Just wanted to report back from DC, where I’ve had the tremendous honor and pleasure of representing the Kapor Center – and by extension all of our partners and allies – at President Obama’s launch of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. This is a national effort that will galvanize government, philanthropic, nonprofit, and corporate support to improve life outcomes for boys and young men of color across the U.S.
Since 2008, the Kapor Center, mostly through our College Bound Brotherhood network organizations, has helped hundreds of young men in the Bay Area successfully attend and graduate from college. I am tremendously proud of this work, which we deepening and strengthening over the coming years. This was also one of the earliest philanthropic initiatives in this growing movement that specifically focuses on males of color. Accordingly, we aim to be closely aligned with My Brother’s Keeper and provide a model of “what works” – as the President shared in his remarks – for other communities to replicate and scale.
Additionally, the Kapor Center is proud to be one of ten foundations that committed $750,000 over three years to build the infrastructure of My Brother’s Keeper (further described in our press release). Leaders from those foundations, including yours truly, met with senior White House officials as well as corporate and community leadership, having a brief audience with the President before moving the the East Room for the My Brother’s Keeper announcement and signing the executive order.
When sharing this info: two questions immediately arise. The first, “What are next steps?,” was addressed in the charge made by the President to the cohort of leaders gathered. The federal government and the philanthropic sectors will run intensive parallel processes over the next 90 days to assess what exists, note any gaps in service and information, and strategize how to augment present good works and launch critical gap-filling efforts. Based on these plans (and on my evolving understanding), the public/private initiative will synthesize this information into a comprehensive framework. Oakland and the Bay Area stand to be key players in this work, especially through the efforts of The California Endowment (rooted in three Bay Area neighborhoods), the Kapor Center, and other foundations that will soon join the organized effort. Mayor Jean Quan was present, as was Deputy Mayor Sandre Swanson; I’m eager to hear how they will organize the local public sector’s thought resources for this greater purpose. Exciting exciting stuff!
The second question has taken longer to unpack: “What was it like to attend this meeting and event at the White House – and to meet the President?” In a word, monumental. In two, mind-blowing. I’m still awestruck by what I’ll call the “cultural enormity” of the experience: sitting at a table with the President, cabinet members, congressional representatives, corporate leadership, and icons like General Colin Powell (who joked with a smaller group of us that “once a general, always a general”) and Earvin “Magic” Johnson (whose legs didn’t seem to fit under the table). After the meeting concluded, we were ushered into the jam-packed East Room to be seated among notables like Rep. Barbara Lee (who gave me a warm hug), Rep. John Lewis (“greetings, young brother”), Rev. Al Sharpton, the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, and many others. The young men from Chicago’s Becoming a Man program entered the room to a standing ovation, as did the President and Christian Champagne, an 18-year old high school senior, who did a yeoman’s job of introduced Mr. Obama. And the rest is history. (Nice tweet here; webcast here.)
As mentioned earlier, even though the Kapor Center has helped advance efforts specifically focused on the well-being of boys and men of color for the past eight-plus years, no doubt that the President’s announcement exponentially elevates this framing, which is so critical to our national well-being. I’m super-pumped to contribute to this ever-important work with our partners and allies, including our College Bound Brotherhood leaders and extended network, Level Playing Field Institute’s SMASH Prep, the Executive Alliance, Institute of Black Male Achievement, ABFE Learning Action Network, Sons and Brothers, the Alliance of Boys and Men of Color, OUSD’s African American Male Achievement and many others. To borrow from another White House initiative successfully making changes, LET’S MOVE; LET’S WORK!
(Photo by Tom Williams. L-R: Earvin Johnson, Thomas Tull, Colin Powell, Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama, Broderick Johnson, LaJune Montgomery Tabron, Cedric Brown)