California Community Foundation (CCF), the public foundation for all of Los Angeles County, recently announced a five-year, multimillion-dollar investment in the future of Black male youth, in partnership with several private foundations and local nonprofit organizations. The goal of the initiative, called BLOOM, which stands for Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Black Men, is redirecting teens who are or have been in the county probation system away from adult incarceration and onto a path of educational and employment opportunities. The hope is that the program will significantly improve their chances of success as adults while reducing the costs and consequences of juvenile and adult incarceration to California taxpayers.
“BLOOM is new and bold, and it’s overdue,” said Carl Ballton, chair of the community advisory committee for CCF. “The initiative aims to begin improving education and job options–normal opportunities for most L.A. residents–for one of the most vulnerable, misunderstood and underachieving segments of residents: Black teenage boys who have had a run-in with the legal system.”
The seed for BLOOM was planted in 2010 when the leadership of the California Community Foundation (CCF) asked if there was a role for philanthropy in addressing these realities. CCF formed an advisory committee of more than 20 diverse members of the community, conducted and evaluated research, held numerous formal and informal conversations in the community, and concluded that an ambitious and hard-hitting initiative should indeed be undertaken.
It was determined that the initiative should focus on expanding educational and employment opportunities for Black males 14-18 years of age currently or recently under county probation supervision, and living in South Los Angeles.
“BLOOM is the only philanthropic initiative in the nation, we believe, wholly dedicated to Black male youth involved in the justice system,” said Antonia Hernandez, president and CEO of the California Community Foundation. “Because of the magnitude and seriousness of the initiative, we have formed a public-private-nonprofit partnership in Los Angeles to ensure its success.”
Funding, job opportunities and other support for Black male youth through the BLOOM nonprofit partners are being contributed by private sector partners such as the Automobile Club of Southern California, Carl and Roberta Deutsch Foundation, Operation HOPE, the James Irvine Foundation and Union Bank Foundation.
Several community-based nonprofit organizations already serving Black male teens in South Los Angeles have been selected as the first recipients of two-year grants through the BLOOM initiative, including Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade, Community Coalition, Los Angeles Urban League, Youth Justice Coalition and Youth Mentoring Connection.
Also involved in BLOOM are the Liberty Hill Foundation, which will provide technical assistance and capacity-building programming to the nonprofits, and the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, which will monitor and evaluate the BLOOM Initiative throughout its duration.
BLOOM was officially announced as part of a town hall for the community that included a panel discussion by subject-matter experts, followed by a question-and-answer period. The event also served to introduce the spokesperson for the BLOOM Initiative, actor and activist Larenz Tate, whose credits include the television show “Rescue Me” and films such as “Ray,” “Love Jones,” “Crash” and “Menace II Society.”
For more information on the BLOOM initiative, visit www.calfund.org/bloom.