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Council for Black Male Success

The Council for Black Male Success seeks to improve the opportunity landscape for young Black men in Saint Paul.

The Council for Black Male Success (the Council) is an innovative initiative led by a collective group of community organization leaders in the Metro area in partnership with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation.

The initiative, originally known as the African American Boys & Young Men Initiative, was launched in 2016. Twenty-six Twin Cities out-of-school time and economic opportunity program providers were invited to share insights with the Foundation about ways to improve the outcomes of young Black men ages 11-32 in Saint Paul. Even though the initiative was expected to last three years, the Council still continues to meet and work together today.

Members of the Council

Council For Black Male Success Member Damone Presley

Damone Presley

The Council initially consisted of leaders from 19 community organizations. It currently consists of 10 active members.

Council Supporters

In alignment with our Informs. Forms. Benefits. approach, the Foundation provided the initiative with an initial $3 million grant to be distributed over the course of three years. The Foundation and the Council quickly realized that solving problems such as economics and education weren’t issues that could easily be tackled in three years.

Other partner organizations include Creative Catalysts, Wilder Research and Propel Nonprofits. Like the Foundation, these organizations provided technical support, evaluation, facilitation and programming support for Council activities.

Council members

Mary K. Boyd, Damone Presley, Quadree Drakeford

Areas of Development



Mental Health & Wellness

Workforce Development

ROP Drum session 3 2

Rites of Passage drum session

Garnering Success

Since launching in 2016, the Council has been able to establish various programs in an effort to change the lives of Black youth and young men. These include:

  • Rites of Passage
  • From Hurt to Healing: An Intergenerational Coloring Activity Book
  • Workforce readiness program with Ramsey County

Lessons Learned

In our initial three years of supporting the Council, we realized a lot of trauma had to be unpacked amongst the consortium before any true work could be done. By taking a step back, we recognized what was necessary to help the Council succeed. Below are the 10 lessons we learned from taking on such a unique project. Read more about these in the evaluation report.

  1. How to invest in a community-centered design and community-driven approach

  2. Time pertinent to building trust and relationships

  3. How to set community leaders up for success

  4. Acknowledge the impacts of historical trauma and find ways to promote healing

  5. Making space for real, honest and transparent conversations

  6. Recognize the consequences of the competitive culture of philanthropy

  7. Recognize when “traditional” will not work

  8. Set the table for success by following the community’s lead

  9. The importance of engaging an external partner to help manage an initiative of this size

  10. Be open to new ways of assessing and measuring impact

Further Resources

View the reports below to see how this collective’s work has changed to fit the needs of the men they serve over the past few years.



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