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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Am I My Brother's Keeper? Yes, I Am!

If not me, who?  If not now, when?

President Obama unveiled his 'Brother's Keeper' initiative this week to direct more attention to the needs and plight of young African American males. It would be second time, on a national scale, that the president has addressed the plight of young, urban, African American men.

You may recall the president speaking in the James Brady briefing room after the death of Trayvon Martin where he said, "we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys. And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?"

The president's My Brother's Keeper initiative is designed to give young people more choices, to help them overcome obstacles and realize their dreams.

Explained President Obama, "And that’s what “My Brother’s Keeper” is all about, helping more of our young people stay on track; providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future;  building on what works, when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.

"My neighbor’s child is my child”, said the president, "that each of us has an obligation to give every child the same chance this country gave so many of us."

The staggering statistics.
Many boys and young men of color will arrive at kindergarten less prepared than their peers in early language and literacy skills, leaving them less likely to finish school. Labor-force participation rates for young men of color have dropped, and far too many lack the skills they need to succeed. The disproportionate number of African American and Hispanic young men who are unemployed or involved in the criminal justice system undermines family and community stability and is a drag on State and Federal budgets. And, young men of color are far more likely to be victims of murder than their white peers, accounting for almost half of the country's murder victims each year. These outcomes are troubling, and they represent only a portion of the social and economic cost to our Nation when the full potential of so many boys and young men is left unrealized.

President Obama met with students from Chicago's Hyde Park high school
at the White House to launch My Brother's Keeper.
Said the president after unveiling his My Brother's Keeper initiative, "By focusing on the critical challenges, risk factors, and opportunities for boys and young men of color at key life stages, we can improve their long-term outcomes and ability to contribute to the Nation's competiveness, economic mobility and growth, and civil society. Unlocking their full potential will benefit not only them, but all Americans.

The president is seeking help not only from parents, teachers and communities he also is soliciting help from the federal government, state and local officials, the private sector, and the philanthropic community.

Said the president, "None of this is going to be easy.  This is not a one-year proposition.  It’s not a two-year proposition.  It's going to take time.  We're dealing with complicated issues that run deep in our history, run deep in our society, and are entrenched in our minds.  And addressing these issues will have to be a two-way bargain.  Because no matter how much the community chips in, it’s ultimately going to be up to these young men and all the young men who are out there to step up and seize responsibility for their own lives."

Related sources and info
Alliance for boys and men of color
Initiative's Task Force

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