The Obama administration announced recommendations on Friday on how public and private entities can participate in a White House initiative meant to support minority men and boys, including a move to focus on summer jobs and recruit adults who can serve as mentors.
“Already we’re seeing, I think, a much greater sense of urgency this summer about putting these young people in opportunities where they can learn the basic skills that they’re going to need to get attached to the labor market,” President Barack Obama said Friday. The former basketball star Magic Johnson and Joe Echevarria, who heads the accounting and consulting firm Deloitte, will help lead the program.
“We’ve got a huge number of kids out there who have as much talent, and more talent, than I had, but nobody is investing in them,” Mr. Obama said, adding that over the next couple of weeks, more specific programs would be announced.
The recommendations come three months after Mr. Obama announced the five-year initiative, called My Brother’s Keeper. Standing in front of a group of young minority men and executives from businesses and nonprofit organizations in February, the president recalled his own experiences as a black man growing up without a father at home and sometimes making “bad choices.”
Philanthropic and corporate leaders have pledged to invest at least $200 million in the program over the next five years, the White House said, on top of the $150 million they have already invested, “to figure out which programs are the most successful.”
Since the announcement, a White House task force has examined ways that the federal government, in conjunction with the private sector and philanthropic groups, could begin to address many of the issues facing minority men and boys. Some foundations are expected to announce specific recommendations in the coming weeks about which programs they will focus on.
But the initiative also has its critics, including those who say its focus should include young minority women. On Wednesday, the African American Policy Forum, a social justice research group, published an open letter to the president supporting the program’s focus but also calling for a comparative initiative for women.
“We have to be as concerned about the experiences of single, black women who raise their kids on sub-poverty wages as we are about the disproportionate number of black men who are incarcerated,” said the letter, which by Friday afternoon had been signed by more than 200 African-American men, including academics, writers and performers.
In a statement, Valerie Jarrett, a White House senior adviser, cited the work of the White House Council on Women and Girls, adding that the recommendations in My Brother’s Keeper “will build on these efforts by creating more opportunity for girls and boys of all backgrounds because as the president strongly believes, we need to improve the odds for every child in America.”
The recommendations focus on areas that include early childhood education, career and college preparation, postsecondary education and training programs, entering the work force and reducing violence.
Many of the recommendations call on federal agencies, including the Education, Justice and Health and Human Services Departments, to work with nongovernmental groups, the private sector and faith-based groups to establish new programs or expand on current ones.
The recommendations for early childhood education include eliminating suspensions and expulsions in preschool, expanding health and behavioral screenings for children, and promoting literacy. The report also calls for a national initiative that would use data to identify and address chronic absenteeism, and for an end to harsh school disciplinary practices. In January, the administration issued guidelines urging restraint when using arrest or expulsion to discipline students.
The report also discusses creating programs to keep young men out of the juvenile justice system and to increase trust between communities of color and law enforcement.
article by Tanzina Vegamay via nytimes.com