Pittsburgh Leaders Release Game Plan For National My Brother's Keeper Initiative

Nov 3, 2015

President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting about the My Brother's Keeper initiative in Washington on July 21, 2014. Pittsburgh leaders on Friday released a city-wide "playbook" outlining how local organizations can best serve the president's national call for action.
Credit J. Scott Applewhite / AP File Photo

Leaders and community members released a local “playbook” on Friday reflecting how Pittsburghers can best harness their collective efforts to meet President Barack Obama’s challenge to become a My Brother’s Keeper Community.

My brother’s keeper is a national initiative intended to help black men and boys combat difficult health, educational and social conditions plaguing their communities.

National program goals include ensuring young people who enter school are mentally and physically prepared, able to read by the third grade, graduate from high school, get some sort of post-secondary education or training, stay away from violent crime and receive an all-important second chance if the need arises.

Members of a 16-person committee, including government workers, non-profit employees, faith-based representatives and community members, presented Pittsburgh's game plan with examples of existing community work already yielding results. Mayor Bill Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald applauded efforts to recruit more mentors, host mentoring meals and moderate local twitter chats about the initiative with local rapper and activist Jasiri X.

Fredrick Harris, director of the Center on African-American Politics and Society at Columbia University in New York, has studied the initiative through his work with the non-partisan think tank The Brookings Institute.

It's the latest in a number of national and community efforts in the last few decades attempting to fix “the crisis of the black male,” he said, speaking broadly about the initiative at large. 

“They simply haven’t worked," Harris said. "And I suspect the reason these programs have not worked is because they haven’t really focused enough attention on what I would describe as structural issues like unemployment, public policy around the criminal justice system and support for black women as well," he said.