On February 27 of this year, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK). MBK stands for the core principle that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed, and that your ability to get ahead should be determined by your hard work, ambition, and goals – not by the circumstances of your birth.
Yet boys and young men of color consistently face some of the most severe challenges to success. We need make sure we’re giving all Americans the chance and opportunity to get a quality education, grow up in a safe neighborhood, and receive positive reinforcement from their community to succeed. Making sure that all our youth have opportunities to reach their full potential is what MBK is all about.
The President has declared 2014 a year of action – and MBK is an example of how he is using his convening power and the information and expertise that reside within the federal government to help communities in need. As Chair of the MBK Federal Interagency Task Force (Task Force), I’ve been working with federal agencies across the government as part of a 90-day process to take inventory of what the federal government is doing and to identify what works.
Throughout this process, the Task Force has been listening to and engaging communities and advocates to learn from them. There’s much to learn from work already being done across the country in the public and private sector. We’ve been listening – in-person and through webinars – to hear from leading experts, policymakers, law enforcement, and others on what should be fixed and what’s already working. Concurrently, there is a private sector effort underway as well.
The response to the President’s call-to-action on MBK has been overwhelming. We are excited about the enthusiasm and interest from foundations, businesses, communities and individuals. The results of our initial 90-day MBK review will be provided to the President at the end of this month. MBK recognizes that all of us – parents, teachers, companies and religious, and community leaders, to name a few – have an active role to play and a responsibility to be involved. I hope that you too will answer the President’s call-to-action and get involved to see how we can collectively improve outcomes for our youth.
Our work is just beginning. It will take more than 90 days to reverse the disturbing trends of incarceration, access to quality education and inadequate family and community support that plague our boys and young men of color.
But the President is committed to this long-term effort. What we’ve been hearing across the country has been amazing. At a standing room only MBK “listening” session in Detroit, I was particularly struck by the comments of several young men who described how they had become aware of the school-to-prison pipeline.
Either through their own unfortunate experiences with “zero-tolerance” discipline or because their own fathers or brothers were on that pipeline and landed in prison, these young men discussed their own susceptibility and fears. They told us how they headed in the right direction: through their own hard work and the commitment of caring adults.
As the father of two sons, this story personally inspired me. I know the President is dedicated to doing everything possible to provide the support that all of our young peopIe need – and deserve. I hope you will answer his call.