MEE’s latest national research project shows that the creative use of mobile digital technology could be an effective tool to help boys and young men of color (BMOC) overcome adversity and achieve their goals. In this new report and video series, Heard, Not Judged: Insights Into the Talents, Realities and Needs of Young Men of Color, MEE adds the voices of 18 to 24 year-old men of African and Hispanic descent, from nine U.S. cities, to a dialogue about their place in the “American Dream.” This project explored whether a brand-driven, private-sector approach, using technology the millennial generation already embraces, could help erase disparities and reduce inequities that have put many boys and young men of color at a competitive disadvantage. These young men open up about their lives—the everyday challenges they face, who matters to them (and who doesn’t) and who they can trust, their inherent skills and talents, along with the need for access to jobs, education, mentoring and holistic wellness. The research was co-funded by The California Endowment and the Open Society Foundations.

Research Objectives

The goal of the research was to test the hypothesis that culturally-relevant online resources, combined with face-to-face interactions – both with trusted messengers – could help young men of color identify and act on opportunities that can take them from merely surviving to thriving. We sought to:

• Decipher the unique needs and talents of boys and men of color
• Identify tools to help boys and men of color reach their full potential
• Identify the technical applications that would provide the most functional and emotional benefits to boys and men of color

Key Findings

As you see in the video excerpts and the research report, the young men’s responses to interview questions were both encouraging and troubling. On the plus side, the research uncovered their deep love and reverence for family and valuing education as a way to better their condition. Troubling was a very narrow concept of optimal health, along with their valid concerns about crime and drugs in their community, the rigors of daily survival in their tough environments and whether the competition to achieve the “American Dream” is skewed against them. They recognized all of these circumstances as potential barriers to success.

Each of these themes were identified and explored during the data analysis and is examined in detail in the research report.

• The concept of family transcends blood relatives
• Mothers/women are vital to boys and young men of color
• Boys and men of color understand the value of education
• Young men of color are willing to work hard. They just need access, opportunity and direction
• The bar for what young men of color consider thriving is set low
• The concept of holistic health is slowly evolving
• Young men of color are all for competition, but only with a win-win scenario
• We expected stress, but not at these levels
• Boys and men of color have extensive untapped talent
• Young men of color value spirituality over formal religion
• Young men of color feel the “American Dream” mainly applies to others
• A negative environment creates procrastination and can kill dreams
• Constant disappointment brings on a fear of failure