Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative Comes to Oakland

President Obama recently launched an innovative “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to support young African American men by keeping them focused on education and out of prison.

The White House is working with foundations and businesses to find and support solutions, such as early childhood education and school readiness, parenting, literacy, and educational opportunity.

David Johns, executive director of the president’s Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, recently paid a visit to Oakland High School to speak with black male teens about their academic concerns.

California Endowment, a private foundation that funds healthy-living programs, announced it would partner its $50 million “Son’s & Brothers” campaign with the president’s initiative aimed at young African-American and Hispanic men.

Currently, more than $200 million in funding from various partners has been pledged.

Members of Oakland’s education community, such as Chris Chatmon, executive director of Oakland Unified School District’s Office of African American Male Achievement, praised the initiative for specifically targeting the needs of an underserved community.

“We collectively in the City of Oakland called this out,” said Chatmon. “When the city created our department to improve the conditions in 2010, we got ahead of this. I’m glad the president is doing something and acknowledging how cities can work collectively with the corporate sectors so they can come together to support Black boys.”

Chatmon said he sees the initiative as an opportunity to get more resources to support young Black men in the public schools. Since 2009, “Man Up” conferences dealing with career development and life skills have bee conducted in OUSD at six high schools, six middle schools and one elementary school.

“Widening the national circle of concern to tackle the particularly unique challenges of boys and men of color in America through My Brother’s Keeper is a long awaited and powerful next step toward living up to the promise of America – that all are created equal and all deserve to live free,” said Pastor Michael McBride who was in attendance at Obama’s speech as well as the briefing following the speech.

McBride leads the national Lifelines to Healing Campaign, a faith-based project of PICO National Network to reduce gun violence and end mass incarceration.

An African American Parent Conference will be held on March 15 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Castlemont High School aimed at educating African American families about the resources available in Oakland that will include speakers, a resource fair, a raffle, and family friendly games.

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