Blog Posts Related to the African American Community

  • 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

    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

    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




  • Thank Goodness for Pushy Dads: My #GetCovered Story

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from

    On a chilly December evening, as I was healing from a volleyball-related mild concussion, my dad came into my room and said: “Don’t you think it’s time you looked into affordable health insurance?”

    He had urged me many times before to get covered, but I thought I was invincible. I’m 34 and have lived a healthy lifestyle. I thought if I ate my vegetables and drove defensively, I’d be okay. In October, in November, and into December, he pushed me to look into my options. I made a few half-hearted attempts to satisfy him, but I never took it seriously. Fortunately for me, his motto is, “Persistence beats resistance!” and he never gave up.

    I was born and raised in Flint, Mich. After graduating from Michigan State University, I was no longer covered by my parents’ health insurance. The idea of purchasing my own was nowhere on my radar because I didn’t think I needed it.

    Chasing my dreams, I moved to Los Angeles to try on different careers. I worked with a celebrity stylist, created a clothing line with my brother, and began acting. Feeling a spiritual calling to be closer to home, I returned to Flint and pursued an acting career in the Metro Detroit area. With auditions and bookings so infrequent, I had to find part-time jobs—including a junior varsity volleyball coach position.

    With all of this uncertainty, my income frequently fluctuated; one day I was covered under the county’s health plan, and the next I was kicked off. Going from insured to uninsured was exhausting, and I finally gave up. I’ve been uninsured for most of the past 10 years.

    I realize now what a dangerous gamble that time in my life was. I didn’t think about accidents or illnesses. I didn’t even think about a benign lump in my right breast that I had removed years ago under my parents’ insurance. I never considered what I would have done if a lump had returned.

    I was living on the edge, one mishap away from a financial disaster!

    Maybe the concussion knocked some sense into me, but I finally listened to my dad.

    I logged onto and enrolled in a Silver plan that includes dental. And since I qualify for a reduced premium, the plan costs less than $100 a month.

    A burden I didn’t even realize I was carrying was lifted off of my shoulders!

    I received my health insurance card on my mother’s birthday, January 2nd. What a great gift to us all! My parents and I now have the peace of mind knowing that I have affordable, quality insurance. I can go anywhere and pursue my dreams because I have the confidence of knowing that I am covered.

    I strongly encourage all young adults to visit the Health Insurance Marketplace at before open enrollment ends March 31 —even if, like me, you think you’re invincible. It’s easy and your options may be cheaper than you think.

    I won’t say that parents always know best, but I have to admit that signing up has been a breath of fresh air. I’m so glad mine never gave up. Thanks, Dad!

  • “My Brother’s Keeper”: Not a Person to Spare

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

    President Obama’s opportunity agenda – his belief that success should be determined by hard work and personal responsibility, not the circumstances of your birth – extends to every American. But perhaps no community more urgently needs a hand up on the ladder of opportunity than young men of color. That’s why the president announced a new initiative last week called My Brother’s Keeper, designed to give every young man of color who is willing to work hard the chance to live out his highest and best dreams.

    Opportunity remains elusive for too many young men of color. If you’re African-American, for example, you have a 50-50 chance of growing up without a father. It’s a 1-in-4 chance if you’re Latino. Fatherless boys, as the president pointed out, are more likely to be poor and to struggle in school. Black students lag behind their white counterparts in reading proficiency. By high school, black and Latino kids are more likely to have disciplinary problems and to end up dropping out, with a better chance of ending up in the criminal justice system. These are unconscionable hurdles that we have an obligation to do everything in our power to address.

    My Brother’s Keeper will do so by tapping the resources and expertise of foundations, philanthropists, faith leaders, businesses leaders and more. And it will use evidence-based strategies to evaluate which federal government programs are making progress toward our goal of empowering young men of color and which aren’t. Let’s identify what works and take it to scale.

    At the Labor Department, we look forward to an active role in this initiative. We are already making strong investments in programs that can help young men of color acquire the skills they need to find work and unlock their potential.

    Job Corps, for example, is an intensive residential, education and career technical training program for eligible at-risk youth, ages 16 to 24, with 125 centers nationwide. Last year, more than 70 percent of new enrollees were students of color. YouthBuild helps at-risk youth and high school dropouts obtain a high school diploma or GED credential and acquire occupational skill training that leads to employment. And through our Reintegration of Ex-Offenders grants, we support successful state and local programs that improve workforce outcomes for youth ex-offenders.

    The barriers to opportunity facing young men of color are a moral outrage. As long as the odds remain dauntingly stacked against them, America’s basic bargain is undermined. We can’t give up on these young people. We don’t write people off or kick them to the curb in this country. We help them find pathways to success.

    Speaking more pragmatically, this is an issue of national importance – because we all have a stake in the success of all of us. We’re talking about tomorrow’s leaders and tomorrow’s workforce. We don’t have any human capital to waste. We simply don’t have a person to spare.

    Tom Perez is Secretary of the United States Department of Labor.