When Black males start to achieve, the mobility rates for our community will pick up exponentially.  That is the opportunity for us, but it is also the risk, if we don’t.

Our featured guest today is Jim Shelton.

James “Jim” Shelton is Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Blue Meridian Partners.

In this role, Jim is investigating new areas where significant focused capital can help solve problems at scale and advising Blue Meridian. Jim is also a founding partner of Amandla Enterprises, Senior Advisor for Education at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institute.

Prior to this, he served as President and Chief Impact Officer of 2U, Inc. and was deputy secretary at the US Department of Education (and head of its office of innovation and improvement) under President Obama. There, he served as the Executive Director of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative and served on and led multiple interagency efforts focused on poverty reduction, economic development, entrepreneurship, and increased opportunity, such as the Investing in Innovation Fund, Promise Neighborhoods, and ConnectED. He has served as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company advising CEOS and other for-profit and non-profit executives and has experience as a growth investor, education entrepreneur and program lead for the Gates Foundation. He began his career developing computer systems.

Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Morehouse College and master’s degrees in both business administration and education from Stanford University.

My ask today is that you’d help share this episode. If you’re posting to social, please tag @tbpod and use the hashtag #TrailblazersFM


  • I’m much grateful for my family being back in DC, my son starting off school right, and my wife feeling happy about it all.
  • I am just an ordinary man who had extraordinary opportunities.
  • All young people need the same kinds of things adapted their different contexts.
  • If we start at birth, everybody is born with the same potential to excel; however, our experiences, relationships and environments shape how much of our potential is actually realized.
  • We want to stack the kind of relationships and environment that is going to help a young person thrive.
  • We need to get in the business of designing pathways for young people that look like that from the time that they are born until they become thriving adults.
  • We’ve got to have the kind of training and resources for teachers, so they know how young people actually develop and learn, and the kind of experiences they create in classrooms actually meet the needs of the kids they have in front of them.
  • The vast majority of what determines a young person’s success starts before they get to school everyday.
  • Key questions for determining the wellness and preparedness of young people:  Are their basic mental and physical health needs met? Are they socially and emotionally stable and developed enough to form healthy relationships? Do they have a sense of identity?
  • These are shaped by many, many factors outside of school, but they have a huge impact on the academic and cognitive development that the child has in school.
  • @JIMSEDU on Black Male Achievement:  We’ve created these environments that expect little, provide little and therefore the results match, and we seem surprised.
  • The major factors that impede progress (exposure to violence or exposure to the criminal justice system) and get in the way of many of our best and brightest young men actually achieving across the spectrum from the earliest age into adulthood.
  • For those who are not impeded by these systems, we often forget about these Black men, and begin our conversations talking about their deficits and not their assets.  So, our young men who are high performing are often ignored, without us creating the kind of opportunities that let them continue to excel.
  • The question is, ‘How do we create the kind of relationships, experiences and environments that allow our young people to express their full potential?’
  • Recognizing that the injustices and barriers won’t disappear overnight, how do we as a community surround our young people and insulate them from the impacts of them as much as possible, so that they can actually look into the future and see their potential, see that other people believe in them, and keep pushing?
  • For the Black community, our overall success is now in the hands of what happens for Black males.
  • When Black males start to achieve, the mobility rates for our community will pick up exponentially.  That is the opportunity for us, but it is also the risk, if we don’t.
  • People believe most in people who look like them to be able to solve problems.
  • The challenge for African Americans is getting over the hurdle of not being like the other kind of folks that investors encounter, to instill the confidence in them that you’re someone they should bet on.
  • @JIMSEDU on African Americans potential vying for the attention of investors — It’s a higher bar.  It’s not a fair bar, but that’s the game that we have to play.
  • Consider who that one person is, who could help you with whatever your mission is — that person you’ve procrastinated on calling — and make the call.



The Campaign for Black Male Achievement. Join, support and invest in this movement to help improve the life outcomes of our black men and boys.


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Join host Stephen A. Hart as he delves into bold conversations with brilliant Black professionals – self-driven founders, best-selling authors, and passionate leaders.

Each episode aims to teach actionable strategies, valuable tactics, and innovative tools, that you can put to use immediately on your journey to blazing your trail.

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