The My Brother's Keeper initiative was launched in late February by President Barack Obama to create equal access to opportunities by eliminating barriers to success faced by young men of color. It focuses on unveiling the full potential of young men of color through an assets-based approach. The president shared his own personal experience of growing up without a father in the home and making some bad choices. However, he also highlights what led to his success.
The network of support provided by his family and surrounding community provided him with second chances and encouraged him to never give up. Yet, for far too many young men of color, second chances have not been made available and their hopes has been diminished.
Through the initiative, President Obama seeks to create meaningful change by ensuring the America's promise of the "land of opportunity" is within the reach of our young men. He declared 2014 as a year of action to take strategic strides to open the window of opportunity for all. He declared we must take action in order to "give more Americans the support they need to make good choices, and to be resilient, and to overcome obstacles, and achieve their dreams."
We must have a sense of urgency when we consider the severity of the barriers that young men of color face both nationally and locally. In Minnesota, educational disparities are widespread, which is evidenced by 79 percent of African-American boys and 77 percent of Hispanic and Native-American boys reading below proficiency level at 4th grade, while 53 percent of White 4th graders are reading below proficiency. There is also a public health crisis when African-American youth ages 10 to 24 years have the highest homicide rates in Minnesota at 69 deaths per 100,000 compared to their White counterparts at 39 per 100,000 people.
These are the facts, but they need not be our reality.
It is easy to acquiesce and simply say this is the way things are, but this is not the way things should be. We have the power to create a vision of an America where young men of color thrive in every aspect of their lives. This is within our reach if we have the courage to break down the barriers emerging at the intersections of race and poverty. A coalition of My Brother's Keeper supporters have pledged to invest $200 million dollars over the next five years for the implementation of evidence-based interventions that focus on six key milestones – getting a healthy start in life and school (early childhood education), reading well by third grade, graduating from high school, completing post-secondary educational training, getting a job and staying on track and getting a second chance.
My Brother's Keeper is a call to action for each of us since we must be proactive in what the president called "... broadening the horizons for our young men and giving them the tools they need to succeed will require a sustained effort from us all."
Will you take the challenge today and commit to being your brother's keeper?
For more information about My Brother's Keeper Initiative, visit www.whitehouse.gov/my-brothers-keeper.