07 01 2015
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President Barack Obama speaks about the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative in the East Room of the White House in 2014. In May 2015, President Obama helped business leaders and community stakeholders launch My Brother’s Keeper Alliance

 WASHINGTON (NNPA) – While political pundits rush ahead to the 2016 presidential election, President Barack Obama is rallying private-sector, philanthropic and community leaders to launch an independent non-profit to ensure that the My Brother’s Keeper initiative lives past his second term in office.

The initiative and its mission to expand opportunities and improve life outcomes for young men and boys of color will live on as the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.

As President Obama helped launch the Alliance at Lehman College in West Bronx, N.Y., he said the goals are:

  • Double the percentage of boys and young men of color who read at grade level by the third grade,
  • Increase high school graduation rates for young men of color by 20 percent
  • Send 50,000 of those young men to college or post-high school training

“I notice we don’t always get a lot of reporting on this issue when there’s not a crisis in some neighborhood. But we’re just going to keep on plugging away,” said President Obama. “And this will remain a mission for me and for Michelle not just for the rest of my presidency, but for the rest of my life.”

Alliance will “Tear Down Barriers”

The Alliance will also develop a guide to help mobilize private sector leaders to address the myriad challenges facing young men of color and provide $7 million in grants to evidence-based programs and another $15-$25 million to support communities in building capacity for those programs and local infrastructure.

Companies, including American Express, Ariel Investments, BET Networks, PepsiCo and Sam’s Club, committed more than $80 million in cash donations to the MBK Alliance.

In a letter to supporters and community stakeholders, Broderick Johnson, the chair of the My Brother’s Keeper task force at the White House, said that he looked forward to the Alliance tearing down barriers facing underserved and at-risk youth.

Johnson said that the task force is working with the Education and Health and Human Services Departments to address the disproportionate impact of preschool suspensions on students of color and with the Labor Department to help young people gain work-related skill on a pathway to careers.

Johnson also noted that the Justice Department the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing are working to promote community-oriented policing practices and to improve life outcomes for young people that encounter the criminal justice system.

One High School Dropout Costs Us $1 Million

Leroy Hughes, Jr., the interim executive director of Concerned Black Men National, a group that provides mentoring programs and supports career and academic achievement for young boys of color, said that instead of just throwing funding at the issue, the initiative is building a strong foundation by:

  • defining the problems
  • identifying likely solutions and
  • challenging communities to put all of the pieces together for a long-term strategy.

“I think it was a smart move, because they can actually talk about real issues affecting Black men and boys now,” said Hughes.

And addressing those issues can lead to real economic benefits for the nation.

A fact sheet released by the Alliance said that just one disconnected young man costs society nearly $1 million over his lifetime.

“High school graduates pay more taxes, draw less from social welfare programs and are less likely to commit crimes than drop-outs,” stated the brief. “Research shows that closing the achievement gap between young men of color and their peers could increase the annual GDP by as much as $2.1 trillion.”

My Brothers Keeper is Like the GI Bill

Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, applauded President Obama for his efforts to keep the momentum going through public private partnerships and community ownership.

“My Brother’s Keeper Alliance will serve as a helpful tool in placing more young men of color on a path to success. These young men will become our nation’s leading entrepreneurs, scholars, lawmakers and law enforcement officials,” said Brooks. “Just as the GI Bill fueled the growth and development of thousands of young people a generation ago, today’s young people deserve our investment today. “

Brooks continued: “As our nation begins to address the unrest wrought by racial profiling in cities like Ferguson, Cleveland and Baltimore, the NAACP looks forward to working collaboratively with My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to ensure that all young men of color are maximizing their full educational and professional potential.”

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