The BME project runs on three simple principles: Recognize. Reinforce. Reward. That plays out where the initiative aims to recognize those long engaged in their communities; reinforce their work by inspiring others to support such efforts; and reward them with funding.
"This is our first grant," said Alex Peay, 24, founder of Rising Sons, (http://risingsons.org) an after-school program. "It's just amazing."
Peay's team of a dozen or so young men meet every Thursday at his home in North Philadelphia. They work on plans based on activities involving computer technology, performing arts, mentoring, outreach, and sports that they run through four public schools without any outside funding.
"We're a family," Peay explained. Last weekend, they took a bunch of boys to a Sixers game. Peay said the $4,650 BME grant would allow Rising Sons to raise more money by holding events such as bake sales, design their own T-shirt uniforms as a sign of unity, and go on field trips.
"We would love to get our kids more exposed," Peay said. "Some of them have never been to a Sixers game, or been to the national museum. This funding is going to go a long way."
The BME Initiative is backed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Open Society Foundations' Campaign for Black Male Achievement.
The pilot project operating its first year in Philadelphia and Detroit, the two cities where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers, including The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. BME plans to expand to other cities in 2012.
For Shorters, there is also the pride of countering the bombardment of negative stereotypes when it comes to black men.
"The award shines a light on a truth about Philadelphia that we need to remember," he said. "There are thousands of black men in this city who choose to make it a stronger and better place to live for all of us. Perhaps if we tell their stories and others decide to support their efforts, you will see more and more black men and boys willing to follow their example."
Contact staff writer Kia Gregory at 215-854-2601, email@example.com, or @kiagregory on Twitter.