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Rex Crawley Receives YWCA Racial Justice Award

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pittsburgh -- Robert Morris University Communication Professor Rex Crawley has received a 2011 Racial Justice Award from the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh.

The annual Racial Justice Awards is a signature program of the YWCA Center for Race and Gender Equity. Through its Racial Justice Awards, the center seeks to promote a society in which all people receive equal treatment and have equal access in the workplace, public services, justice system, classroom, and throughout the Greater Pittsburgh community. Over the past two decades, the YWCA has recognized more than 100 community leaders who have made a substantial commitment to racial equality.

“It’s one of the most prestigious awards in the city. I was extremely humbled by the nomination and will be by the acceptance of the award. I did not expect it. I’ve gotten a lot of awards and I’ve gotten recognized for a lot of things and think that this is probably right up there with the best of them,” said Crawley.

Crawley, assistant dean of the School of Communications and Information Systems, is the co-founder and co-director Rex Crawleyof the Black Male Leadership Development Institute (BLMDI), a partnership between RMU and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. Crawley also leads RMU's Council on Institutional Equity, which promotes inclusiveness and diversity on campus.

The BMLDI provides leadership training to African American teenage boys and is now in its fifth year. It is funded by the Heinz Endowments and the Buehl Foundation.

The BMLDI includes a weeklong residency program each summer, then a “Saturday Institute” throughout the rest of the year, in which students continue leadership training. The students graduate from the program in May, and this year’s class numbers 75. The program aims to prepare high school students to continue their education in college or a trade school.

Lately Crawley has focused on helping BMLDI students understand the college financial aid process, to let them know there are ways to pay for an education even they think their family can’t afford it.

“What we find is that most of the students we work with are first-generation college students, so they don’t have the luxury of going home and saying, ‘Mom, Dad, help me fill out this scholarship application,’” said Crawley.

Crawley said the BMLDI’s work dovetails with the mission of the YWCA to eliminate racism and empower women and girls.

“The BMLDI’s work is directly related to the YWCA because of its effort to make sure that the American family structure is in place -- the quest for preparing young men to be proud productive members of society,” said Crawley.

He explained that African American women are less likely to get married, according to recent data, which Crawley said is because black women do not find black men compatible. Black women are far more likely, for example, to have graduated from college than black men.

“One of the things we were committed to was teaching these guys a basic set of leadership principles that allows them to become confident, to increase their self-esteem. So, that if a women with a Ph.D. wants to marry a garbage man they can look at each other as equals. The reality is, successful marriages are ones that share parallel experiences,” said Crawley.

Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. An estimated 22,000 alumni live and work in western Pennsylvania.