Along with his other recent efforts, President Barack Obama added some fuel to his My Brother’s Keeper initiative Monday afternoon, announcing his ongoing dedication to improving the lives and opportunities of young African American and Latino males, reports MSNBC.
This fuel comes in the form of a reported $104 million dollars in new private funding for My Brother’s Keeper. No new federal moneys are included:
“This is not something that’s just a one-off that’s going to happen one time and then we’re done,” Obama told a crowd at the Walker Jones Education Center in Washington. “This is a movement we are trying to build over the next year, five years, 10 years, so that we can look back and say we were part of something that reverses some trends that we don’t want to see.”
President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper to help address the cycles of violence and lack of opportunity and achievement that disproportionately affect young male African Americans and Latinos. From addressing high rates of school drop out to equally high rates of crime and incrimination, My Brother’s Keeper seeks to change these dismal and perpetual problems.
My Brother’s Keeper was launched six months ago beneath the cloud of George Zimmerman’s exoneration for killing Trayvon Martin. The death of Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman’s acquittal had a huge impact on President Obama.
While critics said he didn’t focus on race matters enough, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper, perhaps changing the critics’ impressions. Meetings with groups of mostly young African American men in Chicago followed, President Obama listening to their problems and struggles, creating part of the blueprint for what My Brother’s Keeper would need to address:
“I’ve had a chance to talk to some young people in the past and I always say that I see myself in the young men who are coming up now,” Obama said to the group, many of them young male minorities. “When I was in my teens I didn’t have a father in the house, it took me awhile to realize that I was angry about that and I acted out in some ways … The only difference between me and the extraordinarily talented young men I see all across the country is that I was living in a pretty forgiving environment, so if I made a mistake I often had a second chance or a third chance and sometimes a fourth chance … The costs of making mistakes, they weren’t deadly. I wasn’t going to end up shot, I wasn’t going to end up in jail.”
The progress My Brother’s Keeper has made in its first six months met with the approval of Attorney General Eric Holder, progress he believes will continue to gain momentum.
“(My Brother’s Keeper) is something that is well thought out and I think it’s getting a really good response and I think it’s involving people who don’t normally talk to one another about these issues and entities, sectors of our society that don’t normally talk to one another,” expressed Holder to MSNBC. “I think having the president’s personal commitment and his personal involvement is really helping.”
Holder also reflected on the challenges of growing up black in America, challenges that My Brother’s Keeper may help at risk young men overcome.
“I grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and I think of all the advantages I had by having a dad there and guys who grew up with me on the block and are in fundamentally different places,” Holder said. “Drug problems. Time in jail. And how to come up with ways in which we make my path the more regular one as opposed to the way too many people, who are my peers, ended up.
President Obama also fielded questions from the audience during the My Brother’s Keeper announcement.
Regarding critics, Obama said that people should only focus on “constructive criticism”, not “haters” according to Breitbart:
“Who gives you constructive criticism because they’re invested in the same things you are but maybe can see the things you can’t, versus folks who are just…What’d someone say? Hatin’? Somebody just hatin’, just haters?” said the President. “One thing you should learn is, if somebody is being constructive in their criticism, usually they are not criticizing you, they’re criticizing your actions and what you do and are giving you something specific.”
My Brother’s Keeper was originally a five-year $200 million dollar initiative, and with this additional funding will hopefully lead to positive change and many success stories.
Image via WhiteHouse.gov