COMMENTARY: Obama’s Greatest Legacy: Empowering Young Men of Color

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Last week, the Obama administration released a 60-page report outlining a series of critical statistics, personal accounts and guidelines and recommendations for moving “My Brother’s Keeper” forward. As part of its 90-day report, the Task Force identified a set of initial recommendations to the President, and a blueprint for action by government, business, non-profit, philanthropic, faith and community partners. For example, about 25% of Blacks, 27% of American Indian and Alaska natives, and 23% of Hispanics live in poverty compared to just 11.6 percent of Whites.

More than two-thirds of Black children live with one parent compared to one-third of Hispanic children. Moreover, research suggests that a father’s absence increases the risk of his child dropping out of school among Blacks by 75% percent and among Hispanics by 96% respectively.

On a conference call, Valerie Jarrett, White House senior adviser; Cecilia Muñoz, White House director of Domestic Policy; and Broderick Johnson, White House cabinet secretary and chair of the “My Brother’s Keeper” Task Force, discussed the President’s national call to action: Obama is asking Americans to sign up to mentor Black boys and young men of color. Obama announced that former NBA star and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson with co-lead a private effort focused on supporting boys and young men of color.

Since the launch of “My Brother’s Keeper,” Jarrett said the President’s Task Force has met with and heard from thousands of Americans, through online and in-person listening sessions. Cities and towns, businesses, foundations, faith leaders and individuals have made commitments to helping youth get a strong start in school and life and later connect them to mentoring, support networks and specialized skills they need to find a good job or go to college.

In developing its recommendations, the Task Force also identified key milestones: Getting a healthy start and entering school ready to learn; reading by third grade; graduating from high school ready for college and career; completing post-secondary education or training; entering the workforce; and keeping kids on track and giving them second chances.

The report also said the following foundations will together seek to invest at least $200 million in “My Brother’s Keeper:” 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, The Kapor Center for Social Impact, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. This initiative is meaningful work that will ultimately touch many lives and help young Black boys and young men of color succeed in life.

“We’ve got a huge number of kids out there who have as much talent, and more talent than I had, but nobody is investing in them,” Obama said at the White House. “And I want to make sure that I use this platform, and every Cabinet member here wants to make sure that they use the tools that they’ve got, so that these young men, young boys, know somebody cares about them, somebody is thinking about them, and that they can succeed, and making America stronger as a consequence.”

For Obama, “My Brother’s Keeper” is an important cornerstone in his legacy as America’s first Black president, but more important, he is laying a lasting foundation to rescue Black boys and young men of color who desperately need direction, guidance — and a genuine sense of hope.

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