Today, President Obama announced a new initiative called "My Brother's Keeper" to address poverty, violence and incarceration rates among young men of color. Specifically, the Obama Administration will create a new presidential task force, the "My Brother's Keeper Task Force," that will assess which federal policies are aiding young men of color and which are failing them. Additionally, leading foundations, philanthropies, and socially-conscious businesses are investing $200 million over the next 5 years to implement community-based solutions to increase literacy and improve economic opportunities for young men of color. This investment is in addition to the $150 million these various organizations have already spent in these social justice efforts. While in attendance at the White House announcement, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:
"I commend President Obama for coming through on his promise in the State of the Union to "help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential,' by establishing the "My Brother's Keeper Task Force.' This presidential task force will work to bolster literacy, educational and career opportunities for young men of color, while assessing the impact - both negative and positive - of federal policies on minority communities. It is critically important that these young men have access to pathways back into the classroom, so the school-to-prison pipeline is halted and social problems that hinder success for minority youth are mitigated.
"Regrettably, we know all too well that there is a disparity in educational and vocational outcomes for young men of color. Last month, the unemployment rate for African American youth was estimated to be as high as 38%. By the fourth grade, 86% of African American boys and 82% of Hispanic boys were reading below proficiency levels, compared to just 58% for Caucasian boys. Further, there is a disproportionate number of unemployed African American and Hispanic youth who are trapped in the criminal justice system, tearing apart families and communities across the nation. Fortunately, the presidential task force can draw inspiration for federal action from successful community empowerment models, such as the "Becoming a Man' program, that has dramatically reduced high school dropout rates and violent crime arrests in Chicago.
"After decades of "zero-tolerance' policies, a preference for incarceration over rehabilitation, and other policies counterproductive to the development of our minority youth, I am grateful that the tide is turning. As the presidential task force begins its thorough assessment, I look forward to working with the Obama administration to ensure the success of the "My Brother's Keeper' initiative. Fulfilling America's promise that anyone who works hard and strives for excellence - no matter their race or upbringing - has been at the heart of my work since coming to the Congress during the Civil Rights Movement. I applaud the President's initiative and I look forward to the work ahead, ensuring that all youth have the opportunity to succeed."