Mission and History

Article Index

Extended History

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 gaps.

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.