Obama signs ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative
Freddie Allen | 3/10/2014, 8:14 a.m. | Updated on 3/10/2014, 1:41 p.m.
WASHINGTON – No one had seen President Barack Obama more emotional than last week when he announced “My Brother’s Keeper,” a new initiative aimed at helping young Black men. He spoke from the heart, recounting the pain of not having his father in the home and not always putting his best foot forward.
Attention now shifts from an emotional announcement to follow-up. The details of the initiative have not been fully fleshed out, but a memorandum Obama signed launching the “My Brother’s Keeper Task Force” chaired by Broderick Johnson, the cabinet secretary and assistant to the president, provides a closer look into how the president plans to move forward.
According to White House officials, the task force is designed to:
- Assess the impact of federal policies, regulations and programs of general applicability on boys and young men of color, so as to develop proposals that will enhance positive outcomes and eliminate or reduce negative ones.
- Recommend, where appropriate, incentives for the broad adoption by national, state, and local public and private decision makers of effective and innovative strategies and practices for providing opportunities to and improving outcomes for boys and young men of color.
- Create an administration-wide “What Works” online portal to disseminate successful programs and practices that improve outcomes for boys and young men of color.
- Develop a comprehensive public website, to be maintained by the Department of Education, that will assess, on an ongoing basis, critical indicators of life outcomes for boys and young men of color in absolute and relative terms.
- Work with external stakeholders to highlight the opportunities, challenges, and efforts affecting boys and young men of color.
- Recommend to the president means of ensuring sustained efforts within the federal government and continued partnership with the private sector and philanthropic community as set forth in the presidential memorandum.
Flanked by students from Being a Man, a Chicago-based program that teaches discipline, conflict resolution and offers mentoring, the president shared details of his life that all too-often mirror the experiences of young men of color.
“I didn’t have a dad in the house,” Obama said. “And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.”
The president shared that he “grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving” and that he relied on a support network of family, teachers and community leaders that many young Black men don’t have access to.
The president called on dozens of business leaders, nonprofit organizations and corporations to invest in and offer support for the initiative. The foundations pledged to invest $200 million over the next five years to lift up programs that are proven to work.
The president was joined by representatives of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The John and James L. Knight Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Kapor Center for Social Impact.
“From the White House, the president has been able to shine a light on issues that some of us have been working to address for decades,” said Shawn Dove, the manager for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement at the Open Societies Institute. “It’s a clarion call for collaboration and to handle some of America’s unfinished business.”