President Barack Obama has described the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) challenge started under his administration as “something that I will be invested in for the rest of my life” as he begins to wrap up his presidency.
“This is just the beginning,” the outgoing president said. “We are going to keep these efforts going to invest in our young people, to break down barriers that keep them from getting ahead.”
Obama’s self-described “cradle to college and career” challenge launched in 2014 aspires to close some of the opportunity and achievement gaps faced by boys and young men of color, specifically in low-income Black communities. My Brother’s Keeper emphasizes mentoring, summer employment for teens, gang violence intervention, and a variety of other locally designed programming aimed at addressing economic, educational, social and civic disparities.
The initiative has attracted a number of high-profile Black celebrity endorsers across sports and entertainment, such as Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, and Will and Jada Smith.
The president appeared unconcerned with the prospect of his initiative being scrapped by an incoming Trump administration and encouraged a room full of MBK supporters and participants to stick to the program’s mission regardless of support from the White House or the government.
“Although it is important for us to poke and prod and push government at every level to make the investments that are necessary … we can’t wait for government to do it for us. We have to make sure that we are out there showing what works,” Obama said.
Rather than being a large-scale federal effort, MBK has worked to connect private philanthropy dollars with local government and nonprofit programs. Obama said the program had marshaled over $1 billion dollars of support during its nearly three years in operation. According to a 2016 White House report MBK is in more than 250 communities in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington DC.
The program has been criticized for its specific focus on boys and men. Shortly after the program’s launch in 2014 a collection of 1,000 women of color including activist Angela Davis and author Alice Walker signed a letter to Obama asking him to include women and girls.
Others have focused on what they describe as a flawed rhetoric that pathologizes Black communities without paying proper attention to the history and broader social issues that fostered the pronounced racial gaps the program wishes to close.