History & Purpose

In May of 2004, the Board of Trustees of The City University of New York unanimously approved its Master Plan 2004-2008. This comprehensive planning document included for the first time in the University's history a "Chancellor's Initiative on the Black Male in Education."

In the fall of 2004, Chancellor Goldstein established a University Task Force on the Black Male Initiative. He asked Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Selma Botman to identify faculty members and administrators with relevant knowledge and expertise to serve on the Task Force and charged it with developing recommendations that would include a series of action-oriented projects to help black males overcome the inequalities that lead to poor academic performance in the K-12 system, the attendant weak enrollment, retention, and graduation from institutions of higher education, and high rates of joblessness and incarceration.

During its six months of deliberations, the Task Force was presented with convincing evidence that black males in New York City and beyond face patterns of ongoing and distinctive discrimination in many aspects of their lives, most evidently in education, in treatment by the criminal justice system, and in employment. The discrimination they face has profound consequences for their well-being and security, and is manifested in unacceptably high rates of leaving school before high school graduation and imprisonment and in unacceptably low rates of postsecondary degree completion and stable participation in the work force. These grim realities have adverse impacts on family members and communities.

In its final report to the Chancellor, the Task Force proposed nine major recommendations, including:

  1. Provide strong University leadership on the challenges facing black youth and men;
  2. Strengthen the school-to-college pipeline to enable many more black male students to move into higher education;
  3. Increase admission and graduation rates at CUNY colleges;
  4. Improve teacher education to prepare professionals for urban education;
  5. Improve employment prospects for black males;
  6. Contribute to the reduction of the incarceration rate for black men;
  7. Establish an Institute for the Achievement of Educational and Social Equity for Black Males;
  8. Involve experts in the implementation of the recommendations; and
  9. Establish benchmarks and hold Colleges accountable for implementing these recommendations.

After hearings before the Higher Education Committee of the New York City Council chaired by the Honorable Charles Barron, the University was awarded funding from the New York City Council and began to implement some of the aforementioned recommendations. Through the initial grant, fifteen (15) demonstration projects were funded designed to improve the enrollment and/or graduation rates of students from underrepresented groups, particularly black males. Funding was also allocated to increase opportunities for individuals without a high school diploma to enroll in GED courses oriented towards college preparation; to provide support for formerly incarcerated individuals to enroll in college; and to survey workforce development opportunities in New York City's construction industry.

The second grant was used to support the continuation of most of the initial projects; to extend the initiative to all 17 colleges and to the Graduate Center; to expand a research project begun at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to other CUNY colleges; and to implement a community health survey at the Hunter School of Social Work. Though targeted towards black males, these projects do not discriminate based on race or gender and will serve as models for improving educational outcomes of all students. All programs and activities of the Black Male Initiative are open to all academically eligible students, faculty and staff, without regard to race, gender, national origin or other characteristic. Now, in its fourth year, the CUNY BMI program continues to grow building on the successes of the past three years.

In addition to supporting campus-based projects, funding from the New York City Council was also allocated to support three major conferences including, African American Males and the Legal System, at Medgar Evers College featuring Professor Floyd Weatherspoon of the Capital University School of Law; Professor Anthony Thompson of the New York University School of Law; and the noted clergyman and civil rights advocate, the Reverend Dr. Herbert Daughtry. Two previous conferences were held at other CUNY colleges. The first, Black Male Youth: Creating a Culture for Educational Success, was held in April 2006 at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and featured the renowned historian Dr. John Hope Franklin as keynote speaker. The second annual conference, Focus on the State of Black Education: Inverting in the Next Generation of African American Students, was held in October 2007 at The City College of New York (CCNY)and featured three prominent keynote speakers: Dr. Gail Thompson, Associate Professor at Claremont Graduate University and author of Through Ebony Eyes: What Teachers Need to Know but Are Afraid to Ask about African American Students; Professor Charles Ogletree, Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Executive Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice; and the Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts, III, President of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury and Pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. A Distinguished Speaker Series was also launched in October 2006 with a lecture by Dr. Shaun Harper, a researcher at the Pennsylvania State University who shared his research on African American male collegians and academic success. Subsequent topics in this series included Dr. Pedro A. Noguera on Black Masculinity and Educational Success; a panel of five distinguished CUNY faculty on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at CUNY; Damon T. Hewitt, Esq. on The School to Prison Pipeline: The Role of Race and Gender in Denying Educational Opportunity; and David C. Banks, Esq. on Setting a Standard for Excellence for African American and Latino Students - The Story of the Eagle Academy for Young Men.

To supplement funding from the New York City Council, during the 2007-2008 academic year, CUNY BMI received a generous grant from the Goldman Sachs Foundation to enhance and expand three BMI projects including: (1) the Educational Ladders Initiative, a targeted GED program at Medgar Evers College,; (2) the College Success Initiative: Learning by Teaching project at The College of Staten Island and (3) The College Initiative based at Lehman College, a University-wide program that supports formerly incarcerated men and women who wish to begin or continue higher education at CUNY. Additionally, in an effort to diversify the teaching profession and expose CUNY students, particularly BMI participants, to careers as New York City public school teachers, CUNY BMI created a teacher awareness/development program recently with the generous support of the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. The five (5) campuses selected to participate in the inaugural year of the Teachers as Leaders Project are: (1) The Borough of Manhattan Community College; (2) The College of Staten Island; (3) Hunter College; (4) The New York City College of Technology and (5) York College. Twenty-four (24) students, nineteen (19) men and five (5) women, were selected to participate in the first cohort of the Teachers as Leaders Project during the spring 2008 semester. Eleven students, six (6) men and five women, were selected to participate in the second cohort for fall 2008. Teachers as Leaders Scholars receive scholarships, participate in program workshops and serve in after-school programs. At present, CUNY BMI sponsors or funds twenty-five (25) student development projects throughout the University, including the Teachers as Leaders Project.

For information about the Black Male Initiative, please contact Jermaine Wright, Interim Director of the CUNY Black Male Initiative at jermaine.wright@mail.cuny.edu.





TERRIE WILLIAMS, Principal/Founder, The Terrie Williams Agency; Author, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting; one of Ebony magazine’s “Power 150” for Activism anEd Women’s Day magazine’s 50 Women on a Mission to Change the World and


JOSHUA DUBOIS, Principal/Founder, Values Partnerships, Former Director, White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Author, The President’s Devotional


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