From the campus of Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, Monday, President Barack Obama announced a spin-off of his already-existing “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative into a new, non-profit foundation — a clue into what work the President will take on in his post-presidency years.
The President’s initiative was first created in 2014 by the White House the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing to address the lack of opportunity that young minority boys face across in often-poor neighborhoods across the country.
Monday’s announcement comes as the nation continues the conversation on race relations, after the unrest in Baltimore following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.
Obama, speaking ahead of a roundtable event — including singer John Legend — said he had an outstanding conversation with some young men.
“If you have any doubt about the incredible promise of America — you need to get to know these young men, they are examples of intelligence, hard work and street smarts,” Obama said.
White House officials had said the President would likely speak to the situation in Baltimore, within the context of the foundation’s work — addressing broader, systemic issues that still plague so many neighborhoods across the country, like Freddie Gray’s.
“Stories of young men being stopped and put on the ground by police for no reason, schools who aren’t invested in their success. They are succeeding because somewhere along the someone mentored them,” Obama said.
Broderick Johnson, chairman of the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, wrote in an email to supporters about the formation of the new nonprofit, “As a proud son of Baltimore, this week’s announcement comes at a time of unique and special resonance for me.”
The alliance will be made up of celebrities, athletes, CEOs and current and former government officials, including singer John Legend, former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Secretary of State General Colin Powell, and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.
According to the alliance, the foundation will focus on key moments in a young man’s academic and professional life, targeting key, symbolic milestones for intervention: when boys are entering grade school, in middle childhood, graduating from high school, finishing college and then entering the workforce. According to the alliance, the intervention would continue with the goal of reducing violence “throughout life.”
“This is an issue that the President intends to continue to be focused on, long after he has left the Oval Office,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
“My Brother’s Keeper” was launched in February 2014. Since that time, the White House has held numerous events in Washington and around the country including mentoring programs, and partnerships with professional athletes — all aimed at breaking down obstacles for young minority men and to prevent them from slipping through the cracks in their communities.
In the email to supporters, Johnson said organizers believe some “progress” has been made in the year since the initiative was launched, but indicated there are still areas where the work remains unfinished.
“Persistent gaps in employment, educational outcomes, and career skills remain,” Johnson wrote, “barring too many youth from realizing their full potential, and creating harmful social and economic costs to our nation.”