Blog Posts Related to the African American Community

  • Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at the LBJ Presidential Library

    Ed. note: Tune in to whitehouse.gov/live at 11:50 am ET to watch President Obama's remarks at the LBJ Presidential Library to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

    In early December 1972, heroes of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, braved a rare Austin ice storm to convene at the LBJ Presidential Library for a Civil Rights Symposium. Towering figures like Hubert Humphrey, Barbara Jordan, Clarence Mitchell and Earl Warren rose to the stage in the course of the two-day conference to reflect on the movement they had helped to foster while examining the issues where progress was still needed.

    Among them was the host of the gathering, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the thirty-sixth President. It was he who, during the course of his five-year presidency, had sounded a death knell to racial inequality through a triumvirate of laws: The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

    Lyndon B. Johnson speaks to the nation before signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    Lyndon B. Johnson speaks to the nation before signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. East Room, White House, Washington, DC. 7/2/64.

    He considered the second—the Voting Rights Act—his greatest legislative achievement. As with all of them, it had come hard. In March 1965, after a protest march in Selma, Alabama, was brutally thwarted by state troopers, he stood before a joint session of Congress knowing that his plea for the law would fall on the deaf ears of segregationists in his own party. His voice strong, his will determined, he said:

    It was more than a hundred years ago that Abraham Lincoln, a great president from another party, signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but emancipation is a proclamation and not a fact. A century has passed since the day of promise. And the promise is unkept.

    What happened in Selma is part of a larger movement, which reached into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause, too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really, it’s all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

    And we shall overcome.

  • An Update on the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative

    President Barack Obama meets with foundation and business leaders to discuss "My Brother's Keeper," an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color

    President Barack Obama meets with foundation and business leaders to discuss "My Brother's Keeper," an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    “My administration’s policiesfrom early childhood education to job training, to minimum wagesare designed to give a hand up to everybody, every child, every American willing to work hard and take responsibility for their own success. That's the larger agenda. 

    But the plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our societygroups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations. And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.”

    President Obama used these words to launch My Brother’s Keeper, his initiative to help ensure that boys and young men of color in America have the opportunity to reach their full potential. 

    Since then, the public response has been overwhelming. We’ve heard from private philanthropies and businesses, mayors, state and local leaders, faith organizations, community based non-profits, and thousands of  interested citizens, all who are committed to creating more pathways to success for these boys and young men. We will continue to engage and listen to these critical voices and those of the boys and young men this initiative focuses on, as we continue to learn from the efforts of the many stakeholders who have been committed to this cause for years. And we will do our best to live up to the optimism and incredible expectations this initiative has unleashed. 

  • What They’re Saying: Douglas M. Brooks as the New Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy

    After President Obama announced yesterday that Douglas M. Brooks, MSW, would lead the Office of National AIDS Policy, HIV/AIDS organizations from around the country announced their support. They echoed the President’s words when he said, “Douglas’s policy expertise combined with his extensive experience working in the community makes him uniquely suited to the task of helping to achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.” Brooks, an openly gay African American man living with HIV, is a respected expert in the community whose distinct experiences will help further our goals of achieving an AIDS-free generation and improving the health of people living with HIV in the United States.

    Here’s what some HIV/AIDS organizations said about the President’s announcement:

    amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research (New York, NY)
    “We are eager to see strong leadership carry out the National HIV/AIDS Strategy’s renewed focus on evidence-based policy and effective programming, especially with respect to populations hardest hit by AIDS in America, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, and African American and Latino men and women.”

    San Francisco AIDS Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
    “Douglas is the right person at the right time to step into this role. As new infections increasingly concentrate in the African-American community, and especially among Black gay men, it is more important than ever that our young people see a future for themselves in the face of someone like Douglas so that they can harness their innate resilience to create healthy and successful lives.”

    AIDS United (Washington, DC)
    “We have the opportunity to finally end the epidemic. I’ve been fortunate to work directly with Douglas, and have great confidence that he knows how to convene the right public and private partners to engage in the right conversations that will result in real progress.”

    National Minority AIDS Council (Washington, DC)
    “As the most heavily impacted population in the country, it is critical that Black gay men – especially those living with HIV – are represented at the highest levels of our government’s response to the epidemic.”

    Lifelong AIDS Alliance (Seattle, WA)
    “His tireless work to support the communities most greatly affected by HIV is steeped in compassion and personal commitment supported by epidemiological data. This appointment will help drive our common objective to end AIDS today and subsequently put a dent in HIV incidence within the United States and worldwide.”

    The AIDS Institute (Washington, DC)
    “Achieving these goals in an environment of constrained budget resources and within the changing landscape of the Affordable Care Act provides unique opportunities and challenges. We are confident Brooks possesses the leadership and passion to guide the White House through the next few years as we together aim to fulfill the President’s desire to realize an AIDS-free generation.”

    Gautam Raghavan is Associate Director with the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • Discussing President Obama's My Brother's Keeper Initiative

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from ED.gov

    This Thursday, from March 20, 2014 from 12-1 p.m. ET the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans will host its next installment of #AfAmEdChat. This edition will focus on President Obama’s new #MyBrothersKeeper initiative. “By increasing awareness of the President’s initiative My Brother’s Keeper we can each take concrete steps to reduce the barriers that race and poverty play in denying equality of opportunity” shares Deputy Secretary of Education, Jim Shelton.

    The March 20th #AfAmEdChat is one of a series of strategies the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans is using to bring people together around issues and ideas supporting the achievement of boys and men of color. Deputy Secretary Shelton notes “Social media is the fastest and easiest way to spark discussion and exchange ideas. Conversations about race and poverty are often difficult to have face to face and are often therefore avoided.” President Obama reminded us during the launch of My Brother’s Keeper, and Shelton adds “the unique challenges facing boys and men of color should never be swept under the rug.”

    According to Deputy Secretary Shelton, “folks should tune into the My Brother’s Keeper #AfAmEdChat to stay in touch with the latest details and help move the conversation forward. We will be sharing information regarding our process and next steps as well as ways for you to be involved and updated in this critical work.”

    In addition to White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Executive Director David J. Johns and Policy Advisor Christopher Scott, confirmed guests include:

    • Mike Blake – Green For All – Director of Public Policy & External Affairs & Operation Hope – Senior Advisor – @MrMikeBlake
       
    • Mary Brown – Executive Director, Life Pieces to Masterpieces – @LP2MP
       
    • Christopher Chatmon – Executive Director, African American Male Achievement, Oakland Unified School District – @AAMAOUSD
       
    • Shawn Dove – Manager of Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement – @DoveSoars
       
    • Angela Glover–Blackwell – Founder and Chief Executive Officers, PolicyLink – @policylink
       
    • Shaun Harper – Executive Director, Center for the Study of Race & Equity in Education at University of Pennsylvania – @DrShaunHarper

    Additionally, to support the work of My Brothers Keeper, the Initiative is hosting a series of Summits on Educational Excellence for African Americans in cities across the Nation to directly engage young people, schools, communities, philanthropy and businesses interested in implementing successful strategies. To learn more and to register for a Summit near you visit www.ed.gov/AfAmEducation

    Khalilah Harris is a fellow with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans.

  • STEM Access & Diversity: African American History Month Champions of Change

    Last week the White House Office of Public Engagement, along with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, honored ten Champions of Change  in honor of their achievements and contributions to exposing and accelerating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) opportunities for more African American youth and communities. Each of the Champions founded innovative ways to inspire interest and provide access for African American youth in STEM whether it’s through hackathons, technology programs for girls of color in underserved school districts, skill development summer programs or STEM enrichment programs for educators. They created opportunities based on their own personal experiences of what they never had growing up.

    African American Champions of Change with Local Students

    The Champions of Change take a picture with local students in the audience who joined in in the Q & A with the Champions. February 26, 2014. (by The U.S. Department of Education)

    Kalimah Priforce was inspired to pursue a career in STEM when he was in grade school and enrolled in a science camp. Coming from a group home, he was excited to experience his favorite subjects in a new environment. As he stood at the bus stop in front of his group home, Kalimah watched the science camp bus drive right past him.  Left with disappointment, that moment was the turning point in his life – he had to get out and take control of his own life. Today, he uses web and mobile-based technology, hackathons with young men of color, to promote mentorship and innovation in technology as a creative outlet instead of an unconquerable challenge. Danielle Lee never let her grade point average define her career or dreams. She went from being a C-student in Biology to having a PHD in Biology. She looked beyond the classroom to apply her technical skills and found creative solutions to everyday problems, even rewiring the electricity in her home so that she could have a television in her room.

    In 2012, President Obama launched the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans  to help accelerate national efforts to support African American students – because improving educational opportunities for all students is critical to ensuring we increase college completion and employment rates to strengthen our nation’s economy.

    These STEM Champions are using strategies that support investments even in our youngest learners which we know will enhance “Opportunity for All,” the center of the President’s State of the Union speech this year, and enable them to pursue and persist in college and specialized training for STEM careers. The future of our country depends on both improving youth access to these fields and ensuring that their interest and skillset is encouraged, developed, and promoted beyond the classroom. 

    Rumana Ahmed is an Executive Assistant to the Director of Public Engagement

  • "We Are All Our Brothers' Keepers"

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from United States Department of Justice.


    Photo Courtesy of Department of Justice.

    Last week I attended the President’s announcement of his new initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper,” a plan to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and play by the rules has the chance to reach his full potential.  The initiative is aimed at finding ways the federal government, community leaders, the private sector and philanthropies can create more opportunities for young men of color and send the message that our country is stronger when all Americans are doing well. 

    A key goal of this effort is to address the overrepresentation of African American and Latino men in the criminal and juvenile justice systems and reduce the rates of violence and victimization that they experience. At the Office of Justice Programs we’re taking what we know about adolescent development and working to promote a juvenile justice system that is both effective and fair. 

    Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that African American young men between the ages of 16 and 19 have the highest rate of violent victimization of any race or age group.  For African American young men between 10 and 24, homicide is not only the leading cause of death, but it results in more deaths than the next four leading causes combined. Homicide is the second leading cause of death for Latino youth in the same age group. At the same time, the rates of arrest and incarceration for young men of color are disproportionately high. African American youth make up just 16 percent of the overall youth population but more than half of the juvenile population arrested for committing a violent crime. As the President said, “these statistics should break out hearts. And they should compel us to act.”

    It is in our collective interest to recognize that the image many people of color have of our criminal justice system is that it is biased against their young men.  We need to simultaneously work to build trust and to end the violence that threatens so many of our youth. The reality is that no one wants to see these problems – not the families who live in these communities, and not the officers who keep the communities safe. The Justice Department’s COPS Office and Community Relations Service, for example, are striving to build trust and mutual respect and a stronger relationship between law enforcement officials and the neighborhoods they serve.  These programs work closely with law enforcement and human service agencies to identify these challenges and design effective solutions. 

    At the Department of Justice we are engaged in a number of efforts to encourage and facilitate this collaboration. The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, which is led by the White House and involves the Justice Department and other federal agencies, brings all major community stakeholders together to develop strategies for addressing youth violence – citizens, community and faith-based groups, law enforcement, public health, businesses, and philanthropies.  Our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention also manages the Community-Based Violence Prevention Demonstration Program, which supports evidence-based violence reduction efforts that involve community residents in changing norms and helping their youth find a way to avoid crime and violence.  Through the Defending Childhood initiative, we are promoting early intervention programs designed to put kids who are exposed to violence back on the path to healthy development and steer and harmful behavior.  And we provide support for mentoring services that help children who have parents behind bars, and work to keep young people from entering the school-to-prison pipeline.

    But the Department of Justice is only one part of the response.  The “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative will rely on the resources of the private sector and philanthropies  to use evidence-based solutions to strengthen and replicate programs that work, and reinforce to our young people the message that their country believes in them enough to invest in their success.

    Working together, we can – and will – make a difference.

    Karol V. Mason is the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs