BALTIMORE — Ford Launches Men of Courage for African-Americans
By Stacy M. Brown
Ford Motor Company is helping to kick off Black History Month by honoring African-American men and amplifying their accomplishments.
The Detroit-based auto company kicked off its “Men of Courage” contest on Martin Luther King Day at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore and Ford officials have begun recognizing black men whose primary goal is strengthening their communities and creating positive change.
“The goal is to help change perception of African-American men, so the theory of change is that by helping to share real stories of good fathers, loving husbands and entrepreneurs where you create a sense of empathy in peoples’ minds which leads to change,” said Shawn Wilson, the manager of Multicultural Community Engagement for the Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Ford Motor Company.
“This is a solutions oriented program with three different components,” Wilson said. The first part is to share stories, then create a vision for what they want the future of black men in America to be and finally there is action, where they support initiatives that positively impact the community.”
Already, the program has the backing of such prominent individuals as rapper Big Sean, basketball Hall of Fame member Dave Bing and pop superstar Usher.
The “Men of Courage” initiative consists of a national contest of inspirational stories from which Ford will select a winner to honor at the Ford Freedom Awards in Detroit on May 17, 2016. Officials at the Ford Fund are also developing a free online curriculum and teaching guide that profiles 20 prominent African-American men, a program that seeks to enable junior and secondary high school students to create visions for success.
The January 18, 2016 event held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum served as the kick-off for the national contest and included officials from Ford, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, and 100 Black Men of America, all of whom convened a diverse group of 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, vice president of Ford’s Global Vehicle and Powertrain Purchasing & Supplier Diversity. “Men of Courage have the power to bring together African-American men in a way that will positively impact people throughout the country.”
The primary reason Baltimore was chosen as the launch city was because of its rich African-American culture, Wilson said.
“We [first announced] the program at the Charles Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit. So, it made sense to launch at the place of another African-American of prominence like Reginald F. Lewis,” Wilson said. “We do authentic community engagement. We relish our role of being a trusted community partner.”
Wilson says the response has been nothing short of amazing. Participants at the Baltimore event have made more than 300 commitments to provide social and financial capital to projects honoring black men, including support for a yearlong program at Reginald F. Lewis Museum around the theme, “Year of the Black Male,” which explores past, present and future issues facing black men.
Ford and other members have also pledged to help scale Shop Talk, a monthly panel discussion; the series was developed by Sebastian Jackson, a Detroit-based entrepreneur and owner of Social Grooming, an innovative barbershop and community meeting place.
“I believe we have the talent and skills to solve today’s social challenges right in our own communities,” said Calvin G. Butler Jr., CEO, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company. “Men of Courage is an important program because it provides support to those who are developing solutions, and gives our young people a guide to how they can create a brighter future for themselves.”
For contest and program information, visit www.MenOfCourage.com.