The Money Behind My Brother’s Keeper: What’s Known So Far

President Obama hinted at White House initiative focused on assisting young men of color in his State of the Union, and officially introduced it as “My Brother’s Keeper” in late February. This initiative is a partnership between government, private business and the philanthropic community.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Obama for the announcement. Bloomberg started a similar program, the “Young Men’s Initiative,” in 2011. The city program commits to $127 million over three years to help black and Latino young men. Examples of city programs within the YMI scope include mentoring programs, school discipline advisory groups, internship programs and support programs for youth involved in the criminal justice system.

So, what is the substance of My Brother’s Keeper?

The fundamental difference between it and Bloomberg’s New York initiative is that New York City shared the cost of it with two private sources: Bloomberg’s own foundation, and the Open Society Institute.

It does not appear that the federal government will bring any resources to bear for My Brother’s Keeper; Obama did not announce and federal funding for it, nor did he single any out in his fiscal 2015 budget request.

His hopes for a robust initiative appear to rest entirely with the ten foundations he has asked to participate: Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and The Kapor Center for Social Impact.

The project will start out with $7.5 million, $750,000 each from ten foundations, to help build the infrastructure of the initiative. It Is not clear which entity will harbor and manage that money, which will likely be spent on hiring consultants and firms to assist with My Brother’s Keeper.

The ten foundations have agreed to invest at least $200 million in new investments, collectively over the next five years to support the President’s initiative. They have begun joint working groups to comb through prior grants, and identify evidence-based practices that will be presented to the White House sometime in June, according to a representative from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Some foundations have unofficially reported on initial strategies, which expand upon the work already being done by their grantees and create new opportunities as well.

Last year, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation invested around $3.8 million through 26 grants in Mississippi to support various programs targeting young men of color. One of them, Call Me MISTER, is a leadership development program through Jackson State University aimed at  preparing and placing African-American males in educational positions within elementary schools.

Kellogg has committed to increasing funding in the state of Louisiana to support similar efforts focused on young men of color, according to William Buster, Director of Mississippi and NOLA programs. The foundation also hopes to weave in opportunities for young men of color in other areas of their grant making, such as education, health and economic security.

California Endowment, which recently established an initiative focused on boys and young men of color called Sons and Brothers, has committed to investing $50 million over seven years on efforts within California. It has already begun to build the program with four grants in 2013:

  • Fenton Communications, $200,000 for strategic communications
  • L.A.’s Promise, $351,000 for health services improvements
  • Youth Together, $5,500 for a Health and Healing program
  • Movement Strategy Center, $625,000 over two years to support youth leadership for healthy communities

Outside of the foundation commitment, the Opportunity Finance Network has pledged to originate $1 billion in financing aimed at serving youth of color, with at least $300 million of that directed toward black and Latino males. OFN is a membership group of 225 community development financial institutions (CDFI),

CDFI organizations provide credit and financing to underserved communities. Thirty-five of OFN’s 225 members have signed on to take the “Youth Opportunity Pledge.”

Another aspect of the President’s initiative is the creation of a Task Force, which will be chaired by Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson. The Presidential Task Force will focus on the effect federal policies and regulations have upon boys and young men of color. It is also tasked with working with various stakeholders to compile the successes and challenges that programs serving the population have faced.

Judith Fenlon is the money and business editor for the Chronicle of Social Change

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Judith Fenlon
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Money & Business Editor for The Chronicle of Social Change


  1. I am the facilitator of a 50 member task force panel in Atlanta GA. This task force is spearheaded by Fulton County Chairman John Eaves. The task force is made up of non profit organizations, businesses, faith based organizations who have come together to adopt the highest risk area in Atlanta and pour services into that area so that we are able to save lives and begin a movement that will up lift men of color. We need funding to unite and concentrate services in one community while continuing our present services. Please provide information on available grant opportunities. Thank you

    • I just came across the MBK initative and found Fulton County’s part in it. I was a founder of YES!Atlanta back in 1988 and have been on the Board ever since. Is there a way that our organization can participate in this activity?

  2. Richard L Howell, thank you for your letter to the President, and to all of us, as well.

    A most important piece of education.

    You make it clear we knew what needed to happen then, just as we knew, i.e., Jawanza Kunjufu ‘s book in1982 Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys – re education in America, 98% white female teachers teaching black boys. Spending on prisons increased, while spending on public education decreased at the same time at the same rate: 100 billion +/- The war on drugs, 3 strikes, then 1 strike. The impact has already been suffered, the goal of millions incarcerated was accomplished.

  3. I would like information on how to get funding for a project with young men in Memphis, TN using resources from My Brother’s Keeper. Please forward information to:
    Virgie Banks
    P. O. Box 18671
    Memphis , TN 38181

  4. How can funding be obtain for programs such as below:

    For the eyes of the President:

    Please allow the President to read this letter.


    South Brooksville Community
    Economic Development Commission, Inc.
    835 School Street
    Brooksville, Florida 34601

    From: Richard L. Howell,
    Vice President, SBCEDC, Inc.
    822 Shayne Street
    Brooksville, Florida 34601
    (352) 476-7414

    The President
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20500

    Dear Mr. President:

    This letter is in response to your pledge of a “Brother’s Keepers” Initiative, and programs to support your Brother’s Keepers Initiative. My southern upbringing leads me to provide to you a means to revive a method of the ‘southern past’.

    Mr. President, integration in the small communities in the south did not fare well for all as a result of integration, some, maybe, but most fell through the cracks because the process was way-too sudden. This was a method of the ‘southern past’.

    Mr. President, the Negro communities, as referred to at that time, were blindsided with the closing of their schools overnight, and forcing Negro children to attend a once segregated white school overnight. The parents of the Negro children were not prepared, not on the lines of actual racial boundaries, even though racial boundaries did exist; but, because, the Negroes parents had not prepared themselves or their children for this sudden overnight change. No white parents at that time were forced to send their children to a once all segregated Negro school overnight. This was a method of the ‘southern past’.

    The sudden closure of the Negro schools, the sudden changes to the Negro Educational Curriculum that happened all over the south, mainly, in small rural towns and counties, where the majority of Negroes are located, set the Negros back years, rather than, advancing their cause. With no school in the community, businesses abruptly closed, property values plummeted, and the communities were racially targeted for destruction. This was a method of the ‘southern past’.

    Mr. President, let me explain; when school closed in June the year of the forced integration, most, if not all Negro schools consist of a football team with no less than 15 players and up to 44 players, Most, Negro schools had Glee Clubs with dozens of members, bands and choruses with dozens of participants. Most Negro schools had a “Student Council” with at least 12 members.

    Mr. President, we lost access to all of these programs in three short months and overnight, from June the end of the Negro school year to September, the beginning of a school’s first year under integration. Most Negro schools had baseball teams of 18 players, reduced to 3 or 4, or to none at all, in three short months. But, Mr. President, we lost most of all what surely supports your “Brother’s Keepers” Initiative to a Tee. This was a method of the ‘southern past’.

    The New Farmers of America (NFA) curriculum was required in all of Florida segregated Negro High Schools. All boys were required to attend at least two years, and all of the boys in the school remained a member of the NFA Chapter until graduating high school. Do not let the word “Farmers” fool you, the New Famers of America Organizations offered much more than farming. Each NFA member had to complete a project in their first year, plant a garden, raise chickens, raise a hog or sponsor a bull, etc. The NFA Chapter sponsored school banquets using food produced by the Chapter, and meat raised by the Chapter. The NFA Chapters sponsored local and national spelling bees, local orator contests, regional orator contests, and national orator contests. The NFA Organization sponsored summer programs in the form of competition between Chapters that were held for Florida Negro Schools at Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University. This was a Negro oriented method of the ‘southern past’.

    Mr. President, this NFA Organization was a “Brother’s Keepers” type organization and it built men. Note, there was a Future Farmers of America Organization, and a, New Famers of America Organization, Negroes were the ‘New” farmers. The Future Farmers Organization is still in operation, but, needless to say, the New Farmers of America Organization suffered the same fate as the band or the chorus on that last Negro school year. This was a method of the ‘southern past’.

    Mr. President, here it is, here is your “Brother’s Keepers Initiative in the south” a reformation of the New Farmers of America as a required new curriculum, under a two year high school minimum requirement.

    See Below:

    The New Farmers of America (NFA) was organized in Virginia in 1927 and became a national organization for African-American young men in 1935. The organization was formed to serve agriculture students in southern states where schools were segregated by law. Much like the National FFA Organization (FFA), NFA sought to provide young men with vocational, social and recreational activities in order to develop their skills in public speaking, leadership and agricultural trades.

    The NFA was an organization designed to develop the qualities of leadership and citizenship of its members by allowing them to participate in conducting meetings, sharing in carrying out the program of activities of the chapter, and serving on committees. The organization afforded its members leadership opportunities essential for their success as modern farmers. These leadership abilities were developed through public speaking, judging, chapter contests, and from training received through the work of the chapter committees under the supervision of the local adviser.
    The NFA started as a vision of three men: Dr. H. O. Sargent, Federal Agent for Agricultural Education, U.S. Office of Education, George Washington Owens, Teacher Trainer, Virginia State College, and the “Father of NFA”,J.R. Thomas, Teacher Trainer, Virginia State College. NFA was a localized movement in Virginia around 1927. H.O. Sargent, Federal Agent for Agricultural Education, and G.W. Owens, Teacher-Trainer at Virginia State College, were two of the earliest proponents of an organization for African-American farm youth. While Owens wrote the constitution for the New Farmers of Virginia and helped lay the foundation for what would become a national organization, Sargent lobbied within the Department of Education to officially create an organization in segregated schools. As the idea grew in popularity, chapters formed sporadically throughout the southern states and region. State associations emerged next and then sectional associations based on proximity: Washington, Gulf (later called Sargent), and A-L-Tex-O (later called Almmot). These sections held conferences and contests unifying the state associations until a national organization was officially created on August 4, 1935.
    Aim and Purpose
    The NFA Emblem

    • Plow – tillage of the soil
    • Owl – wisdom
    • Rising sun – progress
    • Open boll of cotton with two leaves attached at the base – representing important economic agricultural interest
    • American eagle with shield, arrow, and olive branch – representing the wide scope of the organization
    • The letters “NFA” and the words, “Vocational Agriculture”
    The NFA Creed
    I believe in the dignity of farm work and that I shall prosper in proportion as I learn to put knowledge and skill into the occupation of farming.
    I believe that the farm boy who learns to produce better crops and better livestock; who learns to improve and beautify his home surroundings will find joy and success in meeting the challenging situations as they arise in his daily living.
    I believe that rural organizations should develop their leaders from within; that the boys in the rural communities should look forward to positions of leadership in the civic, social and public life surrounding them.
    I believe that the life of service is the life that counts; that happiness endures to mankind when it comes from having helped lift the burdens of others.
    I believe in the practice of cooperation in agriculture; that it will aid in bringing to the man lowest down a wealth of giving as well as receiving.
    I believe that each farm boy bears the responsibility for finding and developing his talents to the end that the life of his people may thereby be enriched so that happiness and contentment will come to all.
    The NFA emblem was made up of five symbols:
    1. plow representing tillage of the soil
    2. owl representing wisdom
    3. rising sun representing progress
    4. open boll of cotton with two leaves attached to its base representing important economic agricultural interest of many members
    5. American eagle with shield, arrows, and olive branch representing the wide scope of the organization.[3]

    Mr. President, on that “last day of the Negro school year” it closed more than the school, it closed down businesses that were depending on the schools, it created an exodus of Negro expertise out of the communities, teachers, basically, had to flee to other counties to be assured of teaching positions. Only, a few at a time were rated good enough to crossover- overnight, the lines of integration, the others had to flee to other counties, cities and states, leading totally to eliminating the teaching methods and techniques of Negro teachers.

    In conclusion, Mr. President, that June day, the end of the Negro school year, the Negro School in Hernando County had a 44 member football team, a 15 member basketball team, a 45 member band, a 12 member student council, a Consumer Economic Chapter for girls of 9 – 12 grades, and a New Famers of America Chapter for boys 9 – 12 grades, In three short months, we had 10 football players, 2 baseball players, no band members, maybe 2 chorus members – you get my drift, and of course we had no New Farmers of America Chapter, and we were not welcomed in the Future Farmers of America Chapters.

    Mr. President, above, is your Brother’s Keepers Initiative here in Hernando County, a suggested name, “Brother’s Keepers of America – New Famers of America Brother’s Keepers Program”. Also, Mr. President, the Future Farmers of America Organization will not suffice, it cannot change its colors in time, and it programs did not coincide with the programs of the New Farmers of America; they were more advanced and based on electives.

    I would like the opportunity to present such a program ideology to you with the hopes of it being jointly presented it to universities such as; Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University (FAMU), Alabama Agriculture and Mechanical University, Texas Agriculture and Mechanical University, other colleges and universities with agriculture and mechanical curriculums, for implementation considerations. This is a method of the ‘southern future’.

    In closing, I have been instructed by our Board of Directors to ask the President’s permission to use His “Brothers Keepers” phrase in our proposed new name. We voted and approved our new name as; Brothers Keepers Ministry of West Florida, Inc., from South Brooksville Economic Development, Commission, Inc.

    Sir: We are accepting donations from “All”.

    Richard L. Howell
    Vice President, SBCEDC, Inc.
    (352) 476-7414

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