A student eyes the Emancipation Proclamation as the President gave students from William R. Harper High School in Chicago a tour of the Oval Office, June 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
United Effort Between Philanthropic, Government, Business and Community Leaders to Create New Ladders of Opportunity from ‘Cradle to Career.’
During the January 2014 State of the Union, President Barack Obama took a bold step while addressing the branches of government and the nation, stating:
“I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential.”
As I sat in Oakland’s Everett & Jones Restaurant with others we immediately began to brainstorm what those words signaled for our communities locally, and nationally. When was the last time you heard the White House proactively address the successful development of young men of color? The My Brother’s Keeper initiative, signals much needed change.
(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
From the East Room of the White House, President Obama launched the My Brothers Keeper Initiative, aimed at empowering boys and young men of color, a segment of our society which too often faces disproportionate challenges and obstacles to success. “My future is only limited by my own vision of it,” said Christian Champagne, an 18 year old senior at Hyde Park Career Academy (Chicago) who later introduced the President.
The challenges faced by boys and young men of color are seen across the nation, and especially here at home throughout the Bay Area. Programs such as the Omega Boys Club (SF), Office of African American Achievement (OUSD – Oakland), East Oakland Youth Development Center (Oakland), Berkeley Youth Alternatives (Berkeley) and others, have worked tirelessly to close the gap on high school graduation, mentoring, skills building and other needs. Todays announcement of the initiative gives hope that these models, and others will be championed while also being supported for growth and local sustainability.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CD-13) hailed the new initiative:
“It was an honor to join Congressional colleagues, community leaders, the faith community, and non-profit innovators at the President’s launch of “My Brother’s Keeper.” As a mother of two phenomenal black men, who I raised as a single mother, I know these issues personally. Young men of color in our country have been left behind, the economic gains of our recovery aren’t reaching them, and time and time again, they are marginalized and forgotten. From health disparities to lower reading levels, higher unemployment rates to sky-high incarceration rates, men of color are behind on nearly every measure.”
The My Brothers Keeper Task Force will be chaired by Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson. The interagency Task Force will work across executive departments and agencies to:
- Assess the impact of Federal policies, regulations, and programs of general applicability on boys and young men of color, so as to develop proposals that will enhance positive outcomes and eliminate or reduce negative ones.
- Recommend, where appropriate, incentives for the broad adoption by national, State, and local public and private decision makers of effective and innovative strategies and practices for providing opportunities to and improving outcomes for boys and young men of color.
- Create an Administration-wide “What Works” online portal to disseminate successful programs and practices that improve outcomes for boys and young men of color.
- Develop a comprehensive public website, to be maintained by the Department of Education, that will assess, on an ongoing basis, critical indicators of life outcomes for boys and young men of color in absolute and relative terms.
- Work with external stakeholders to highlight the opportunities, challenges, and efforts affecting boys and young men of color.
- Recommend to the President means of ensuring sustained efforts within the Federal Government and continued partnership with the private sector and philanthropic community as set forth in the Presidential Memorandum.
“All of our sons and brothers need support and opportunities to be successful,” said Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment. “As tomorrow’s leaders, young people of color will help define America’s future. Now is the time to work together, invest in these young people, and provide them what they need to be responsible and healthy adults.”
The new initiative will leverage both the philanthropic and business communities to support this cross-sector effort. Foundations participating include The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and The Kapor Center for Social Impact. Many of the foundations are members of the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color – a coalition of philanthropic institutions committed to leveraging philanthropy’s role in improving life outcomes for boys and men of color.