Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh is poised to launch a new effort to support and expand mentoring and other services aimed at helping African American boys and men avoid falling prey to crime and violence.
The mayor’s new Office of African American Male Engagement is set to begin operations on Feb. 12; it is modeled after a similar effort in Philadelphia. It will be led by Andrey Bundley, the former city high school principal and mayoral candidate.
“We want to save lives,” said Bundley, who will leave his position as a safety director for Baltimore City Public Schools. “The reason the office is important is because too many black men are either the perpetrators of crime or victims of it. It is about saving lives.”
Over the past five years 1,220 black men have been killed in Baltimore — 84 percent of the 1,449 homicides between 2013 and last year.
The details of the office — including Bundley’s salary and how much it will cost to run — have not been revealed, but the mayor mentioned it during a meeting with community leaders this week. She said she is modeling the effort after Philadelphia’s Office of Black Male Engagement.
Jack Drummond, director of Philadelphia’s office, told The Baltimore Sun that his office has trained police officers and school teachers about how to avoid letting their biases affect the way they perform their jobs. The office also houses the city’s My Brother’s Keeper, a nationwide initiative started by President Barack Obama when he was in office to address opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color.
“It’s been in flux around the nation,” Drummond said of the initiative. “But it’s growing and we’re looking to reinvigorate that work.”
Bundley said his office’s staff, which will include “three millennials” and an employee “who knows the streets,” will build on a network of existing mentoring programs and experienced male role models — including sports coaches in schools, reentry counselors for men coming out of prison and church workers.
He said My Brother’s Keeper also will operate out of his office and that he hopes to build centers that provide peer and sponsor support similar to how 12-step addiction recovery programs operate.
People in recovery attend meetings “to be reinvigorated and to be encouraged not to use again,” he said.
“We need that kind of space for individuals who don’t have a father or who have come out of prison or who are going through the process of getting a job,” he said.
Many young black men in the city do not have families to turn to and would benefit from a network of such meetings, he added.
Bundley said there are 186,000 black boys and men in Baltimore and that those who can serve as role models need to participate.
“The goal,” he said, “is to ensure that any male in need of support gets it.”