The mission of The Black Star Project (TBSP) is to eliminate the racial academic achievement gap. The
Black Star Project has designed itself to produce and deliver community-driven educational support
programs, services, campaigns and initiatives that help pre-school through college students succeed
academically with the help of their parents, extended families, neighborhoods, and communities. This
mission is driven by a vision for Black and Brown children to become globally competent, globally
compassionate 21st-century global citizens.
The Black Star Project was founded in 1996 to improve the quality of life in Chicago's Black and Brown
communities by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap, which leads to many other quality of life
TBSP, which began as a small mentoring program in two Chicago public schools, has grown into an
organization with national impact based on its innovative programs, campaigns and initiatives that engage
and inspire students, parents and whole communities to improve students' educational outcomes. Black
Star works to help pre-school through college students succeed academically by advocating for and
facilitating educational services, while supporting parents, families and communities to effectively provide
student educational supports for their children.
The Black Star Project's multiple initiatives address parent engagement, youth development and educational
advocacy. At its inception in 1996, TBSP introduced two programs: Student Motivation and Mentoring
Program (SMMP), a classroom-based mentoring model with motivational speakers designed to inspire
students to do well in school, and the Barbara Ann Sizemore Communiversity for Educational Excellence—a
series of community meetings using a full-participation-dialogue model in a public arena to generate action
through organized advocacy on a variety of issues concerning closing the academic achievement gap.
In its second year (1997), The Black Star Project introduced Silas B. Purnell Destination College, designed
to promote awareness during middle school about the importance of post-secondary education. Destination
College was expanded in 2005 to include a series of workshops and college tours, facilitated by college
students, to prepare high school students to successfully apply to, attend and succeed in college. Shortly
thereafter, TBSP added Jump Start on College—college fairs throughout the city.
In 2004, the first annual Million Father March was launched as a nationwide event to mobilize Black fathers
and male caregivers to take their children to school on the first school day. That same year, The Black Star
Project rolled out Parent University, designed to equip parents with the essential skills, and the necessary
information and resources to help build stronger families to ensure the proper education of their children.
Fathers Club, which organized and hosted free educational and recreational outings for fathers, significant
male caregivers, and their children, also began that year. Fathers Club encouraged men to work for
educational and other positive changes in their communities.
In March of 2007, TBSP coordinated its first Men In Schools (MIS) initiative, a comprehensive campaign
designed to encourage men to volunteer in schools. In 2008, led by Fathers Club members, MIS expanded
its programming for an entire week—Men in Schools week included a full week of activities and opportunities
for fathers to support their children's educational environments by volunteering.
Early in 2008, TBSP launched Parent of the Year Awards to acknowledge and reward outstanding parents at
public and private schools throughout Chicago; the Golden Parent Award of cash was given to the top-rated
parents in Chicago schools. Next, the Black Star Scholars Tutoring program, which started in four of
Chicago's public schools, was expanded to 25 public schools. Soon thereafter, the Take a Young Black
Male to Worship campaign began reaching out to engage and encourage Black churches to mentor young
Black men as well as to each adopt one school throughout the year.
Since 2007, The Black Star Project has been tracking youth violence in Chicago. Beyond the obvious
tragedy of premature and senseless death, when students do not feel safe, their academic achievement
suffers. TBSP initially responded to this horrific situation with organized marches, vigils, student auditorium
sessions, conflict resolution workshops, and public forums with workshops for parents about gangs and
violence. After 53 Chicago students age 18 and under were killed during the 2008-09 school year, TBSP
organized its staff and community volunteers around a campaign called Peace in the Hood. Armed with
information, posters, wristbands and t-shirts, TBSP's command central dispatched groups of individuals to
the Chicago neighborhoods most devastated by violence, and worked to inspire and prepare disengaged,
hopeless youth to end the violence, continue their education and seek employment.
The Black Star Project's youth programming expanded in 2009 to include more intensive mentoring, job
fairs, and training opportunities, especially for atrisk students. Additionally, TBSP has overseen a variety of
summer jobs programs, during which students were trained for and placed in various positions, including
performing administrative work at TBSP headquarters, selling books to area churches and schools, cleaning
up neighborhood trash, and tutoring younger students. TBSP has also facilitated intensive, in-school
mentoring services for more than 200 students in the Chicago Public Schools. Additionally, it established a
mentoring program for 70 young men, called The Young Black Men of Honor.
In the spring of 2011, The Black Star Project launched Saturday University, a network of Saturday schools
designed to quickly remediate issues with students who performed below grade level academically and to
accelerate students' progress who operate at grade level.
In 2012, TBSP, in partnership with the Open Society Foundation's Campaign for Black Male Achievement,
continued its commitment to the betterment of Black males and Black and Brown youth generally by
developing and distributing organizing guides, based on its experiences and lessons learned while
conducting its most popular, scalable programs. These step-by-step, how-to guides continue to be updated
annually to help people and organizations create, manage, and support such programs nationwide by
replicating or adapting them to specific communities' needs. Organizing guides were developed for and
continue to be distributed for such key initiatives as: Million Father March, Take a Young Black Male to Worship, Real Men Read, Destination College, Saturday University, Daddy Daughter Dance, and the multi-component Black Male Achievement Initiative.
Since its founding in 1996, TBSP has vastly expanded from a small mentoring and educational advocacy
nonprofit to an organization known for the breadth and depth of its actions with programs and initiatives in
tutoring, mentoring, parent advocacy and development, violence prevention, college preparation, school environment
support, and workforce development. Regardless of how much it expands, to this day, TBSP
remains committed to the tradition of improving education and development in our communities, with the
support and involvement of those it serves.