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Nothing without a woman or a girl

Barack ObamaIn February, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative aimed at helping young men and boys of color. The initiative brings together foundations, businesses, governors, mayors, faith leaders and nonprofit organizations. At Mayor Mike Duggan’s State of the City address, he indicated he would support the Obama administration effort in Detroit.

President Obama pledged $200 million to My Brother’s Keeper over the next five years, which does not include $150 million already invested. He also signed a presidential memorandum “directing the federal government to determine the best methods to improve the odds for young men of color.”

However, this week, Black women wrote a letter to President Obama concerning My Brother’s Keeper.

Angela Davis; Mary Frances Berry, former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; author, Alice Walker; economist, Julianne Malveaux; and law professors Anita Hill and Kimberle Crenshaw among 1,000 others, asked the president to expand the program to include girls and young women.

“While we applaud the efforts on the part of the White House, private philanthropy, social justice organizations and others to move beyond colorblind approaches to race-specific problems, we are profoundly troubled about the exclusion of women and girls of color from this critical undertaking. The need to acknowledge the crisis facing boys should not come at the expense of addressing the stunted opportunities for girls who live in the same households, suffer in the same schools, and struggle to overcome a common history of limited opportunities caused by various forms of discrimination.”

The women added, “We simply cannot agree that the effects of these conditions on women and girls should pale to the point of invisibility, and are of such little significance they warrant zero attention in the messaging, research and resourcing of this unprecedented Initiative. When we acknowledge that both our boys and girls struggle against the odds to succeed, and we dream about how, working together, we can develop transformative measures to help them realize their highest aspirations, we cannot rest easy on the notion the girls must wait until another train comes for them. Not only is there no exceedingly persuasive reason not to include them, the price of such exclusion is too high and will hurt our communities and country for many generations to come.”

200 Concerned Black Men also wrote to the president about the initiative. They encouraged “All Black men who believe … that shared fate requires a shared focus on interventions that work” to sign an online letter asking the president for parity.

It is not just young Black men who are suffering in Detroit but also young Black women. One need not look further than the infant mortality rate, which mirrors third world statistics, and child poverty numbers to know young women are also vulnerable in Detroit and urban America.

We join the Black women — feminists, legal experts, policy analysts and scholars — in asking President Obama and Mayor Mike Duggan to expand the program to include girls and benefit Black youth.

“Girls and women of color suffer, struggle and succeed with the men and boys in their lives. Only together will our collective well-being improve,” reads the letter.

In announcing My Brother’s Keeper, the President acknowledged that ensuring young men of color can reach their full potential is the only way “America can reach its full potential.”

Well, it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.

200 Black Men Letter:

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