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Answering the President’s call with My Brother’s Keeper

Roger Caldwell

Roger Caldwell

Answering the President’s call with My Brother’s Keeper

By Roger Caldwell

In February 2014, the President launched a new initiative entitled My Brother’s Keeper. The initial purpose of the program was to put together a “Task Force,” which would travel across the country and learn the best practices in the different communities of color. The task force was given 90 days to listen, observe, engage, ask questions, and present the President with a report, and action plans to move forward with saving young men of color.

The President has declared 2014, a year of action, and he is dedicated to doing everything possible to knock down barriers and encourage our young men of color. It is a fact that Black, Hispanic, and Native American young men are less likely to graduate, stay out of jail, and find a good job. From the very beginning the odds are stacked up against these young men, and the country acts as if they do not exist.

Many of these young men come from single family households, and they will get suspended, expelled from school or just drop out. Many African Americans are asking what the President is doing, and very few people of color know the program exists. This is a great program and the President must do a better job marketing this initiative and more civic organizations, political organizations, and businesses must help get the word out.

In certain Black circles, there are questions about the credibility and integrity of the project. Some of the folks are asking where the federal funding for the program is, and President Obama needs to go to the Congress, and ask for funding. But at this point, the President is asking businesses, philanthropic organizations and citizens to reach in their pockets to help get the project started.

Last week, the White House released the task force’s first report. The 60 page task force report identified key milestones for predicting later success for a non-white young man. This report is very significant, because it explains why most boys born in poverty never find a way out of their condition. Boys of color begin falling behind in school in the third grade, and they never catch up.

Some of the milestones the report indicated as important were as follows: 1, Getting a healthy start in life and school, 2, Reading well by third grade, 3, Graduating from high school, 4, Completing post-secondary education or training, 5, Getting a job, and 6, Staying on track and getting a second chance. “At each of these milestones some individuals start to fall behind. Once a young person falls behind, success becomes exponentially more difficult,” the report says.
This initiative is very important to the President, because he came from a one parent household. Back in February, when the President talked about his childhood, he compared himself to many young men of today getting high and not focused on school.

“I didn’t have a dad in the house 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,” said President Obama.
But the President had a support system with his grandparents, teachers, community leaders, and this encouraged him to not give up on himself. The project My Brother’s Keeper is about not giving up on young men of color, and giving them a second and third chance.

Instead of criticizing the program, make a commitment to helping boys and young men who have fallen off the tracks. The work is just beginning, and the response to the President’s call-to-action has been good. But, we must be engaged in this initiative for the long haul, because reversing the deplorable conditions in communities of color will take an entire change in the mindset of entire America.


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