US President Barack Obama was recently interviewed for a documentary on his program that assists underprivileged young black men, which began streaming on Facebook on Friday, in addition to being aired on the Discovery Channel and OWN on Sunday.
“I want every young man who sees me to know I’m not that different from them,” he says. “I wasn’t born into wealth, I wasn’t born into fame. I made a lot of mistakes, but I kept at it.”
The documentary, “Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper,” explores Obama’s past work as a community organizer and its effect on his current views concerning urban poverty and youth outreach. The president went on to say that the program offers participants guidance, which he feels is important for their development, writes Mark Hensch for The Hill.
“It’s useful for them to hear from somebody who has come out on the other side of it that the challenges they are going through are not that exceptional,” he says. “What also just strikes me is just how much of a difference it makes to have some adults in their lives and paying attention them saying, ‘You matter. You have talent. You have capacity. We’re going to help you,” he adds.
According to the documentary, there are currently over 60 superintendents from urban school districts across the nation, as well as 200 mayors, tribal leaders and county executives, who have promised to participate in the My Brother’s Keeper program.
The program was created by the president in February 2014 in response to the increasing number of black men who were dying, many as a result of encounters with police officers. Obama maintains that the program hopes to increase opportunities for young black, Hispanic and Native America males, while also decreasing the amount of negative views that surround these young men.
“Part of the purpose, I think, of My Brother’s Keeper is to allow people to interact with these young people, and to see themselves in these young people because so often these young men are seen only through the filter of stereotypes,” he said.
The president has repeatedly asked for changes pertaining to the criminal justice system, as well as pushing for additional funding early childhood education programs. All of this has been done in an effort to reduce the high rates of incarceration as well as unemployment often found in minority neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, some are left wondering about attention given to black females. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research released a report earlier this year finding that black males are not necessarily worse off than black women when looking at factors such as rates of homicide, suicide, incarceration, poverty, bullying, debt, and sexual violence, writes Emma Green for The Atlantic.
“I don’t think we want to take away from this momentum on boys, because it is desperately needed,” Angela Glover Blackwell, the founder and CEO of the advocacy organization PolicyLink, said. But “I hope we will have an initiative that has this much attention that also focuses on girls.”