Mayor Walsh Wants Boston To Lead Nation On My Brother's Keeper Initiative

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Mayor Marty Walsh arrives at the BCYF Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan for Saturday's My Brother's Keeper event. (Simón Rios/WBUR)
Mayor Marty Walsh arrives at the BCYF Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan for Saturday's My Brother's Keeper event. (Simón Rios/WBUR)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is vowing to close achievement gaps faced by young men of color in this city. His plan is based on the national initiative, My Brother's Keeper, and will tackle issues of education, violence and jobs.

The Boston initiative is now out with its first report, which lays out the city's plan of action and data on the stark disparities faced by black and Latino youth.

In the city of Boston, Latino children are nearly five times more likely than white children to live in poverty. And for black men, the unemployment rate is almost four times what it is for white men.

"We need to make sure that we have equality for all and when we talk about it, I don't just mean by my Cabinet, I don't just mean by my command staff, I don't mean by just even City Hall," Walsh said Saturday.

Endorsed by minority leaders and elected by strong margins in communities of color, Walsh is taking on the issue of race-based inequality — particularly for young men. In the heart of Mattapan, he laid out the local vision of the president's My Brother's Keeper initiative.

"This advisory committee sat down and worked hours and hours and hours talking about things we don't want to talk about in this city," Walsh said.

The new report identifies three key milestones: jobs, education and violence reduction. Each is supported by recommendations for the dozens of city and community groups involved in My Brother's Keeper.

President Obama outlined the national initiative last year. Dozens of cities have answered the call, including New York, Chicago and Baltimore, but Walsh says Boston will lead.

"My Brother's Keeper is an opportunity to put Boston on a more firm pathway for equity for our young people, and hopefulness for our young people," he said. "We're going to show America the way forward."

The Boston report ties together existing city initiatives — like summer jobs, financial empowerment and violence interrupter programs. It also identifies nonprofits doing similar work, and proposes metrics to measure progress.

"We're going to show America the way forward."

Mayor Marty Walsh

Among those in attendance at Saturday's event was 17-year-old Malachi Hernandez, a student leader in My Brother’s Keeper who sits on the Mayor’s Youth Council. Hernandez says the city can help by incorporating youth into the democratic process. It can also fund more activities.

“Continue to provide youth programs and youth community centers, because that's what keeps them busy and off the streets, and especially during the summer time, summer's around the corner, I don't wanna see a number of young people dying because those are my peers," said Hernandez.

Hernandez’s voice is making waves. He recently met with President Obama, who recounted the meeting earlier this week.

“One young man, Malachi. He just talked about — we should talk about love. Malachi and I shared the fact that our dad wasn't around and that sometimes we wondered why he wasn't around and what had happened. But really, that's what this comes down to is: Do we love these kids?” Obama said.

It was a year ago that Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper. That was before Ferguson and Baltimore. This week the president addressed the tensions between police and communities of color at length, announcing the My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a foundation to support the underlying goals.

A key part of that work in Boston is the Mayor’s Mentoring Movement, a program that falls under My Brother's Keeper that has already drawn more than 700 volunteers. Walsh has expressed relief that Boston isn’t Baltimore. But he knows there’s more work to be done.

This segment aired on May 10, 2015.


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Simón Rios Reporter
Simón Rios is an award-winning bilingual reporter in WBUR's newsroom.



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