INTRODUCTION

The goal of OpportunINDY is to engage the entire community in solidarity as it conveys this message to all young Black men in our community: Your Life DOES Matter.

Together, we will improve racial equity, opportunity and outcomes for young Black men (ages 14-24) in Indianapolis in these four areas:

  • High School Education and Post-Secondary Certification
  • Teen and Young Adult Employment
  • Justice and Successful Reentry
  • Physical and Mental Health

Most young African American men in our city lead healthy, safe and productive lives, but, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, unless all of us are free, none of us is free. Right now, the life trajectories among many of our young men, especially young men living in poverty, aren’t just harming their own futures and the lives of those they love, but they add collateral damage to our entire community.

We all share a rising cost, both economically and socially. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the circumstances of one’s life, as is the case for many a young man. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the attention that addressing these costs requires of all of us. But, we can do better for all young men. Our policies and laws can do better.

We know that if we, as institutions, focus on moving the needle at basic — but key — institutional touch points inside the four focus areas mentioned above, we can begin to change that trajectory standing alongside and with young men of color.

But it isn’t just organizations, businesses, schools and government that can do better.

On a personal level, we know every person needs at least one caring adult in his life — someone who gives good, wise counsel, listens well, and most especially, provides a consistent and positive presence. Many of us meet that person in everyday life. A number of us don’t. Embedded in each focus areas is an intentional effort to connect young Black men to caring older peers or adults — helping them find one another through formal mentoring programs or neighbors. Most certainly, it is something each of us can do right where we work, serve or live.

To succeed, we must be strategic. Therefore, our Plan of Action strategies must:

  • Build on and support existing initiatives and efforts
  • Leverage and align existing community resources across all sectors
  • Connect interested and committed parties across all sectors to each other
  • Communicate systemic challenges in balance with successes and opportunities
  • Encourage all members of the community, including donors and policymakers, to assess the quality of their own efforts and outcomes, improving both

This is not a new charge or new call to action. It’s simply time to try something different.

Many people have been working on this challenge for decades. But, others — new to the work — are anxious to step in and help. Our methods, work culture and communication strategies at OpportunINDY allow for the quick embrace of emerging leaders and offers of support for those who are new to the table.  We need everyone.

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