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My Brother’s Keeper

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"My Brother’s Keeper"

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Obama Launches New Initiative For Young Black Men

President Obama announced a new initiative at the White House today called “My Brother’s Keeper,” which asks business and civic leaders to look for and invest in ways to empower young black men. The New York Times reports that several high-profile foundations have committed $200 million over the next five years to the effort, focusing especially on “early-childhood development, educational opportunities, school readiness and discipline, parenting, and the criminal justice system.”

The initiative is likely the start of a lifelong cause for the President and the First Lady, according to several of his closest advisers. “I’m sure their commitment to this initiative will be a lifelong commitment,” said Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest friends from Chicago. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, agreed: “This is core to who they are individually and core to who they are together.”

Yet another aide recalled a story from Father’s Day 2013 when Obama was presented with a Father’s Day card from a group of Chicago teenagers visiting the White House.

“I never signed a Father’s Day card before,” one explained as Obama opened the card. “I’ve never signed a Father’s Day card, either,” Obama replied.

Over at ThinkProgress, Bryce Covert goes into detail about why this initiative is so important. Here are just a few of the reasons:

1. Black students experience an educational achievement gap that grows.

A combination of a lack of high-quality preschool and other factors means that an achievement gap between black children and white children starts when they are as young as nine months old. But it gets bigger and bigger:

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CREDIT: The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution

2. A huge number of black teenagers are unemployed.

The unemployment rate among black teenagers is 38 percent — down from nearly 50 percent at the peak of the recession, but still far above the 7 percent rate for entire population.

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3. Even those who are employed make less.

Jobs that are over-represented by black men earn more than $13,000 less per year than jobs that are under-represented by black men.

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CREDIT: Economic Policy Institute

For other ideas how the president and Congress can help young black men, check out this piece from Vanessa Cardenas, one of our Center for American Progress colleagues, HERE.