Last night, I attended an important town hall in South Los Angeles, the purpose of which was a community conversation about improving the future for young Black men. This segment of our community is one of the most vulnerable and misunderstood, underachieving and overrepresented in the criminal justice system in California. The reasons are many and complicated, but the urgency to change the whirlpool of misfortune into a whirlwind of opportunity for them is pressing.
That’s why I was proud and pleased that we heard the public announcement of a bold, new and grassroots initiative to begin that change, beginning right there in South L.A. It’s called BLOOM, for Building a Lifetime of Opportunities and Options for Men, and it is aimed at improving the lives of 14-18 year-old Black males who are or have been part of L.A. County’s probation system, through dedicated educational offerings, employment opportunities and community support.
BLOOM’s goal is to lower the prison incarceration of these young men by a minimum of 10 percent.
So what does have to do with me?
Well, I was once a Black teenager with challenges and choices, and for the last two years have been a member and the chair of the community advisory committee that developed the BLOOM Initiative with the community foundation. I am also the head of a corporate foundation that is a founding partner in BLOOM.
BLOOM is not a bank account for a few thousand boys with as much promise as problems. It’s a real investment in a potential pool of employees, customers and even potential leaders for the private, public and nonprofit sectors in Southern California. It’s a re-investment in our entire community. And most importantly, it’s faith in ourselves – diverse humans who all deserve a second chance at being someone better.
No private, public or nonprofit organization can afford to tackle a social issue of this magnitude alone, nor do they have to. Several of us have banded together for BLOOM, including the Automobile Club of Southern California, the Carl and Roberta Deutsch Foundation, Operation HOPE, The James Irvine Foundation, Union Bank Foundation, California Community Foundation, and a half-dozen community-based nonprofits. We encourage other organizations, companies, families and individuals to join us in this ambitious but achievable enterprise. Support BLOOM today.
Thank you for reading.
Carl A. Ballton
President, Union Bank Foundation