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Hip Hop Corner: Expanding the ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ tent

By Jineea Butler/NNPA Columnist
On November 10, 2014

My Brother’s Keeper hopes to establish small communities with same model.
Credit: whitehouse.gov

My Brother’s Keeper Initiative was developed under the Obama administration to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color. In September, President Obama issued a challenge to cities, towns, counties and tribes across the country to become “MBK Communities.” The MBK Challenge encourages communities to implement a coherent cradle to college and career strategies for improving life outcomes of all young people.

Julián Castro, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said “The My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge is really about highlighting effective strategies, and it’s about offering an organizing principle and adding momentum to some of the tremendous work that is already being done from coast to coast.”

Tony Neal, founder of the Core DJ’s Worldwide and a community leader in his own right, has been dedicated to lifting up the community through his work.  In response to Obama’s Challenge, Neal introduced me to Gentlemen of a Distinguish Nature (GODN) Entertainment, an organization influential with young men and women in urban communities across America.

I had a very candid conversation with Shawn Craig, the CEO of GODN Entertainment about what he has accomplished since stepping back out on the streets in 2009 after a 10-year prison stint. His mission has been to follow the Larry Hoover blueprint of growth and development by enlisting his comrades into what he calls the new drug game. In this new drug game, Craig boasted that you don’t have to sell drugs or commit crimes you can sell music, movies, jewelry, and clothing.

Craig told me that what he has been able to do is transfer the skills he mastered on the streets into a sustainable enterprise that most importantly supports programs for underprivileged children and battered women called STEPS (Striving Together Encouraging Progression and Success). He constantly instills discipline, dedication and integrity into his network that spans 26 states and more than 30,000 people. He shows young men and women how to rebuild their lives from negative to positive and is focused on recycling wealth within the community.

When we think about the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, we think of structured programming that is designed to guide our young people down the path to the American dream. No one wants our children to believe that life on the streets or going in and out of prison is a credible career. Our children want the best that life has to offer but often do not have proper structure to attain it. They gravitate to lifestyles that are comfortable and familiar.

Phillip Jackson, the founder of The Black Star Project, said “The best mentoring organizations in Chicago are street gangs. Street gangs are more committed than churches, street gangs are more committed than our communities and more than the government to our children.”

While GODN Entertainment is not a gang, I doubt that it would be invited to the table to talk My Brother’s Keeper collaborations even though the work they do is highly commendable. When we dismiss unconventional methods to engage our youth, we miss opportunities to find a collective solution. Followers of Larry Hoover are committed to building a national network using strategies that organize masses of young people under one umbrella for political and economic development.

Music has been one of the most impressionable art forms of our time. Craig’s organization has been infiltrating the airwaves with music that tells the real story on the streets. They expose the manufactured puppets of hip hop for the propaganda they are being used to spread. They refer to each other as kings, gentleman, ladies and queens. Their goal is to elevate the mind, body and soul.

The prison culture has spilled out on the streets where our young people begin to see the world for themselves. When they see GODN Entertainment doing community cleanups in 26 states, they see their brother’s keeper.

They can learn from us and we can learn from them, but we can’t be opposed to building together.  I am going to challenge Craig to incorporate the MBK community in the GODN structure, I hope they are recognized just as everyone else. For more information, visit godnent.com.

Jineea Butler is founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union. Email her at jineea@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at @flygirlladyjay.

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