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New "Be Me" project champions black men in Detroit, Philadelphia

A new initiative in Detroit focuses on the role black men and teens play in the city’s revival.

Rishi Jaitley is with the Knight Foundation, the non-profit behind the Black Male Engagement project known as “Be Me.” He says the narrative about black males in general is often quite negative, so the “Be Me” project will flip the script and get black men and teens to talk about how they’re helping their community.

"Part of what’s really groundbreaking about this program has to do with identity, and the community beginning to view itself as leaders."


(Here's a video of Damon Webb, one of the men nominated for the new "Be Me" project)

But Jaitley is quick to point out that this isn't "just a storytelling campaign." He says the second part of the project, which begins this fall, will help these men take their work to the next level.

"What else might you do if you had $1,000, $5,000, $10,000 or $50,000? What else might you do in your community? The Knight Foundation, along with the Open Society Foundation, will then support the community’s favorite ideas and best ideas for new projects in the community."

The "Be Me" project is also underway in Philadelphia.

You can see videos of the nominated men here. Entries are being accepted through September 30.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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