the-checks supports with a series of webinars and town halls to support the staff and youth during the pandemic
Challenges that our Impact and Seed Grantees Alumni faced included:
Ensuring broad community health and safety: Grantee alumni were vital in helping boys and young men of color as well as their families acquire Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), navigating rapidly evolving pandemic guidance, and supporting basic food, shelter, and survival needs. While sites still advanced their programming and policy goals in the second year of funding, it was essential that they prioritized the basic health and safety needs of their constituencies.
Overcoming significant disruption to schools: Across the country, leaders closed in-person operations and implemented emergency remote schooling efforts to keep communities healthy and safe. Many boys and young men of color rely on school settings as safe and reliable places, where lunch is provided, mentoring or other after school activities are available, and an array of caretakers provide support. Our grantee alumni rapidly pivoted the way they delivered services to their communities to ensure continuous support.
Navigating a dramatic shift to everyday life and work: The COVID-19 pandemic forced a quick shift to a socially distant and virtual life. This was not only challenging due to technical limitations (e.g. lack of access to the internet or computers at home), but also had significant consequences on individual and collective mental health, as usual forms of social support were disbanded.
Cultivating space to heal and process the ongoing and cumulative impacts of trauma: The full context of 2020, including the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice uprisings, had direct and multi-faceted impacts on our grantee alumni and the communities they serve. It is vital to underscore that the impacts hit our grantee alumni and their communities in direct and personal ways–and that these grantee alumni were pivotal in creating space for healing and processing, for boys and young men of color, their families and communities, as well as their staff.
Racism Pandemic Grant Highlights
The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and the Obama Foundation responded to the dual pandemics in 2020 by providing all impact and seed sites with the opportunity to apply for unrestricted Racism Pandemic Grants—up to $50,000. All sites applied for and received the grants, and used the additional funding to address pressing needs in their communities and organizations.
With the help of the MBK Alliance Racism Pandemic Grants and beyond-the-check supports, MBKCCC sites were able to pivot to meet the needs of their communities.
“Initially [Mass Mentoring] had to pivot to meet the needs of the community - to see to it that the very basic needs of the community and especially young people were identified and met. Our MBK community developed response teams and supported grassroots organizations who had their ears to the ground and were able to pivot immediately - people who were able to open local restaurants to serve students, local hotspots that provided hygiene products and local people who delivered food.”
— Lily Mendez, President of the Mass Mentoring Partnership
The New Life Centers (Chicago, IL) expanded from one site to seven sites and increased the capacity of the food pantry in order to support families who were financially struggling as a result of the pandemic.
Juma Ventures (Atlanta, GA) developed and implemented a 12-session “virtual university,” which consisted of training courses that covered a range of topics related to job readiness for youth and offered youth a stipend upon completion of this workforce training.
Mass Mentoring Partnership (Boston, MA) developed a rapid response team that delivered food, PPE, hygiene, and school supplies to those who needed it most. They also created a virtual drop-in center for youth to come together in brave spaces to learn and connect about social and emotional issues.
Youth Guidance (Chicago, IL) developed a Rapid Evaluation framework and Needs Assessment tool that allowed staff to secure and distribute specific emergency COVID-19 relief funds and targeted supplies to those in need. The organization also provided youth one-on-one virtual connections along with youth virtual circles.
RYSE (Richmond, CA) staff, already trained and well-versed in trauma-responsive care, shifted their work to engage in more one-to-one case management to ensure their youth were receiving the most appropriate and individualized care.
The Mentoring Center (Oakland, CA) expanded its capacity to support youth during their sheltering-in-place, virtual programming, and distance learning programming, as well as built out its staff capacity and provided increased emergency support for youth and their families.