Milwaukee has launched a new effort focused on improving the life outcomes of African-American men and boys. The program, called Rumble Young Man, Rumble, kicked off at City Hall Monday.
It's a project created by the national group Campaign for Black Male Achievement.
Leaders from the organization and the city say black men and boys are constantly in a “fight” to exist in the spaces they occupy in society. This program looks for ways to support them in those battles.
The official welcoming event awarded local "Rumblers" for their work and commitment to six core principles: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect, and spirituality. Those principles are linked to Muhammad Ali, the late boxing legend. Members of the audience took turns ringing a fight bell, and reading the principles out loud.
Spoken word artist Kwabena Antoine Nixon read a poem that focused on how he saw black people being portrayed around him.
Organizers say the events taking place over three days will assemble black men and boys in a space where they can network, celebrate, and uplift other. Steve Vassor for the Campaign for Black Male achievement says they face constant obstacles, fighting to exist in spaces in society from the time they’re in pre-school to when they become elders.
“We know that in the US half of the preschoolers in the country who are black boys are being expelled from pre-school. So what do you have to do to be expelled out of pre-k? That’s a fight," he says. "Then the young man, if he makes it through that gate, has to make it through certainly primary school whether it’s reading or testing, where and when teaching stops for black boys is its own study to itself. That’s a fight.”
Vassor says African-American boys and men also may face other battles throughout their lifetimes – from being perceived as criminals from a young age, to struggling with health problems that hit them harder than other populations.
He says the fights drive the work that Rumble does. “We’re pushing not towards peril and studying peril, but pushing towards promise and how do we make our way through. How do we help more and more black men and boys move through the life course and the life stage? That’s what our work is and we’re aligned and standing shoulder to shoulder with those people who are getting that work done across the country, especially here in Milwaukee.”
Tyrone Miller was one of the local Rumblers honored at the event, receiving the conviction award. He's a music teacher, a DJ, and producer. Miller says black men and boys will benefit from seeing the Campaign for Black Male Achievement effort take root in Milwaukee.
“So instead of saying, 'Well I don’t know if I can do it,' well for me I always say, 'There’s no excuse.' If you have all these amazing examples, there’s no excuse that you can’t do it. I like to be able to know that young people have people they can literally call 24 hours a day whenever something’s going down and if they have that support then they know that they’re going to make it further than anybody ever expected them to.”
Miller says his goal is to connect young people to music and other avenues of creativity that might otherwise be difficult for them to access.
The Campaign for Black Male Achievement plans to make the Rumble Young Man, Rumble an annual event in Milwaukee. It’s already in place in a number of other US cities.
After the inaugural three-day event concludes, Vassor says participants will walk away better connected and committed to making a change in their lives and the community.
“… As goes black men and boys in Milwaukee, so goes Milwaukee," he says.
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