DETROIT — Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of the automotive company, continues to shine through its Men of Courage program is an initiative that is grassroots and is focused on changing the narrative about African-American men. Launched in Detroit in 2015, MOC has expanded into an essential part of Ford Fund’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The program is designed to build and strengthen communities by advancing the narrative of black men through storytelling, education programs, and forums for community conversations.
Justin Kimpson is the national manager of Ford Motor Company Fund’s Men of Courage program. He also serves as senior director of the Ford Resource & Engagement Center where he oversees operations, program management, partnership development and food mobile distribution. Kimpson brings more than 15 years of diverse experience in the fields of philanthropy, education, and workforce development.
“We’ve traveled the country hosting intergenerational summits where African-American men have vision boards and really plot and strategize on solutions to improve their communities”, said Kimpson. “It’s all about focusing on and shifting that narrative. Too many times you’ve seen the media display negative images of black men. We’re more than just those negative images. Recently, we held a welcome back to school event which we’ve done annually for years. In this setting, a mixture of the faith-based community with different bishops and ministers to lawyers, attorneys, to just average citizens, and a block club president. It showed the cross-section and the depth of black men in metro Detroit and really just embodies who we are as men as a whole.”
Many branches and initiatives have grown from how the program began. Over the last three years, a Leadership Forum was created, a powerful concept focused on shifting the socioeconomic stories of black men through curated workshops and intimate conversations. The effort strives to encourage and engage all sectors of black men.
Its first virtual forum was held in 2020 when it featured keynote addresses by New York Times best-selling authors and activists Shaka Senghor and Ambassador Andrew Young.
“Its just so many different things that we’re doing across the country to move that needle, said Kimpson. “And so I think that this has definitely been a strong catalyst to make sure that the world, not only America, but the world knows that black men are really awesome and that you know who we are as people. We’re more than just negative images that you see on TV or we’re not just entertainers. We have more we have to offer than just sports and entertainment. We have a lot.”
Another activation and initiative it spearheads is its Game Changer Awards which recognizes outstanding organizations going above and beyond to impact the lives of African American males.
This year the program launched Brotherhood Crusade focused on supporting single fathers who are the primary caregivers of their children and providing the necessary tools for fathers to play an active role in support of their children.
Currently, the Ford Fund’s Men of Courage program is spearing its annual Metro Area Barbershop Challenge. This particular initiative invites barbershop owners to submit innovative community proposals designed to stimulate positive social economic mobility in their community. Three finalists compete over a months-long period by developing community engagement programming for adults and youth.
“I think that the barbershops are going to look amazing and so you’ll get a chance to see how powerful the transformations of these shops and then to see the impact that they’ll have,” said Kimpson. “The barber shops will compete and they will have to host two events each month until December. And whoever puts on the best community program will ultimately win the ten-thousand-dollar prize. The more creative you are in your engagement and your partnerships, the more than likely that your barbershop will actually win the barbershop challenge”.
In previous challenges barbershop owners that have done everything from health fairs to talent shows to partnering with celebrities and other great organizations in the community.
“It’s really about collaboration and bringing the community together. They’re going to actually receive a makeover of their current barbershop and receive positive affirmations, positive images of black males. They might get new barbershop chairs, new waiting chairs that are NBA-styled with extra cushion, as you’re waiting to get your haircut.” The transformative reveal of the competing barbershops is expected in October.
For Justin Kimpson, he’s gearing up for the program’s upcoming Leadership Forum in Detroit. It feels like a college homecoming for him where he’s excited to engineer a dynamic program of speakers and workshops geared toward men of metro Detroit. Everything about his personal and career journey prepares him to lead in a space of making a difference and producing positive outcomes in the lives of boys and men.
“I’m a product of not only Detroit Public Schools but also a graduate of an HBCU, Morehouse College. Through my matriculation, through grade school, up to college, I’ve always wondered what I would be, and as a kid, I guess you do that. I couldn’t think of a better position and place to be currently in my life than in this position, because every day I wake up thinking how I can push the needle for black men and boys. But I’m always thinking outside the box of different ways, who we can partner with? What’s the next collaboration? I’m always thinking about the next project or opportunity to really connect not only with the community, but really have an impact on people’s lives every day. We want to make sure that the type of programing that we’re bringing is sensitive to our communities, but also impactful where it has a collective impact and not just a one-day experience, but it lasts throughout the year.”
The annual Ford Fund’s Men Of Courage Leadership Forum will be held Monday, October 8th at the Charles H. Wright Museum.