President Barack Obama speaks with Christian Champagne, 18, a senior at Hyde Park Career Academy in Chicago, who introduced him before launching a new initiative to provide greater opportunities for young black and Hispanic men called 'My Brother's Keeper' on Thursdayin the East Room of the White House in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)
Washington — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan praised a White House initiative to help boys and young men of color, saying he wanted to see if a Chicago program for mentoring young African-American men could take root in the Motor City.
President Barack Obama on Thursday launched My Brother’s Keeper— “a new initiative to help every boy and young man of color who is willing to do the hard work to get ahead,” according to the White House — as a way to get more young minority men on the path to success.
In addition, Duggan said he had a number of meetings with the Obama administration, but declined to say with whom he met with.
“Everybody here’s been great to me. We’ve had a number of initiatives going with the White House. We had a chance to meet with a number of officials. We’re just going to keep building this partnership,” Duggan said.
The White House has worked with Detroit officials to redirect $300 million in unused federal money and foundation grants to the city.
Duggan was among those who attended the White House event that also included former Secretary of State Colin Powell; U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit; former basketball star Magic Johnson; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Also attending were members of the Chicago-based “Becoming a Man” group, some of whom met Obama last year in Chicago.
“It was very inspiring. We need to raise the expectations of our children as to what they can accomplish, and we need to move some of the barriers out,” Duggan said in a Detroit News interview. “I’m fascinated to learn about this BAM program in Chicago and see if it is the kind of thing we can bring to Detroit.”
Obama signed a presidential memorandum establishing the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force to help determine what public and private efforts are working and how to expand them. The task force will assess the impact of federal policies, regulations and “programs of general applicability on boys and young men of color, so as to develop proposals that will enhance positive outcomes and eliminate or reduce negative ones.”
Many national foundations are supporting the effort and have made extensive investments, including $150 million in current spending that they have already approved or awarded.
“Building on that, today these foundations are announcing that over the next five years they seek to invest at least $200 million, alongside additional investments from their peers in philanthropy and the business community, to find and rapidly spread solutions that have the highest potential for impact in key areas, including: early child development and school readiness, parenting and parent engagement, 3rd grade literacy, educational opportunity and school discipline reform, interactions with the criminal justice system ladders to jobs and economic opportunity and healthy families and communities,” the White House said.
A 2011 report from Data Driven Detroit showed the Motor City’s children — 78 percent of whom are African-American — are among the poorest in the nation. The report showed over half of Detroit’s children under 18 lived in poverty, compared with less than one in four children statewide.
Duggan noted one of the few areas where Gov. Rick Snyder and Obama agree is the need for early childhood education for at-risk children.
“I’m supporting Gov. Snyder and his proposal in Lansing to get that done and that could be a very transformation moment for the children of Detroit,” the mayor said Thursday, echoing what he said Wednesday in his first State of the City address.