WASHINGTON – President Obama on Monday announced an additional $100 million in funding for his racial justice initiative My Brother's Keeper, a public-private program that focuses on the unique challenges faced by young men of color. In all, the program has attracted $300 million in funding for an effort that the president has said will continue long after he has left the White House and will make up much of his post-presidential work.
Flanked by NBA star Chris Paul, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and other prominent basketball players, the president recalled his own struggles growing up, saying that the only difference between him and other young men of color is that he lived in a more forgiving environment.
"I wasn't going to end up shot," Obama said during a town hall discussion at the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington. "I wasn't going to end up in jail."
The efforts sprang from the widespread frustration expressed by many blacks after George Zimmerman was acquitted last year in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and build on 30 years of public discourse and community programming aimed at young men of color.
Among the other efforts are $1.5 million by the College Board to ensure that students of color enroll in at least one Advanced Placement class before they graduate. The Chicago-based Becoming a Man program will benefit from $10 million and expand to additional cities, while the Emerson Collective will pitch in $50 million for a competition for innovative approaches to creating the next generation of high schools. And the leaders of 60 of the largest school systems, which educate 3 million young men of color, have joined a pledge to change the educational outcomes of young men of color.
The efforts brought praise from the head of A Better Chance, a group that focuses on getting young people of color ready for college.
"We know that our current educational system is not serving African-American and Latino boys well. … It is encouraging to see the expansion of this effort to assist African-American and Latino boys in achieving academic success in high school and beyond," said Sandra Timmons, president of A Better Chance.