Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

BME Challenge brings together Philadelphia’s black male leaders

May 15, 2012, 10:56 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

This summer, a new program focused on tapping into and better supporting mentorship opportunities in Philadelphia is set to launch.

Backed by a $400,000 investment from the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the program is led by several people involved in the BME Challenge, an effort to recognize, connect and invest in black males from all walks of life who engage others in making communities stronger.

Philly Roots aims to scale up the quality of grassroots mentoring by making sure mentors who work with young people are best equipped to help them achieve their goals.

Philly Roots brings together those already working on issues around mentoring in the Philadelphia community, like Rising Sons, an after school program where recent college graduates and college students 18-25 mentor young boys. Alex Peay received a BME Leadership Award earlier this year to help strengthen its operations. Rising Sons’ principal operations officer Mubarek Lawrence was brought in to co-chair Philly Roots. Brandon Brown, director of Youth & Family Services at Nu Sigma Youth Services, which advocates for improving the lives of young people in the community, is also a member of the Philly Roots Steering Committee.

One of the biggest factors for a young person’s success is having caring adults in their lives, said Steve Vassor, senior manager for quality assurance at the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, who serves as Lawrence’s co-chair for Philly Roots.  It’s why the organization he works for provided support to help launch the program. Vassor says the BME Challenge was crucial in helping bring the right people together to help build the program. He says it’s one of the few opportunities he’s been a part of that brings black men together from across different backgrounds:

“We need more of these opportunities for black men to come together and collaborate across their affiliations. BME is fantastic, it is one of the best networks and collaborations I have seen in a long time that provides such opportunities.”

Helping Detroit's creative entrepreneurs engage local supporters

May 15, 2012, 9:12 a.m., Posted by Rishi Jaitly

In recent years, we've seen how sites like and Kickstarter have allowed people around the globe to give life to creative and personal pursuits, fueling our ability to support one another. 

In Detroit, we've been making the global truly local - by using the web to engage local supporters in the success of our growing movement of young, civic-minded entrepreneurs.  Kiva DetroitDetroit4DetroitHatch Detroit, and the Urban Innovation Exchange are just some examples.

Today, we’re delighted to announce another initiative harnessing the power of the web: Design in Detroit.


Blake: How the arts can build community in Macon

May 14, 2012, 10:59 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Recently at the annual meeting of the Georgia Arts Network in Macon, a Random Act of Culture surprised the National Endowment for the Arts' Chairman Rocco Landesman and the 200 people gathered to hear his remarks.

Above,  Chuck Leavell, the musical director and keyboard player for the Rolling Stones (and a tree farmer and environmentalist to those who know him best in Macon), performed "Georgia on my Mind" for the crowd.

Beverly Blake, program director/Macon at Knight Foundation wrote a piece published yesterday in The Telegraph about the day and the chairman's visit titled "Hidden in Plain Sight."

Blake focused on the unique history of Macon, its vibrant arts scene and what she hopes the chairman’s visit will inspire the community to accomplish: