Obama Ensures The Continuation Of My Brother’s Keeper Initiative For Young African-American Men

May 5, 2015  |  

When President Barack Obama announced the My Brother’s Keeper program targeting young Black males last year he said he was fully behind the initiative.

Now he is making sure the program (which was somewhat controversial for a number of reasons including the lack of participation by young Black women) will survive even after he leaves the White House.

Obama has announced a new private-sector support  for the program, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance at Lehman College, during a launch event in the Bronx, New York. Obama not only delivered his remarks, but participated in a roundtable discussion with young men from New York and across the United States.

“As the nation grows more diverse, businesses must evolve to address the needs of changing demographics. Labor projections suggest that by 2018, U.S. employers will need 22 million new workers with a post-secondary education — will have only 19 million available,” according to a fact sheet for the new alliance. “By 2020, the majority of Americans under the age of 18 will be persons of color. As it stands, the opportunity gap among boys and young men of color is a burden to the American economy.”

Former Deloitte CEO Joe Echevarria is spearheading the effort along with help from current and former government officials, Fortune 500 CEOs, entertainment bigwigs, and others, reports Politico.

Separately but related, the President spoke in the Bronx yesterday and, as The Daily Beast tells it, is steadily returning to his roots, addressing the issues plaguing the poor and, more specifically, poor Black Americans. Based on his remarks, the site says it appears the President will spend a large part of his retirement focusing on these issues when he leaves office in 2017.

He said:

“People tweet outrage. And the TV cameras come. And they focus more on somebody setting fire to something or turning over a car than the peaceful protests and the thoughtful discussions that are taking place. And then some will argue, well, all these social programs don’t make a difference. And we cast blame. And politicians talk about poverty and inequality, and then gut policies that help alleviate poverty or reverse inequality. And then we wait for the next outbreak or problem to flare up. And we go through the same pattern all over again. So that, in effect, we do nothing.

“There are consequences to inaction. There are consequences to indifference. And they reverberate far beyond the walls of the projects, or the borders of the barrio, or the roads of the reservation. They sap us of our strength as a nation. It means we’re not as good as we could be. And over time, it wears us out. Over time, it weakens our nation as a whole.”

Update (May 6): We received the following statement from Assemblymember Michael Black this morning and wanted to share his thoughts.

“It was transformational for the boys and young men of color of The Bronx to have President Obama announce the launch of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance in our great borough of The Bronx, New York. It reminded them that despite tough conditions that they are remarkable, intelligent and capable to realize their dreams.

It was touching to watch the young men intently listening to each word of President Obama speak of having mentors guide him through his struggles and be given a second chance in a “more forgiving world”. I was a young man of color who had mentors and community leaders encourage and guide me through my struggles. Serving our country as President Obama’s White House Director of African American and minority business outreach allowed me to learn of best practices to bring back to my hometown of The Bronx; returning even more determined and committed to help our next generation of Black and Brown boys and young men succeed. It was a validation of a life of service to give seven young men the opportunity to see the President in our borough and listen to his powerful message of YOU MATTER, YOUR LIFE MATTERS.

The student introducer, Darinel Montero, attends Bronx International High School in our district and beautifully shared how he came from the Dominican Republic to The Bronx because he wanted to be with his father and have better opportunities in life. He didn’t know English and had countless obstacles, but decided to press on and never quit. This is a mindset he can share with other young men.

My Brother’s Keeper Alliance is designed to enlist the private sector in helping address the achievement and opportunity gap between boys and young men of color and other young people. The more than $80 million in commitments will help community organizations provide more direct support to our young people, from literacy and job training to mentoring and career readiness.

Too many young black and Latino boys feel that no one hears them and that no one is helping them. It is now clear that we hear you, we are committed to your success, and your life truly matters.  Given the challenges and the opportunities we are facing, how fitting that this next chapter of progress starts in The Bronx.

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