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Obama to Announce Initiative to Help Improve Lives of Young Black Males

black-males readingPresident Obama is following through on a pledge made during his State of the Union speech by announcing on Thursday an initiative to help improve the lives of young African-American males.

The initiative will be called “My Brother’s Keeper” and it would consist of a partnership between government and private businesses to “make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential,” a White House official told CNN.

During his State of the Union address last month, the president said he was working with public and private partners to “help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.”

On many measures, the state of African-American males is troubling. According to recent studies, the average unemployment rate for Black males between ages 16 and 25 without a high school diploma was 51.6 percent, while the equivalent number for white males was 25.6 percent. This demonstrates the dire need for Black males to at least attain a high school diploma.

African-American males are also far more likely than peers of other races to be incarcerated, something the president addressed in a recent interview in The New Yorker.

Highlighting the disproportionate number of minority men who are incarcerated for using marijuana, Obama said, “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do. And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.”

The White House official said the president’s plan was “focused on implementing strategies that are proven to get results.” It will bring together business and foundation leaders to test strategies in various cities around the country designed to intervene at key moments in young men’s lives, including at school and in interactions with law enforcement.

In addition, the president will call on federal agencies to assess what current programs are working and which are not effective in helping young men advance. The goal is to establish consistent practices across agencies.

The event Thursday “has been months in the making,” according to the  official, who added that the White House reached out to officials from both parties, as well as faith and business leaders.

In Atlanta, Thursday is also the start of a two-day summit at Morehouse College organized by Ebony magazine and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, focused on finding solutions to the problems of African-American males. Called “Supporting African American Educational Excellence Summit,” it is free and open to the public and will feature experts and programs that are working, in addition to the voices of young Black males. Click here for more information or to register if you are interested in attending.

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans will be holding three more summits on Black males throughout 2014 in the cities of Jackson, Miss., (April); Oakland, Calif., ( June); and Philadelphia ( October).


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