The student center ballroom at Bowie State was packed with young male students listening intently to a panel of leaders as they discussed President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative on Oct. 3.
The event was held in conjunction with the Bowie State University-Male Initiative, President Mickey L. Burnim’s brainchild to improve progress toward degrees among young men at BSU. The panel was moderated by U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)
U. S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) talked about the problem of racial profiling, the high cost of college and the need to support young men.
Roy Austin said his reason for being at the event was personal. He said that growing up he was one of the people who was followed around stores and pulled over in his vehicle.
“I was one of the knuckleheads in this room …. Some even grew up to be senators,” said Austin, director of the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity at the White House Domestic Policy Council.
“Watch your mouth,” Cardin replied. The audience roared with laughter.
Austin said that there are six focus areas of President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper”: children be ready for school; must be able to read by the third grade; must graduate from high school; must go to college and graduate from college; must get a well-paying job, and must keep kids out of the juvenile justice system.
Thousands of leaders from around the country have taken on the challenge to create local “My Brother’s Keeper” initiatives to improve the lives of young men in their communities, Austin said.
Brandee McHale, chief operations office at Citi Foundation, said she was at the event to show that you don’t have to be a male or a minority to care about young black men. She then spoke directly to the young men in the audience. She said there are many programs out there to support young men. Citi has launched a $50 million program, Pathways to Progress, to help mentor young men.
Other speakers included Michael Smith, Director of the Social Innovation Fund, Corporation for National and Community Service and Daryl A. Graham, Vice President- Relationship Manager, Office of Corporate Responsibility, Global Philanthropy, JPMorgan Chase & Co.