About Us

Forward Promise is a national program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to support culturally-responsive practices that buffer the effects of historical and systemic trauma on boys and young men of color. RWJF has funded the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education to manage the Forward Promise National Program Office (NPO). The NPO has two strategic locations, one in Philadelphia, PA and one in Huntsville, Alabama. 

The NPO will facilitate grants to organizations throughout the United States, provide technical assistance and field-building support, and disseminate timely research to those seeking to positively impact the lives of boys and young men of color.


Forward Promise’s mission is to undergird, strengthen, and stimulate the creation of supportive networks and relationships that surround BYMOC and their families – healthy village-making.


We envision healthy villages and a larger society that raise and empower boys and young men of color to heal, grow and thrive.


We believe:

  • The transformative genius, resilience and energy of boys and young men of color are ancestral, and have the power to change the systemic, interpersonal, and cultural narratives and conditions that continuously deny and assault their humanity
  • Trauma must be addressed and healed before boys and young men of color can reach their fullest potential
  • A healthy, trauma-informed village will raise healthy boys and young men of color.
  • Boys and young men of color are critically important members of their communities and contributors to society.

Our Approach

Our approach to building healthy networks for BYMOC will involve preparing individuals, families, organizations and institutions to face the power of the humanity of BYMOC, apply culturally-responsive programming to identify historically-driven trauma experiences, and record and share diverse examples of health transformation. Standing on the shoulders of previous Forward Promise grantees, the new NPO will carry on the work of healthy village-making.

Research reveals that historical and contemporary oppression, discrimination, and poverty have led to negative physical, mental and emotional health outcomes across life-spans and generations (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2014). Dehumanization is a core dynamic that plagues many health promotion and recovery problems in our society. Through histories of colonization and racism, BYMOC have faced significant hardships that have led to the creation and perpetuation of historical, spiritual, cultural, social, emotional, and physical traumas. These effects impact the systems, such as educational, justice, health and employment systems, with which BYMOC interact on a daily basis.

Recognizing the humanity of BYMOC would seem at first to be a given – not needing explanation, justification, or promotion. Unfortunately, appreciating the humanity of BYMOC is a struggle for many people who interact with them from preschool through young adulthood, as well as many BYMOC themselves. Improving the quality of how systems and their personnel relate to BYMOC can reduce trauma reactions and improve their health in areas of learning, resilience, self-care, help-seeking, social mobility and even sleep (Winn, Iruka, Buansi, McKinney, & Stevenson, 2012; Stevenson, 2014).

The Forward Promise NPO will target culturally-responsive healing promotion solutions that lead to healing, growth, and thriving in the lives of BYMOC as defined by their communities. Defining a healthy village may differ across the diverse communities of BYMOC.

Click the icons above to learn more about our approach

Healing is recognizing trauma and recovery.

Healing is seeing the need for health recovery. Healing from various traumatic experiences requires a lens that views BYMOC as human and deserving of health despite their current life circumstances. It is important because unaddressed trauma effects increase negative health outcomes. To recognize trauma (sources, effects, resolutions), is the beginning of healing.

Growing is practicing health recovery daily.

Growing is engaging life struggles with a healthy lens. Growing describes how BYMOC come to embrace healthy, culturally-responsive narratives, lenses, rationales, and behaviors for engaging and overcoming the challenges of trauma recovery. If healing is seeing the effects and resolutions of trauma, growing is using that awareness in one’s daily life to make healthy choices in self-care, relationships, schooling, and career.

Thriving is enjoying one’s health choices.

Thriving involves sustaining the practice of health recovery through activism. Thriving describes the capacity of BYMOC to actively make choices that lead to long-term, healthy outcomes for the sake of self, family and community. BYMOC will thrive when the skills and mindsets of culturally-relevant healing models have been adopted for self-protection and the protection of others in the community.

Our Team

Howard C. Stevenson, Ph.D.


Dr. Howard Stevenson is the Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education, Professor of Africana Studies, and former Chair of the Applied Psychology and Human Development...

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Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant, Ed.D


Ms. Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant, Ed.D is President/CEO at The Moriah Group, an international consulting firm, based in Huntsville, Alabama. Dr. Bryant has over 20 years of work...

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Dr. Edith Arrington, Consultant

Research & Evaluation

Dr. Arrington is a Philadelphia based consultant that supports the NPO with research and internal evaluation of all programs and activities.

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E. Bomani Johnson, Consultant

Senior Program Associate

Bomani serves as an Atlanta based consultant and manages the grantmaking and technical assistance programs of Forward Promise.

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Jamie Scarborough

Executive Assistant

Jamie is the Executive Assistant to Co-Director, Rhonda Bryant, and supports the day-to-day operations of the NPO in our Huntsville, AL office.

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Kelli Dulan

Program Manager

Kelli is a Senior Program Manager based in our Huntsville, AL office. She manages the Fellowship for Leaders program, our field building activities and coordinates our National Advisory Committee (NAC).

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Rhonda Williams

Administrative Assistant

Rhonda is Administrative Assistant to Co-Director, Howard Stevenson and supports the day-to-day operations and logistics of our University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education offices.

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Tanisha Abernathy Browne

Director of Marketing for the NYC Administration for Children's Services

Tanisha Abernathy Browne is a passionate professional with over 15 years of strategic communications experience in a range of categories, including financial services, healthcare, telecommunications and...

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Tshaka Barrows

Executive Director and Founding Member of the Burns Institute

Tshaka Barrows is a founding member of the W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI). As Execuitve Director he works closely with the executive director to advance the Burns Institute’s mission to protect and improve...

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Kisha Bird

Director of Youth Policy at CLASP and Project Director for the Campaign for Youth

Kisha Bird is the director of youth policy at CLASP and project director for the Campaign for Youth (CFY), a national coalition chaired by CLASP. Ms. Bird works to expand access to education, employment...

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Terrance Bowman

Global Technology, Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

Terrance Bowman is the Global Technology Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager for JPMorgan Chase & Co. He is also the Talent Acquisition Program Lead for the firm’s Delaware Technology Hub.

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Krishaun Branch

Student Recruitment Fellow at Urban Prep Academies

Krishaun Branch has made “All the Difference” during his journey as a millennial and continues to beat the odds. During his early years, growing up on Chicago’s Southside, in a...

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William Buster

Executive Vice President at St. David’s Foundation (NAC Chair)

William Buster, MA, is Executive Vice President of Community Investments at St. David’s Foundation in Austin, Texas. He provides oversight for St. David’s Foundation’s grantmaking programs...

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Richard L. Clemmons, Jr.

Chief Operating Officer at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

Mr. Clemmons has brought a wealth of leadership and managerial experience to his civilian roles, having spent over twenty years as an Officer in the United States Navy. In that capacity, he served as the Commander...

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Dr. Angela Diaz

Director of the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center

Angela Diaz, MD, PhD, MPH is the Jean C. and James W. Crystal Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

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Quyen Dinh

Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center

Quyen Dinh is the Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). Originally formed in 1979, SEARAC was founded by a group of American humanitarians...

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Sarah Eagle Heart

CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy

Sarah Eagle Heart is an accomplished and internationally experienced executive focused on serving Indigenous Peoples. She currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Native Americans in...

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Kevin Fernandez

President and CEO Fernandez Financial Group

founder and president of Fernandez Financial Group, LLC, which was incorporated in 2017 with the idea of helping build extraordinary legacies and inspiring other professionals to do...

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Dr. Sean Joe

Associate Dean for Faculty and Research at The Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis

Sean Joe is a nationally-recognized authority on suicidal behavior among African Americans. His research focuses on Black adolescents' mental health service use patterns, the role of religion in Black suicidal behavior, salivary biomarkers...

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Andrew Mulinge

Teacher at Harlem Village Academy

Andrew Mulinge is an educator, sociologist and advocate for equity-based education for all students. His experiences and interests have primarily been focused on researching, developing, and implementing...

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Dr. Kevin Nadal

Executive Director at the Center for LGBTQ Studies at the Graduate Center at the CUNY and professor of Psychology at both John Jay College of Criminal Justice and GC CUNY

Dr. Kevin Leo Yabut Nadal is an award-winning scholar/activist who received his doctorate in counseling psychology from Columbia University in New York City. Currently, he is the Executive...

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Kalimah Priforce

Headmaster CEO at Qeyno

At eight years old, Kalimah Priforce held a successful hunger strike against his Brooklyn group home to add more books to its library, which drew the attention of a community...

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Dr. Patrick Tolan

Professor, School of Education and Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences in the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia

Patrick H. Tolan is Professor at the University of Virginia in the Curry School of Education and in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences in the School of Medicine...

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Dr. Karina Walters

Director and Principal Investigator of the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute at the University of Washington

Karina L. Walters, an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is the Associate Dean for Research, the Katherine Hall Chambers Scholar, and the director and principal investigator...

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