He’s Not Heavy: Black Women Show Support For My Brother’s Keeper Initiative

July 1, 2014  |  

A group of notable black women from across the country have signed a letter endorsing the sole focus of My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative on the issues facing young black males.

The group of black women, speaking in a unified voice under the umbrella of the National Women Leadership Supporting My Brother’s Keeper, made public its support of MBK as a means to fight the “very bleak statistics” facing African-American and Hispanic boys. It was signed by the likes of Melanie Campbell, chief executive of The Black Women’s Roundtable; Shirley Franklin, the former mayor of Atlanta; Chanelle Hardy, executive director of the National Urban League’s Washington Bureau; and the Rev. Bernice King, daughter of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The dire statistics pertaining to boys and young men of color suggests the need for a more targeted approach,” read the letter.

Some have called for the initiative to include young women of color. A group of men, which included James Turner, founder of the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University; Charles Steele, president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); and former NFL player Wade Davis Jr., sent letters to the White House urging for the inclusion of women.

And another letter from a group of 1,000 women, including black academics and intellectuals like the author Alice Walker and lawyer Anita Hill, made the same request.

“The need to acknowledge the crisis facing boys should not come at the expense of addressing the stunted opportunities for girls who live in the same households, suffer in the same schools, and struggle to overcome a common history of limited opportunities caused by various forms of discrimination,” says the letter.

But the White House is sticking to it decision and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett defended MBK, dismissed the arguments to include black girls.

“I think the flaw in the logic is not understanding that this is not either/or, this is both/and,” Jarrett said. “The president’s approach is to create a society where nobody gets left behind, and right now our young boys of color are falling farther and farther behind than everybody.”

MBK will receive no funding from the federal government. Philanthropic foundations have already committed $150 million in support of the initiative. “Over the next five years, these foundations will seek to invest another $200 million along with additional investments the group hopes to secure from other philanthropists and businesses,” reports MSNBC.

There are fears that MBK won’t last long in any form. Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University in New Orleans, wrote in The Root last week that “My Brother’s Keeper will disappear as soon as President Obama leaves office.

“Let’s not write any more open letters, op-eds or tweets. Instead, write grants for studies on black girls and women, or to support existing programs like Black Girls Rock or Black Girls Code,” he said. “Write black mayors, whom we never challenge on anything, and ask them to fund specific initiatives. Write plans for community action. We need to develop an agenda and act on it.”

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