The Counter Narrative: Reframing Success of High Achieving Black and Latino Males in Los Angeles County

by Tyrone C. Howard

Dec 6, 2016

This report highlights young men who are the products of high expectations. We take time to shine a spotlight on the resilient, intelligent, and caring young men across Los Angeles County. This report takes an unapologetic stance in stating that these young men who are thriving in their homes, taking on leadership roles in their schools, and making a difference in their communities. This report is not intended to be full of the doom and gloom about what is wrong with young Black and Latino men. To the contrary, we take the time to center their voices, hear their stories, and listen to their takeaways about how they have accomplished what they are doing and the recommendations that they offer on how to support other Black and Latino young men just like them.

  • The Black and Latino males in our study repeatedly referred to their homes as safe havens where love, care, and encouragement are ever-present. The chorus of the young men's narratives speaks to permanence of adult support, important immigrant experiences, the pendulum of challenges and triumphs at home, and the value of family and education.
  • Whether it was educational attainment, maintaining a happy, loving life, keeping consistent employment, or taking care of others, these young men drew inspiration, found the drive to succeed and strength from older siblings, parents, and other family members who served as motivation and models of success.
  • The young men seemed to view the migration of their family members as a sacrifice and honored the fearlessness and courage of their family members to come to a new country with the goal of providing them with an opportunity for a better life. All of this was an inspiration to succeed, graduate high school, and attend college.
  • Many of the participants interviewed expressed lived experiences with nondominant forms of masculinity, while simultaneously describing and defying the rigid expectations of what it means to be a man.
  • Students used personal experiences and environment to build their resilience and focus on their long-term goals of not being enticed into gangs of not being enticed into gangs and/or violence.
  • The young men volunteered in multiple formal and informal programs through school clubs, local churches, or community centers. These opportunities opened new perspectives and understanding of their role in improving individual communities.
  • The students used local parks, sports, school-based programs, and community organizations to avoid violence and gangs in their communities. These spaces provided either opportunities to focus on physical outlets (through sports), emotional well-being (self-confidence), or to build friendships with like-minded peers.
  • The importance of older male figures and involvement in organized programs provided a "sense of safety" from potential involvement in trouble. The shared understanding between Black and Latino male high school students and older members of the community heightened the students' eagerness to form strong bonds with others who understand their trials and tribulations and to have a larger network of positive figures in their lives.