HBCU Symposium at Haley Farm, 2008.
The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is deeply rooted in amplifying young Black leaders’ vision and voice for a more just democracy and economy. With support from the NBA Foundation, CDF will soon revitalize its historic efforts to develop a pipeline of Black servant leaders who will lead today’s movements and guide us towards a brighter future where children, especially our most marginalized, are provided every opportunity to thrive.
As one of 38 new NBA Foundation “Season of Giving” grantees, CDF will reimagine its Black Student Leadership Network (BSLN). We will launch a pilot program to cultivate student leaders within our existing network and engage them in a specialized curriculum, focusing particularly on those attending HBCUs and in key areas where CDF plans to expand its work including Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; Houston, TX; Minneapolis, MN; and New Orleans, LA. The curriculum will first train Black student Ambassadors in movement building and relational organizing to equip them to organize and recruit on their campuses. Ambassadors will then recruit up to 10 additional students from their respective campuses to take part in a Fellowship program focused on skill-building in organizing, systems change, campaign development, and other priority topics which youth identify.
The effort is part of CDF’s renewed commitment to community power building, which sparked the creation of CDF’s new Movement Building unit earlier this year, which seeks to facilitate local organizing for parents, youth, and faith leaders.
The original BSLN – an outgrowth of the 1990 Black Community Crusade for Children – mobilized to address the layered systemic injustice facing low-income Black communities. This immense engagement and mobilization effort focused on training Black students and youth “in direct action organizing, social movement building, voter education, child advocacy, and teaching methodology,” as Dr. Sekou Franklin notes in After the Rebellion: Black Youth, Social Movement Activism, and the Post-Civil Rights Generation.
Additionally, the program will provide Black students with professional experience, seeking to further career advancement for Black youth. The program will compensate participants and offer them a wide network of mentors – including original BSLN alumni – in order to facilitate learning and open doors to careers in public service, social justice, community organizing, and leadership across fields.
“Because justice requires economic empowerment and civic engagement, providing both opportunities for action and onramps to careers in social change will be transformative for these young leaders and our communities,” notes Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, CDF President and CEO.