Jack Drummond started from “The Bottom” — a now-antiquated colloquialism for Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood. Now, the educator and activist is in City Hall working as the city’s new director of Black Male Engagement.
It was that experience growing up in a marginalized community that shaped who Drummond is as a person and a professional. But he wouldn’t call Mantua a “neighborhood,” a word he believes can place people in silos. Instead, Drummond prefers the fluidity of the term “community.”
“I didn’t really have the luxuries that some of my counterparts may have had,” Drummond said. “Most of the schooling I had was in the community. The resources weren’t equitably distributed. Growing up with those social experiences have really helped me understand how important it is to communicate the idea of being part of a community.”
When he was a child, Drummond’s parents instilled a strong respect for the arts, particularly music. By elementary school, he began studying violin.
“I wanted to play drums, but they didn’t have drums at this school,” he said. “They didn’t have a saxophone. They had strings.”
It was his involvement with music, Drummond said, that helped him break out of that silo.
“It serves as a catharsis for me,” he said.
It’s a catharsis that will prove to be handy as Drummond settles into his new position with the city. In his own words, he’s “the new kid on the block,” and he’s still grappling with the anxiety that comes with being placed in a management position within city government.
Yet, despite the growing pains that will inevitably come with his new job, this work is far from new for Drummond. He has 15 years of experience working in the mental health and social service fields and is an adjunct professor and academic advisor at the Community College of Philadelphia, where he’s been working with the college’s Center for Male Engagement since 2010.
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“Not only was [CCP] an introduction to higher ed, it was also an introduction to black men and youth whom I learned to establish a respectable amount of rapport with initially, who I was able to share stories and learn from, who I was able to establish a sense of trust in,” Drummond said. “They’ve been a great asset in terms of my knowledge base for the work we’re looking to do here.”
The job at the Black Male Engagement office has two primary goals: Focus resources toward reducing the systemic economic and social inequalities that haunt black men and boys and the communities they live in, and expand upon President Barack Obama‘s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
Tactically, Drummond said that looks like a balance between the qualitative and quantitative — putting in the effort to build relationships within disparaged communities and tracking specific metrics. (Drummond said the office is considering using Salesforce to do the latter.)
“Quite often, people have looked at [outreach] as this dichotomy, that you either have something that is really work-heavy in terms of being the foot soldiers and working directly with constituents, and then you have this area where you have to make sure things are statistically sound and the data is tracked,” he said. “Some people who get it realize that you have to have a little bit of both. Balance is power when considering that.”
Fundamentally, there are three major challenges Drummond says he will face in this position:
- Creating a unified front between government-funded programs and grassroots initiatives — That, he said, is the difference between a short-term quick fix and a sustainable approach to making systemic change.
- Making sure initiatives are actually informing policy — That means making them outcomes-driven, statistically sound and quantifiable — “something that can not only be communicated one-to-one, but that you can actually see on paper.” That will pave the way toward sustainability.
- Transforming the way people think about black men and boys — This means highlighting the positives. Systems have historically placed black men and boys at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of education and employment, Drummond said. But there are also a lot of good things happening that aren’t being emphasized.
That last point will be the most daunting challenge. Through systemic conditioning, Drummond says people have been given an implicit image about who and what black men and boys are. That societal perspective needs to change.
“There are many people who are successful in the education field,” said Drummond. “There are many people raising families. There are many recovered citizens who have come out of the prison systems who have a success story to talk about. I think we need to start highlighting those stories and using them as models and examples.”-30-
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