In February 2014, to add to the public policy executive order he’d already issued in July 2012 regarding assisting African American youth to overcome the systemic obstacles against their success in the USA, President Barack Obama issued an order to establish My Brother’s Keeper, a distinctive governmental approach toward supporting thousands, even millions of African American young men toward positive growth and success in this country.
The July 2012 executive order created the “White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans,” whose primary aim is to “improve educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages, and to help ensure that all African Americans receive an education that properly prepares them for college, productive careers, and satisfying lives.” The executive order created an executive director’s position to be housed in the Department of Education and to be appointed by Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education. The director would have interagency authority. Coupled with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Initiative, established by Executive Order 13532 of February 26, 2010, this educational initiative would, among other things, “improve educational outcomes, and deliver a complete and competitive education for all African Americans, increase the general understanding of the causes of the educational challenges faced by African American students, whether they are in urban, suburban, or rural learning environments; increase the percentage of African American children who enter kindergarten ready for success by improving their access to high-quality programs and services that enable early learning and development of children from birth through age 5; and decrease the disproportionate number of referrals of African American children from general education to special education by addressing the root causes of the referrals and eradicating discriminatory referrals.”
The February 2014 My Brother’s Keeper Initiative is aimed at addressing the building of a broad coalition of financial and political backers to help “break down the barriers, clear pathways to opportunity, and reverse troubling trends which show too many African American boys and young men of color slipping through the cracks in our society.” To support creating the initiative, the president cited well-known statistics, such as youth in the USA who cannot read competently by third grade are four times less likely to graduate high school by age 18 or 19; and by 2013, only 14 percent of Black males and 18 percent of Hispanic males scored at the proficient level or above on the fourth grade reading section of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, compared to 42 percent of White boys and 21 percent of Black and Hispanic girls scoring at the proficient level. By the time students have reached ninth grade, 42 percent of Black male students will have been suspended or expelled during their school years, compared to 14 percent of White male students. While Black youth account for a little less than 16 percent of the youth population in the USA, they represent 28 percent of juvenile arrests, and 37 percent of the detained population.
While representing just over 6 percent of the overall USA population, Black males of all ages accounted for 43 percent of murder victims in 2011.
The president created a My Brother’s Keeper Task Force headed by the Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson. That task force may help to determine what public and private efforts are already working and how they can be expanded. These on-going efforts include the Restorative Justice programs in Los Angeles schools, the targeted intervention efforts in Miami schools, and the ‘Becoming A Man’ program in Chicago, among others.
Of course, nothing offered as progress forward will go uncriticized, and neither did this initiative. More than 200 African American scholars and activists, wrote a public letter to the POTUS saying the emphasis on Black males was not proper, and that the initiative should be expanded to include young Black females. This is an important point to consider, and it will probably be added into the effort.
Meanwhile, this is Father’s Day weekend (and that of Juneteenth). Those who say nothing is going on to help us help ourselves, simply are not paying attention.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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