Hodges attends White House event on My Brother’s Keeper initiative

Mayor Betsy Hodges joined leaders from communities across the country at the White House Thursday morning for a summit on President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge — an initiative calling on communities to help improve the lives of young men of color.

Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to the president, Attorney General Eric Holder and Taj Atkinson, a high school student from Newark, N.J., kicked off the event with remarks about the project’s potential.

“You are the lynchpin to our success,” Jarrett told local leaders gathered at the White House, adding it will take a “sustained surge” to ensure that young men of color are given a “level playing field” to succeed in their communities.

Holder, who will soon step down from his post, said he’ll remain committed to the cause of My Brother’s Keeper after he leaves the position. He said the goal is to “widen the circle of opportunity” for young men and help them reach their potential through mentorship opportunities and other support networks.

The president formally launched the initiative Feb. 27, 2014 and issued a call to action to communities to get involved in September. Hodges and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman held a joint My Brother’s Keeper Local Action Summit in November.

“We simply can’t afford the stark disparities our young men and boys of color face,” Hodges said in a statement. “They have so much to contribute to our city and our region — it is imperative to fully include boys and young men of color in our success.”

Hodges and Coleman have created a joint My Brother’s Keeper Planning Team for the Twin Cities and held its first meeting in January. The Minnesota Council on Foundations is also involved in the team, which is focused on reviewing local programs and policies that are achieving successes in empowering young men of color.

The mayors will host a community meeting in April to launch the next steps of the challenge.

The goal is to ensure that young men of color are reaching the same milestones other youth are who are on a path to a successful life, including starting school ready to learn, reading at grade level by third grade, graduating from high school ready for college and a career, completing post-secondary training and successfully entering the workforce.