Susan L. Taylor, founder and CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement, will be honored on Friday, June 9, by the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps with its Embracing the Legacy Award. The award recognizes Taylor’s philanthropic work and her 30 years of championing the black American woman as editor-in-chief of Essence magazine.
Black Enterprise honored Taylor by awarding her a 2015 Women of Power Legacy Award.
I recently spoke with Taylor to learn why her work is so critical.
“Children are languishing because of poverty,” she told me. These stats are on the National CARES website:
- Of all black fourth-graders, 58% are functionally illiterate.
- In some cities, 80% of our boys drop out before finishing high school.
- Every day 1,000 black children are arrested.
- 1 in every 8 African American males ages 25–29 is incarcerated.
- The No. 1 cause of death among our boys is homicide.
“The house is on fire,” Taylor said.
In spite of these grim statistics, she is “never discouraged,” she said, and then proceeded to tell me about Teonte Miller, a young man who spoke at the National CARES gala in January. Because of the organization’s mentoring work, along with Miller’s own drive and determination, Miller has graduated from community college. He is also slated to speak at the commencement of his former high school—which he had dropped out of.
Organizations like National CARES can help to bring about this kind of transformational change in the lives of impoverished, underserved students. Taylor’s goal is to support marginalized young people until they “become confident, self-sufficient critical thinkers and lifelong learners who are dedicated to their families, community, and country,” according to a spokeswoman from the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps.
“To not participate as a mentor, vocal advocate, or financial contributor to the recovery of children struggling in financially insecure families and unstable communities is to betray our ancestors,” Taylor said in a statement. “No matter where [our ancestors] came from or how they arrived on these shores, their sacrifices and ideals brought so many of us to this place of privilege.”
Taylor told me that “We are among the most fortunate [people of African descent] in the world. It is our moral responsibility to intentionally help in the recovery of those who are struggling. Able, stable black people have a responsibility to heal the trauma” that those in unstable black communities are experiencing.
“Susan’s devotion to her own community has had a nationwide impact,” Ed Kelley, CEO of the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, is quoted in a statement. “Her efforts have created a domino effect—National CARES is a force to better social and juvenile justice efforts across the country,”
Taylor told me that organizations like the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps need to be celebrated. “They are standing really strong for our community, dedicated to social service and juvenile justice programs—and we know that it’s our people, black and brown people, who need them more than anyone.”
The organization was founded to carry out Robert F. Kennedy’s principles of social justice on behalf of the disadvantaged in Massachusetts, supporting the state’s most vulnerable young people and giving them a chance at a better life.
“I love the work that the organization is dedicated to—helping the poor and marginalized,” Taylor told me. “We need more organizations to stand in the huge gap between the haves and the have-nots. I love that they are partners and allies in this work.”
To learn more about the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps’ Embracing the Legacy Award, visit its website.