Op-ED: My Brother’s Keeper Initiative Needed in High-Crime Queens Neighborhoods

Low high school graduation rates and increased crime in areas like Jamaica and Far Rockaway are prime targets of President Obama’s new black-male initiative, but it’s also giving locals hope that their neighborhoods might be better in the future.

The initiative, called “My Brother’s Keeper,” is designed to provide an alternate lifestyle for young men of color in areas such as health, nutrition, and a higher quality education, the President said. The organization will serve as a liaison between the government, police and local communities to reduce violence in urban communities.

“I could see myself in these young men,” said Obama. “I made bad choices, I got high without thinking about the harm it would do and didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have.” The difference, he said, is that “I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving. When I made a mistake, the consequences were a little less severe.”

The organization will bring together local businesses, government, and non-profit organizations to rally support fostering more positive results for young men of color the president said.

Data from a recent study by the Department of Education (DOE) revealed a disparaging difference in the reading proficiency levels in minorities. The White House pointed out that almost 90 percent of black boys were reading below the level necessary to compete in academic proficiency whereas 58 percent of white boys are reading below the accepted proficiency rate.

“I’m not surprised,” said Javonne Faison a social worker at Safe Horizon, a non-profit organization that focus on preventing violence and promoting healthy and safe environments for families. “Young men of color have always been the target of racial profiling and victims of countless crimes. “Too many mothers are losing sons and too many boys are growing up without fathers.”

And the problem can be seen just as clearly in Queens. In 2012, the NYSDOE released graduation and testing rates showing Queens had a graduation rate of 63 percent, down from the previous year by 2 percent. Graduating black students dropped the most out of the minority population to below 60 percent and only 11 percent were viable for CUNY colleges.

“An initiative like this would mean a lot to this community,” said Psychology major Courtney Best, 18. “With so much self destruction this could be what we need to show our youth we can’t keep tearing each other down to get to the top.”

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