Yvette Gentry

Metro United Way/Campaign for Black Male Achievement (KY)

Professionals working in the field of social justice and racial equity rarely have the luxury of sustained time to hone their leadership skills and share their own expertise alongside their peers. But that’s exactly what the Black Male Achievement Leaders in Residence Fellowship offered to mid-to-senior-level career men and women working to improve outcomes for Black men and boys in their cities and communities.      

Hailing from New York, D.C., Baltimore, New Orleans, Durham, Louisville, Milwaukee and Albany, participants had the space to deepen their understanding of organizational development, succession planning, resource development, strategic communications and public policy. The Kenan-funded initiative was a partnership between the University of Louisville, Metro United Way, and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

Yvette Gentry, director of justice and opportunity for Metro United Way, says that the heavy lifting required to address and dismantle institutionalized racism calls for multisector partnerships and solutions. “The nature of this work can lead to tunnel vision if you only focus on one aspect of the larger picture,” she says. “That’s why it was so great to bring together a brain trust of people to talk about these issues in a broader way, and figure out what has worked in other places.” She notes that the cross-pollination of people from local nonprofits, national foundations, membership networks and national organizations produces a more fertile environment for both short-term and long-range goals.

A Louisville native and mother of four sons, Gentry stepped into the national spotlight in 2020 when she took a leave from MetroUnited Way to serve as Louisville Metro Police Department interim director in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s killing by police. With the murder of George Floyd and the movement for Black lives that roiled the nation, demands for racial justice raised the visibility and urgency of the work that Gentry and so many others have been engaged in their whole lives. “We’ve been able to invite more people to the table to learn about these issues, and to envision a path forward. There is a sense of optimism that we are headed in a direction where there is greater communication about the problems that exist, and a greater commitment to solving them collectively.”