The White House's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative is receiving compliments and criticism from all directions. Some on the right are calling this an illegal "affirmative action program." Others are charging that small, community-based agencies that comprise this substantial, historic effort to mentor Black boys have been left out of the overall conversation, the planning, and the funding essential to save Black boys and to chart a new course for their continued survival.
"Many of these groups provided mentoring for Black boys long before President Barack Obama became president and they will be working to save Black boys when he leaves the office," says Phillip Jackson, The Black Star Project.
All grassroots programs are valuable
We should commend all positive steps that attempt to lift even one of our young men out of the revolving door criminal justice system. None of the solution providers -- 100 Black Men, NAACP, Urban League, Black Star Project, D'zert Club, etc. -- can solve the issues in our communities alone. There are many solutions. one problem is that within our own communities we often throw rocks at the Blacks who are trying to help us.
- There is no silver bullet that will close the education achievement gap. But dropping out of school in the Information Age is not a solution.
- There is no solution that will save us from Pay Day Lenders. But financial literacy will help us to see the ripoffs coming and inform better decisions.
- There is no jobs program that will suddenly employ the under-educated, under-skilled, victims of the criminal "just-us system." But we must encourage our young men to seek 21st century skills if they hope to become productive citizens and take care of their families.
- There is no education program that can prepare pre-school Black children to learn if their baby mamas and baby daddies won't act more responsibly.
We need to criticize drug dealers, dropouts, deadbeat dads, or other irresponsible behavior. We also need to get over the "victims mentality" and encourage those who are making an effort to improve their situation. We need to "aggregate" our solutions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
What I am saying is, "Give some street cred to others out there doing their best."
For those of us who are committed to the concept of "My Brother's Keeper," the road will be long, and the challenges many. I saw an anonymous quote recently that captures the commitment necessary to achieve better outcomes:
"I'm not telling you it's going to be easy, I'm telling you it's going to be worth it."
Roger Madison, CEO
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