Is Obama Going Out With A Bang?

Why This Matters | Adriana Parker | April 21, 2016

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Nicki Minaj. Chance The Rapper. Stephen Curry (in this quite entertaining video). Janelle Monae. Some of the biggest names in Black entertainment, all invited to the White House between the months of February and April. But why?

As a part of an attempt to draw up more visibility and support for the Obama Administration’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, these figures, among others, convened in that all-too-important building on Pennsylvania Avenue in order to express their support for the program and its initiatives. Rightfully so, because most of America, including myself, has never even heard of My Brother’s Keeper despite its creation over two years ago.

Founded in 2014 and based on six milestones of:

  • Getting a Healthy Start and Entering School Ready to Learn
  • Reading at Grade Level by Third Grade
  • Graduating from High School Ready for College and Career
  • Completing Postsecondary Education or Training
  • Successfully Entering the Workforce and Keeping Kids on Track and Giving Them Second Chances

My Brother’s Keeper is a program meant to challenge the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately affects youth of color, as well as high unemployment rates among men of color. It addresses a distinguishable achievement and success gap between boys and young men of color and others that do not belong to that demographic. It seeks to create a community of support for this group of people in a country that often appears to be pitted against them.

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The school-to-prison pipeline refers to practices that push children, particularly at-risk children, out of the classroom and into juvenile detention centers and eventually prisons, leading to the problem of mass incarceration. These practices often include increased suspension among youth of color, frequently for lesser offenses, lessened likelihood of being tested for or placed in gifted programs, and the tendency to place children into remedial programs before trying other alternatives. This is often a result of poor education, lack of resources, and inability to retain information due to difficult home lives. The school-to-prison pipeline places targets on the backs of youth in inner-city and urban areas, mostly from single parent or impoverished homes. My Brother’s Keeper, however, notes that “that boys and young men of color, regardless of socioeconomic background, are disproportionately at risk throughout the journey from their youngest years to college and career.”

Since its inception, MBK has spent over $150M toward the initiative, including mentorship programs, engagements with STEM, and philanthropy. Despite this work, My Brother’s Keeper has been placed so far on the back burner it was obscured by Obama’s other policies. Until now. The endorsement of visible and popular Black figures not only increases the know about the initiative, but also affirms the importance of bodies of color being invested in a future full of color as well as the issues that plague their communities.

As his time as the leader of the free world is coming to a close, this move could possibility help leave behind a legacy that is unique to Obama—by beginning to a dismantle a pipeline and its subsequent imprisonment of black and brown bodies. My Brother’s Keeper is not only an expression and affirmation of love for little black and brown boys, it takes a stance on privilege and disadvantage as it exists in the United States.