For "My Brother's Keeper," Thank You, Mr. President

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President Obama announcing the initiative

[Witness For Justice]

President Barack Obama announced a new White House initiative to benefit young men and boys of color named "My Brother's Keeper," on February 27.

This program is aimed to create and expand opportunities in the lives of these young men while minimizing harsh realities which often adversely affect them. Based in part on a program created by former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the Obama administration hopes to assist young men through a variety of benchmarks, including partnerships with local businesses that would train and hire these young men.

In a very candid conversation in front of the media, President Obama shared his motives for the creation of "My Brother's Keeper." Perhaps some of the reasons were personal. Some may have been political. Nevertheless, the formation of such a program can and will be advantageous to the group of young men and boys for whom it was created. At least, that is my hope since, I, too was a young black male growing up in a home without a father in the urban community.

As a teenage boy whose parents had recently divorced, I was angry, confused, and uninterested in the "new" life that was thrust upon my siblings and me. Fortunately, there were people in that community, such as teachers, pastors and neighbors, who saw gifts and possibilities where I could not. Despite their constant push for me to not give up, the outcome looked bleak. I was ready to drop out of school, possibly even life.

As it had been foretold, an opportunity arose. I was offered a full academic scholarship through A Better Chance (ABC) to attend a private high school in Wisconsin. The mission of ABC has been to "substantially increase the number of well-educated young people of color who are capable of assuming positions of responsibility and leadership in American society." If it weren't for this fortuitous occasion provided to me, as well as the many people who prayed for, encouraged, and financed me, I absolutely would not be the man "of leadership and responsibility" that I am today. Thus, it is from a deeply personal place that I commend this new initiative from the White House.

Growing up in Middle America during the 1960s and 70s had its challenges for a young man of color such as myself. Unfortunately, growing up in today's society, with all of our progress since the passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964, is still tough for young men and boys of color. Any program slated to help them achieve their hopes and dreams is an added bonus.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

President Obama understands this, as do many others. I am grateful that he assembled a task force to help pay forward the many blessings afforded him. This program may radically change their lives (and this nation) for the better. It is with a humble heart that I say, "Thank you, Mr. President."

 

The Rev. Bentley de Bardelaben is the UCC's executive for administration and communications for Justice and Witness Ministries.

 

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