My Brother’s Keeper


Obama Launches New Initiative For Young Black Men

President Obama announced a new initiative at the White House today called “My Brother’s Keeper,” which asks business and civic leaders to look for and invest in ways to empower young black men. The New York Times reports that several high-profile foundations have committed $200 million over the next five years to the effort, focusing especially on “early-childhood development, educational opportunities, school readiness and discipline, parenting, and the criminal justice system.”

The initiative is likely the start of a lifelong cause for the President and the First Lady, according to several of his closest advisers. “I’m sure their commitment to this initiative will be a lifelong commitment,” said Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest friends from Chicago. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, agreed: “This is core to who they are individually and core to who they are together.”

Yet another aide recalled a story from Father’s Day 2013 when Obama was presented with a Father’s Day card from a group of Chicago teenagers visiting the White House.

“I never signed a Father’s Day card before,” one explained as Obama opened the card. “I’ve never signed a Father’s Day card, either,” Obama replied.

Over at ThinkProgress, Bryce Covert goes into detail about why this initiative is so important. Here are just a few of the reasons:

1. Black students experience an educational achievement gap that grows.

A combination of a lack of high-quality preschool and other factors means that an achievement gap between black children and white children starts when they are as young as nine months old. But it gets bigger and bigger:

Chart3CREDIT: The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution

2. A huge number of black teenagers are unemployed.

The unemployment rate among black teenagers is 38 percent — down from nearly 50 percent at the peak of the recession, but still far above the 7 percent rate for entire population.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 10.29.45 AM

3. Even those who are employed make less.

Jobs that are over-represented by black men earn more than $13,000 less per year than jobs that are under-represented by black men.

uploadCREDIT: Economic Policy Institute

For other ideas how the president and Congress can help young black men, check out this piece from Vanessa Cardenas, one of our Center for American Progress colleagues, HERE.


African American History

This February, during National African American History Month, we reflect on “Civil Rights in America,” and celebrate historic achievements and foot soldiers, well-known and unknown, who fought to secure rights long denied. But as we take stock of how far we have come, we also recognize how far we still have to go and the responsibility we all share to make our Nation more equal and more just in our time.

Throughout the month, the Obama Administration has touted the successes of African Americans and brought awareness to many issues affecting the community. We partnered with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, highlighted the work of Carter G. Woodson, met with civil rights leaders, and shined a spotlight on health in the African American community and the Affordable Care Act. See below to read more about what the Administration has been up to in February.

For more information about how the White House is working with the African American community, visit where you can access the latest blog posts, videos, and more.

don’t forget to check out the President’s Proclamation for National African American History Month.


Heather Foster Advisor, White House Office of Public Engagement

We the Geeks: Celebrating Black History Month

African Americans are making significant contributions in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). But still we need to make sure that today’s African American students also see themselves as tomorrow’s discoverers, explorers, developers, and STEM innovators.”

Tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. ET, we’re hosting “We the Geeks: Celebrating Black History Month” — a Google+ Hangout with some of our foremost African American STEM innovators and education advocates.

And we want you to join.

RSVP for tomorrow’s “We the Geeks: Celebrating Black History Month.”

President Obama at the White House Science Fair

President Barack Obama talks with Evan Jackson, 10, Alec Jackson, 8, and Caleb Robinson, 8, from McDonough, Ga., while looking at exhibits at the White House Science Fair in the State Dining Room, April 22, 2013. The sports-loving grade-schoolers created a new product concept to keep athletes cool and helps players maintain safe body temperatures on the field. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Partnering for Action in African American Communities

Leaders from some of the country’s foremost African American civil rights organizations joined President Obama and a handful of Administration leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Tuesday, February 18. To open the meeting, Valerie Jarrett was joined by Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, and White House Advisor for Health Policy and Implementation Phil Schiliro for a discussion outlining the President’s priorities for this year of action.

Present were leaders from the NAACP, the National Urban League, the National Action Network, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Bar Association and the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation. The group covered a range of issues of great concern to the President, and the African American community, touching on job growth, education and job training, maintaining our momentum in enrolling the uninsured through the Affordable Care Act, bringing more fairness and efficiency to our criminal justice system, increasing the minimum wage, and ensuring ladders of opportunity for all.

See more from last week’s meeting.

President Obama Meets with African American Civil Rights Leaders

President Barack Obama meets with African American civil rights leaders to discuss criminal justice reform, income inequality and the Affordable Care Act, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Feb. 18, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) February 18, 2014. (Official White House Photo)

Sharpening Our Focus to Meet National Goals on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

As we observed National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) 2014 on February 7, we were reminded that African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Among African Americans, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (Black MSM) are especially hard hit, representing more than half of all estimated new HIV infections among African Americans each year. A particularly disconcerting estimate in 2010 showed that young Black MSM aged 13 to 24 accounted for the greatest number (4,800) of estimated new HIV infections among African Americans.

Both individually and collectively we are called to be even more thoughtful, creative, and focused about actions we can undertake to strengthen HIV prevention, testing, care, and treatment for Black MSM in communities across the United States.

Among Federal programs, several important activities are underway to help those affected by HIV/AIDS:

  • Increasing the capacity, quality, and effectiveness of HIV/AIDS  service providers to serve Black MSM
  • Promoting and supporting HIV testing among Black MSM
  • Supporting engagement in HIV care
  • Strengthening state efforts for Black MSM
  • Supporting Implementation Research

Click here to read more.

Champion of African American History: Carter G. Woodson

In the fall of 1870, a handful of students made their way through the northwest quadrant of the nation’s capital, and through the doors of D.C.’s “Preparatory High School for Colored Youth,” the country’s first public high school for African American children. The students and teachers who graced its hallways would be heard through the years in the halls of Congress, in the highest ranks of the United States military, at the heart of our civil rights movement, and in the upper echelons of medical and scientific study.

One such voice was that of Carter G. Woodson; a journalist, author, historian, and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). It was through his work with the ASNLH that Woodson spearheaded the celebration of “Negro History Week” in America, which served as the precursor to Black History Month, which was officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976. Woodson taught us that, “those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”

Find out more about Carter G. Woodson.

Challenges and Progress: Black History Month & Affordable Health Care

As we join with President Obama in making 2014 a Year of Action, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius invited the public to participate in a Google Hangout on Wednesday, February 5 to discuss the progress and challenges related to health and human services in the African American community. She was joined by Shavon Arline, the National Health Director for the NAACP, as well as a 28-year-old Tampa resident who is getting covered through the Health Insurance Marketplace for only $15 a month.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans are obtaining quality, affordable health care coverage—many for the first time.  Yet, we still face shocking—and unacceptable—health disparities. African Americans are 55 percent more likely to be uninsured than white Americans. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, and 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure. And the infant mortality rate among African Americans is more than twice that of non-Hispanic whites.

Click here to read more.

National African American History Month 2014: Civil Rights in America

Progress in America has never come easy. Through centuries of struggle and hard-won victories, our country has been shaped by generations of Americans who believed this could be the Nation envisioned in our founding principles —a nation where all are treated equal, and all are free to pursue their dreams. With the leadership and resilience of African Americans, who have tirelessly championed these principles throughout our history, our Union continues to move forward toward a stronger, more just future for all.

This National African American History Month, as we reflect on “Civil Rights in America,” we celebrate historic achievements and foot soldiers, well-known and unknown, who fought to secure rights long denied. But as we hail our successes as a nation, we also acknowledge that there is more work to be done. We still have more to do to ensure every American has access to the health care they need at a price they can afford. We must keep fighting until every worker knows the stability of a fair wage, every family has access to ladders of opportunity into the middle class, and every young person gets a world-class education to prepare them for tomorrow’s jobs.

The Obama Administration has made strides in restoring opportunity for all Americans, and throughout the month of February we have highlighted healthcare, economic mobility, young men of color, and the impact of STEM as creating pathways of success and security for African Americans.

Click here to read more.

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Group Health drops Abortion coverage … We need a vote on RPA

At least one Washington state insurance plan has dropped abortion coverage, denying a woman the freedom and privacy to make her own pregnancy decisions. Without the Reproductive Parity Act, we could lose access to safe medical care. Please allow a Senate vote on the RPA and protect all of a woman’s legal pregnancy options!

Sign the petition!                   

There could be slaves in the supply chain of your chocolate, smartphone and sushi


By Tim Fernholz @timfernholz October 19, 2013

Forced labor is a reality, and you might be using products made by workers who had no choice in the matter.

 The first edition of Global Slavery Index from the Walk Free Foundation, an anti-slavery NGO, estimates that there are 30 million slaves in the world—and more than half of them are in prominent emerging markets like India, China, and Russia. 

Modern slavery, as the index defines it, includes all kinds of forced labor, ranging from hereditary bondage in Mauritania, which has the largest slave population per capita in the world, to forced sexual exploitation, including the arranged marriage of minors. Most of the countries where slaves make up a significant slice of the population have a cultural tradition of bonded labor, like Haiti’s restavek system of indentured servitude for children (which can be an innocent way for families to help each other out, the report says, but is often abused).


But the largest form of forced labor is in private industry, where about two-thirds of people working in slave conditions—usually forced or bonded labor—are found. That’s why this new effort to measure global slavery exists: It’s part of a campaign funded by the chairman of one of the world’s largest miners, Andrew Forrest of Fortescue Metals Group, who wants companies to eliminate slavery from their supply chains. As global trade has led firms to source materials and labor from ever more far-flung locales, it has become easier for them to turn a blind eye to who makes their products. Here are just a few examples:

  •  This summer, an Australian man imprisoned in China reported that prisoners were making headphones for global airlines like Qantas and British Airways. Some 300,000 sets of the disposable headphones were made by uncompensated prisoners who were forced to work without pay and regularly beaten. The index says that there are about 3 million slaves in China, in state-run forced labor camps, at private industrial firms making electronics and designer bags, and in the brick-making industry.
  • Companies like Apple, Boeing and Intel—among thousands of others—have been under pressure to document that the tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold they use aren’t being mined by slaves in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a civil war has led armed groups seeking funding to force civilians to work. The US Securities and Exchange Commission adopted a rule forcing American firms to trace the minerals they use to their origins, and while business lobbies have sued to overturn it, industry leaders have begun planning to file the first required reports in May 2014.
  • In the Asian seafood industry, migrant workers may become forced laborers who harvest and prepare mackerel, shrimp and squid bound for markets around the world.
  • Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s leading supplier of cocoa—some 40% of the global supply—and much of it is grown and harvested by some children engaged in forced labor. In 2010, Côte d’Ivoire said 30,000 children worked on cocoa farms, although Walk Free’s index estimates as many as 600,000 to 800,000. While this has been widely reported on since 2000, and the global response has been strong, compared to that of other allegations of forced labor, the problem has not really been solved. As of 2012, 97% of the country’s farmers have not participated in industry-sponsored campaigns against forced child labor. Mondelēz International, the world’s largest chocolate producer, which owns brands such as Milka, Toblerone and Cadbury, has struggled for years to take forced labor out of its supply chain. It committed $400 million to a program aimed at creating a sustainable cocoa economy last year, but its efforts have been ineffective so far.

Many of the countries in the map above are not party to international human trafficking treaties or simply don’t enforce them. Many of the companies that use labor in those places have weak supply-chain policies in place. The goal of Forrest’s group, inspired by Bill Gates’ data-centric philanthropy, is to make slavery easy to quantify, and thereby pressure international companies not to put up with it.

Drought and its Effects on Your Family

                                                                      Photo: flickr/kecko

With no sign of rain, 17 rural communities in California providing water to 40,000 people are in danger of running out within 60 to 120 days. Thinking that drought isn’t having an impact on your family? Consider your food supply, drinking water and the fuel to the spread of fire.