The NoVo Foundation’s efforts to assist young women comes at a time when My Brother’s Keeper, an Obama White House initiative aimed at young men is touting his own successes. Here’s a statement by Broderick Johnson, Assistant to the President, Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force on the occasion of the program’s second anniversary:
Two and a half years ago, the president spoke to the nation after the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. He talked about the angst and anger that many parents and families were feeling and about the challenges facing too many young people, boys and young men of color in particular. He observed: “There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement,” and “There has to be more we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and val-ues them and is willing to invest in them.”
Six months later, the president launched My Brother’s Keeper in a ceremony held in the East Room of the White House. During his re-marks, the president recognized the challenges that can disproportion-ately affect boys and young men of color – and the need to find ways to ensure that they and their peers have every opportunity to reach their full potential:
“After all, these boys are a grow-ing segment of our population. They are our future workforce. When, generation after genera-tion, they lag behind, our economy suffers. Our family structure suf-fers. Our civic life suffers. Cycles of hopelessness breed violence and mistrust. And our country is a little less than what we know it can be. So we need to change the statistics – not just for the sake of the young men and boys, but for the sake of America’s future.”
MBK is about obliterating the barriers our kids face. It’s about building strong, lasting bridges to opportunity for boys and girls, young men and young women, no matter what their background or the circumstances into which they were born. It’s about investing in what works, acting with a sense of urgency, basing strategies on data and evidence, and having the cour-age to call-out and tear down dis-crimination in every system and policy where it shows up. And, in two years we could not be more excited about the momentum, en-ergy and enthusiasm that has been sparked all across the country.
Foundations, businesses and so-cial enterprises have responded to the president’s call to action, com-mitting more than $500 million in grants and in-kind resources and $1 billion in financing through com-munity banks, including invest-ments in safe and effective schools, mentoring programs, juvenile jus-tice reforms and school redesign.
There are now almost 250 com-munities that have accepted the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge – representing 49 states, Washington, D.C., and 19 Trib-al nations. Mayors – both Repub-licans and Democrats – as well as tribal leaders and county executives are working with community lead-ers and youth development experts to design and implement rigorous action plans that are strengthen-ing communities and transforming lives.
In recent months, the MBK leadership team has visited many of these MBK Communities, and what we are seeing on the ground is having impact and being built to have lasting impact.
In Philadelphia, former May-or Michael Nutter and new Mayor Jim Kenny worked in collaboration to ensure a smooth transition of “MBK Philly” between their two administrations. During one of his final press conferences, Mayor Nutter announced the findings of a new study that showed Philadel-phia’s Police School Diversion Pro-gram led to a 54 percent reduction in school-based arrests, one of its MBK goals. In December, the city hosted the “My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia Summit,” bringing together communities from across Pennsylvania. Similar statewide co-ordination efforts are underway in Michigan, Connecticut, California and Wisconsin.
In Detroit, that city’s leaders have outlined a plan over the next five years to recruit and match 5,000 new mentors, expand ac-cess to employment opportunities in high growth industries, reduce school suspensions by 50 percent, and enroll 90 percent of four-year-olds in preschool.
LA County has established a county-wide MBK Task Force made up of the five cities that have accepted the MBK Community Challenge – LA City, Culver City, Compton, Long Beach and Haw-thorne. In Compton, there has been a 50 percent reduction in ho-micides since 2014 credited to its Compton Empowered gang inter-vention program. In Long Beach, the city began its P.A.T.H. (Prom-ising Adults, Tomorrow’s Hope) di-version & training program, which combines occupational training, life skills development, mentoring and post-secondary education as an alternative to criminal prosecution for young adults ages 16-24.
The president launched My Brother’s Keeper urging the public and private sectors to focus more on “what works” and to adopt new and promising, evidence-based collabo-rations: efforts that rigorously focus on milestones that range from cra-dle to college and career. While the challenges facing our youth require urgent attention, MBK is about sustaining change for the long haul. When the president spoke at the launch of the MBK Alliance in May, he said: “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.”