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Obama: My Brother’s Keeper enters new phase

By Freddie Allen/NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent
On June 1, 2015

President Obama announcing his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.
Credit: Freddie Allen/NNPA News Wire

(NNPA) – While political pundits rush ahead to the 2016 presidential election, President Barack Obama is working to secure the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Initiative so that it lives past his second term in office. With the support of private-sector, philanthropic and community leaders, the initiative will live on as the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.

During the launch ceremony of the Alliance at Lehman College in West Bronx, N.Y., Obama said that the group aims to double the percentage of boys and young men of color who read at grade level by the third grade, increase their high school graduation rates by 20 percent and get 50,000 young men into college or post-high school training.

“I notice we don’t always get a lot of reporting on this issue when there’s not a crisis in some neighborhood. But we’re just going to keep on plugging away,” said Obama. “And this will remain a mission for me and for Michelle not just for the rest of my presidency, but for the rest of my life.”

The MBK Alliance will also develop a guide to help mobilize private-sector leaders to address the myriad challenges facing young men of color. $7 million in grants will be provided to evidence-based programs, and another $15-$25 million will be used to support communities in building capacity for those programs and local infrastructure.

In a letter to supporters and community stakeholders, Broderick Johnson, chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force at the White House, said that he looked forward to the focus that the Alliance would bring to tearing down barriers facing underserved and at-risk youth.

He said that the task force is working with the Education and Health and Human Services Departments to address the disproportionate impact of preschool suspensions on students of color, and with the Labor Department to help young people gain work-related skills.

Johnson also noted that the Justice Department’s President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing is working to promote community-oriented policing practices and to improve life outcomes for young people that encounter the criminal justice system.

Leroy Hughes, Jr., interim executive director of Concerned Black Men National, a group that provides mentoring programs and supports career and academic achievement for young boys of color, asserts that a solution has to be more involved than just throwing funding at the issue. By building a strong foundation through the initiative, defining the problems and likely solutions in two separate reports and issuing the community challenge last year, a long-term strategy was created.

Hughes said that launching the Alliance puts the onus on the community to become proactively engaged, and reaching out to corporate America and those in the philanthropic sector speaks to the Obama administration’s effort to get all of us to buy in to the program.

“Too often, young men of color are forced to overcome impossible odds in the face of low expectations,” said Sammie Dow, the youth and college director of the NAACP. “Our hope is that the newly announced Alliance will create an abundance of educational and professional opportunities for young men of color throughout the nation, and equip them with the training, resources and support they need to be high achievers.”

CBM National recently announced that the group would open a satellite office in Baltimore in an effort to help the city heal in the wake of the unrest that followed the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. The group plans to open the office within the next two months.

“We know that as one organization, we can’t solve all of the problems in Baltimore, but we wanted to be a part of the solution,” said Hughes. “As a national community-based organization, [opening the office] is consistent with our mission. We had an obligation to go to Baltimore and we are excited to have the opportunity, because we know that we’re going to help change some lives.”

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