It has been said we are our brother’s keepers.
Fifty of Detroit’s movers and shakers couldn’t agree more. They recently met at Wayne State with one thing on their agenda… improving the future of African American and Latino young men in the area. The group, made up of leaders from the corporate, philanthropic, and civic worlds and Mayor Mike Duggan and former Mayor Dave Bing, was focused around the Brother’s Keeper Initiative started by the Obama Administration.
A growing disparity facing African American and Latino young men is what caused the administration to put the initiative together earlier this year. The My Brother’s Keeper Task Force held a listening tour across the country, which included Detroit. They sent the report to President Obama who issued a playbook with steps and recommendations this summer in hopes of curbing the problem. It was spread across the country and the President invited mayors to join in and take the challenge.
Duggan wanted in and recently hired Director of Youth Services Shawn Blanchard, who has several initiatives already underway. Her hiring followed steps announced this past summer to help the city’s youth. Goal Detroit, a citywide youth soccer league for all elementary schools, was created and a plan to provide summer employment for 5,000 youths from age 15-24 will be introduced in 2015.
Also responding to the challenge was the Skillman Foundation, which answered the call with $2 million in grants to aid My Brother’s Keeper and its work in Detroit. The Campaign for Black Achievement, a national group currently working with Detroit, will receive a $750,000 grant. The payment will be broken down to two payments of $375,000 in 2015 and 2016. The grant focuses on building local leadership to collaborate on a shared framework to advance the work. Of those funds, $500,000 will be deployed locally to support My Brother’s Keeper initiatives and projects on the ground in Detroit.
“The success of Detroit is directly tied to its young people,” Duggan said. “The My Brother’s Keeper program is vital, especially in a city like Detroit that is 83 percent African American. With the President’s leadership and the support of the Skillman Foundation, we will do our part to make sure Detroit youths have access to opportunities and the support they require to reach their full potential.”
Organizations that also answered the call and attended the meeting at Wayne included Detroit Public Schools, the Educational Achievement Authority, the City of Detroit, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Detroit City Council, the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, charter schools and prominent neighborhood organizations.
The goal of the convening was to form a workgroup with two subcommittees — a policy subcommittee and a resources and assets subcommittee — that will produce a joint report in 120 days that includes a set of recommendations for dramatically improving the life outcomes for young men of color in Detroit.
“We know that this is possible,” said Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation. “We’ve seen it happen in our neighborhoods, where graduation rates for African American males have risen 15 percent since 2008. We have many strong partners working on these issues in Detroit. We need an alignment across agencies, neighborhoods and programs — a shared urgency. Today is a big step toward that alignment. We have accepted Obama’s challenge, and now the real work begins.”
The group was hardly flying blind. Data shared at the meeting included citywide demographic breakdowns and statistics that show how the African American and Hispanic populations are struggling in Detroit to achieve academically.
- Roughly 54 percent of both African American and Hispanic males ages 0-24 live in poverty in Detroit.
- 86 percent of African-American male births from 2010-2012 were to mothers who had never been married. The same measure was 57 percent for Hispanic male births.
- The estimated number of third-grade males proficient in reading on Fall 2013 MEAP was 28 percent for Hispanic males and 33 percent for African American males.
- The estimate number of males in the 2020 graduation class who scored proficient in math of the Fall 2013 MEAP was 19 percent for Hispanics and 16 percent for African Americans.
- The citywide graduate rate was 62 percent for African American males and 55 percent for Hispanic males in 2013.
- In the six Skillman Foundation-targeted neighborhoods (Brightmoor, Chadsey Condon, Cody Rouge, Northend, Osborn, and Southwest Detroit), where multiple agencies have come together to focus on improving outcomes, graduation rates for African American boys rose 15 percent from 2008 to 2013.
As Detroit continues its climb back its former glory and show the world its true potential, this group has fixed their eyes on improving the one thing that in undoubtedly necessary for the city’s future… the youth.