Ford Motor Company Fund is launching a new national initiative around Men of Courage, a program that honors and amplifies the accomplishments of African American men around the country. Men of Courage was launched last year in Detroit as a pilot program, and it aims to connect diverse black men from local communities with a growing list of distinguished advocates and celebrities. Collectively, these groups seek to improve the perception of African American men in society by supporting one another and aligning to build relationships.
“After being a part of the Men of Courage pilot program and witnessing the benefits of uplifting our community, I am proud to lend my voice and take this effort to the national level,” said Big Sean, Grammy-nominated multiplatinum-selling artist. In addition to Big Sean, Ford continues to leverage its relationship with former Detroit mayor and NBA Hall of Famer Dave Bing to elevate positive stories of black men from a range of audiences as well.
This year’s initiative was launched on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and has a goal of strengthening communities and creating positive social change. There will also be a national contest of inspirational stories from which Ford will select a winner to honor at the Ford Freedom Awards on May 17, 2016, in Detroit. Ford’s philanthropic arm, the Ford Fund, is also developing a free online curriculum and teaching guide that profiles 20 prominent African American men. It seeks to enable junior and secondary high school students to create visions for success.
The national contest was launched in conjunction with the initiative as part of the Men of Courage Baltimore gathering held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture in Baltimore. Ford joined forces with the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, 100 Black Men of America, and 60 Black men ranging in age from 17 to 70 for a daylong forum of storytelling, visioning and developing plans for action.
“Ford has a long history of supporting the African American community and is a trusted source when it comes to building communities,” said forum participant Burt Jordan, Ford vice president, global vehicle and powertrain purchasing and supplier diversity. “Men of Courage has the power to bring together African American men in a way that will positively impact people throughout the country.”
More than 300 commitments to provide social and financial funding to projects honoring Black men were made by group members. One of these commitments includes support for a yearlong program at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum around the theme, Year of the Black Male. This program will explore past, present and future issues facing Black men. Group members have also pledged to help scale another program named Shop Talk, which is a series of monthly panel discussions. The series was developed by Detroit-based entrepreneur Sebastian Jackson, owner of Social Grooming, an innovative barbershop and community meeting place.
Ford’s long-standing history of supporting the African American community dates back to the early 20th century when Ford was the largest employer of African Americans in the auto industry. Now, with signature initiatives including Men of Courage, the annual Ford Freedom Awards and Historically Black Colleges & Universities Community Challenge, Ford continues to build upon on that support.
Check out the picture gallery for photos from the Baltimore event. For more information, including the Men of Courage contest rules and curriculum details, please visit www.MenOfCourage.com.
Photo gallery credit: Curtis Ellis (Ford Motor Company Fund)