02-13-2020 · African-American Partnership

Derrick Brown clutches a “Black Panther” book close to his chest, right against his heart. He told Brenda Coleman, executive director at Atlanta CARES, that reading the book made him feel “like a king.”

“It made him proud of his African heritage,” Brenda says. “He also mentioned that he wanted to help his classmates solve problems and get along better just like the characters in the book eventually learned to do.”

Derrick was participating at one of the Build-A-Library sites funded by United Way of Greater Atlanta through the African-American Partnership affinity group. AAP has provided books and other learning materials for different locations across Greater Atlanta through this Build-A-Library program.

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African-American Partnership was established 20 years ago to engage an underrepresented population of United Way giving societies.

APP celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with its fifth-annual Leadership Luncheon on Feb. 29, 2020.

The partnership launched June 2000 under an African American Initiative moniker by Conchita Robinson and Charles Stephens with the purpose of increasing financial participation and volunteers from our community — there was also this real desire to make United Way’s donor base more reflective of the demographics in Atlanta where they serve. AAP committed itself to addressing achievement gaps and improving outcomes for African-American boys and young men in the Greater Atlanta region by offering resources and mentorship.

AAP is open to donors with shared affinities for philanthropy, leadership and service, and members of AAP donate $1,000 a year or more to United Way of Greater Atlanta. Currently, AAP has more than 1,000 members and raises more than $2 million annually.

That money feeds into United Way’s overall goal of improving the well-being of more than 250,000 children in Greater Atlanta’s 13 counties by 2027.

United Way saw after its strategic planning meeting two years ago that the zip code a child lived in too often determined the fate of that child. United Way saw that, statistically, because of what zip code a child was born into, he or she was handed a disadvantage beyond their control. Through a set of 14 measures, United Way calculated at the time a child well-being score of 58.9.

On May 9, officials announced the score had improved in two years to 61.8. That equates to a change in the lives of more than 82,000 children in the region living in low or very low child well-being. By using the child as the lens, we can identify the big picture needs of the community, such as a need for essential educational resources for these communities.

Brenda said Derrick got the book at one of her nonprofit’s “Real Dads Read” event. Where he, like many other students, discussed their favorite book characters, events and valuable lessons learned in the book.

“The success I witnessed was the students’ enthusiasm about books in all of our partner organizations,” Brenda says. “One of the students… stated, ‘I like reading these brand new books with pictures of my people.’”

She said students at the library got a heightened interest in reading because of the culturally authentic books that students could relate to. Brenda said Derrick “started his own book club with four of his friends on his own, and they read “Black Panther” together.

“Reading the book together enhanced their joy of reading,” she says.

To give back to your community and help power the potential of other young men like Derrick, join the African-American Partnership. Email AAP@unitedwayatlanta.org to learn more.