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.

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8 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: The President’s Black Male Initiative Is Hard At Work To Help Young Men of Color

  1. I meant ‘dire’ situation. At any rate it’s a complicated issue for Black males that are in dire straits, and a situation that won’t be resolved over night. But it does have to start somewhere. it starts with the family first, and foremost, teachers, strong Black male role models, LOCAL POLITICIANS putting policies in place, and local clergy leading the way. One of the main reasons I have little respect for the clergy is the example of them coming out against gay marriage. My point is if you agree with gay marriage, or not….THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS like jobs, housing, job training, etc. that the clergy should be addressing, and doing something about. Bunch of hypocrites!!

    • IanRousseault on said:

      As a black man, I reject the conversation that we are in dire straits! There are soooooo many successful men of color that are doing their thing and living an unbelievable wonderful life, as it should be. just because there are a large amount of dumb ass knuckle heads that want to live that ghetto rap star uneducated life, doesn’t for one second take away what men of color have been doing for a long time, and that is handling their business as Men! So I am sooooo sick and F______ tired of hearing this BULL____ about how dire things are for men of color. IT’S NOT TRUE!!!!! We have always had the opportunity to live our lives and be as successful as any other race!

  2. President Obama is in a situation where he’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t (address the dyer situation of a lot of young black males). It’s a Catch 22. Note I said “a lot”…..NOT ALLL Black males. Because in spite of reports there are lots of Black males that are doing ok. They are gainfully employed, not incarcerated, in college, etc. We seldom hear of the success stories because a lot of people thrive on negativity.

  3. YoungBlackWoman on said:

    I still don’t see how this is beneficial to my community? 1,000,000 interviews still wouldn’t correct the problems plaguing our young people. WHERE ARE THE ACTIVISTS? WHERE ARE THE “REAL MEN” THAT MARCHED WITH DR. KING AND SHUTTLESWORTH? WHERE IS THE NAACP (which I didn’t even know still existed until recently),WHERE ARE THE EXAMPLES? To show our young men how to respect and carry themselves. To hold up a higher standard so the females can fall in line. An article describing how the government is doing research is identify obvious issues to resolve… excuse me if I don’t applaud. I’m not easily satisfied with being pacified. The help will not come from the government, it MUST come from within. But sad to say… just as 1000 celebrities holding #BringOurGirlsHome posters will no sooner free those Nigerian children; no sooner will a glorified research project #MBK make any advancement within my community :’-{

  4. Francisco on said:

    $9­­­­­­­­­7­­­­­­­­­/­­­­­­­­­h­­­­­­­­­r­­­­­­­­­ ­­­­­­­­­p­­­­­­­­­av­­­­­­­­­iv­­­­­­­­­d­­­­­­­­­v­­­­­­­­­ b­­­­­­­­­y G­­­­­­­­­oog­­­­­­­­­le­­­­­­­­­, I­­­­­­­­­ am ­­­­­­­­­making ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­good ­­­­­­­­­salary ­­­­­­­­­from ­­­­­­­­­home ­­­­­­­­­$5500­­­­­­­­­-­­­­­­­­­$7000/week ­­­­­­­­­, ­­­­­­­­­which ­­­­­­­­­is ­­­­­­­­­amazing, ­­­­­­­­­under ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­year ­­­­­­­­­ago ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­was ­­­­­­­­­jobless in ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­horrible ­­­­­­­­­economy. ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­thank ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­God ­­­­­­­­­every ­­­­­­­­­day ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­was ­­­­­­­­­blessed ­­­­­­­­­with ­­­­­­­­­these ­­­­­­­­­instructions ­­­­­­­­­and ­­­­­­­­­now ­­­­­­­­­it’s ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­my ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­duty ­­­­­­­­­to ­­­­­­­­­pay ­­­­­­­­­it ­­­­­­­­­forward ­­­­­­­­­and ­­­­­­­­­share ­­­­­­­­­it ­­­­­­­­­with ­­­­­­­­­Everyone, ­­­­­­­­­Here ­­­­­­­­­is ­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­started,,,­­­­­­­­­

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  5. candyapple on said:

    I agree with point number 1. As for blacks being more prone to crime, I agree that they are. Blacks could take advantage of free k-12 education. They could do their homework, read a book from the free library, they could respect their teachers and listen and pay attention in class… But they CHOOSE not to do these things, therefore, they can’t get jobs because they can’t read or write. Blacks want to be JayZ instead of Frederick Douglas, and that’s the problem. Own it. Point #3, whites, jews, Indian were all slaves too… every race has been enslaved…. it’s just they were smart enough to overcome it and not dwell on it and use it as an excuse or justify crime. I’m sorry, really I am, but blacks really are the dumbest race on the planet… there is no other race that is beneath them… there is no other race that has accomplished so little or contributed so little as the black race… and that’s just a fact.

  6. Dean on said:

    This is ridiculous. This “My Brothers Keeper” initiative is a drop in the bucket. Here are thngs that Obama can do but won’t that will be much more effective. 1. A job is the best social program that there is, yet Obama is pushing amnesty for illegal immegrants that would cement in jobs that illegals have stolen from blacks. (See http://www.theroot.com/articles/politics/2010/02/how_illegal_immigration_hurts_black_america.html?utm_medium=feed&obref=obinsite and after reading the first two paragraphs you’ll realize that illegals have stolen millions of jobs from blacks.) Here’s immigration reform we can believe in: 1. Make E-Verify mandatory for current and future employees and have the process issue a numbered receipt to show compliance 2. Have enforced penalties of at least $20,000 per employee per day that do not pass E-Verify. 3. Couple that with prompt appeals of those who do not pass. 4. Couple that with the provision that expenses for employees that do not pass E-Verify are not tax-deductable as a business expense. This will turn off the magnet of work and will not lead to deportation costs. The unemployment rate of US citizens and legal immigrants will go down as the illegals go back home by train, plane, automobile, boat or foot! Problem solved!

    2. Penal-Industrial Complex Reform. The US has one-quarter the population of China yet it has more people in jail and prision —and China is an authoritarian or totalitarian country. Between the ages of 20 and 30, 30% of black men in America will be in prison, parole, jail, or probation. About 40% of jail/prison inmates in the USA are black. Are blacks more prone to crime? Perhaps because of poverty and lack of jobs (See point 1 above) and racial discrimination but they are not inherendtly THAT much more prone to crime. The criminal-justice system (Part of the Penal –Industrial Complex) is not a level playing field. Study after study after study have shown that it’s titled against black at evey level—and severely so—from arrest, to booking to charging to convicting to sentencing to probation and parole. And once these men get out of jail, they have a heck of a time finding jobs because not they have a criminal record. And the absence of such as productive members of black society tears the fabric of the black community, meaning more crime, children without the postive influence of a man, etc. And yet Obama can do something about this. He has the power of pardon that he doesn’t use in this effort and he has the power of what to prosecute in the Department of Justice. And he has the power of the Bully Pullpit and example for reforms that need Congressional and approval in the 50 states.

    3. Obama should start and lead an effort to come clean with the effects of slavery and Jim Crow. Every time such a discussion as this comes up about the ills that plague blacks in America, some “wise-guy” such as “iann11” here that says something like “This is a Travesty, Why are black families failing their children every day!!! Black men should live with their children in the same home, Stop having multiple children with multiple women, Educate your children, Talk with your children everyday about expectations you have of them. Love your children, don’t walk out on them.” This is blame the victim talk. Why do we know that it’s blame the victim talk. Because it’s not all blacks in America that he’s talking about. It’s about African Americans—the descendants of Africans enslaved and brought to America and not Nigerian Americans, Kenyan Americans, Ghanaian Americans, etc.

    • IanRousseault on said:

      The President of The United States has a Country to run! Black America as a whole need to take their own initiative and help ourselves by getting our education and STOP looking for other people to pull us out of despair! If you just go to school and STOP trying to be stupid ass rappers, and looking up to that horrendous hippty hop music! The reason there are a lot of black folk that are in despair, is their OWN fault and problem. Pull your ass out of reality tv long enough to make something of yourselves!

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