White House meets with activists calling for gender equity in My Brother’s Keeper


President Obama (C) talks about the “My Brother’s Keeper Task Force” while in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, May 30, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Top White House officials had an hour-long meeting with a group of scholars and activists calling for the inclusion of girls of color in President Obama’s signature racial justice program known as My Brother’s Keeper.  The meeting included the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has championed MBK, and top activists and academics who signed a letter criticizing the initiative for focusing on boys and young men of color without a corollary for girls of color.

Sharpton, reached via e-mail, described the meeting as “constructive.”

A White House official sent She The People this readout from the meeting

Today, Valerie Jarrett, Tina Tchen and Broderick Johnson met with a group of stakeholders to discuss how they could work more closely with the White House Council on Women and Girls (CWG) to increase opportunities for girls and young women of color. During the meeting, the officials walked through the Administration’s accomplishments on issues critical to women and girls of color. The group also discussed ways in which stakeholders could become more engaged with the CWG and My Brother’s Keeper. At the conclusion of the meeting, everyone agreed to continue the productive discussion and to work together to provide opportunity for all young people of color.

Announced in February, MBK is a $200 million dollar public-private partnership, that will direct resources and attention to boys of color, who statistically have high incarceration and drop-out rates.  The White House released a 60-page task force detailing some of the barriers and difficulties young men of color often face. Obama first announced his intention to address the social problems of young men of color in the wake of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, which sparked anger among many, particularly African Americans.

Melanie Campbell, chief executive of The Black Woman’s Roundtable, attended the meeting and said it was “a good start.”

“We had different viewpoints and it was a good dialogue for how to move forward and to continue that conversation,” she said.  “We all need to figure out how to make life better for our kids, boys and girls and men and women of color. We will continue to work together on these issues.”

Over the last few months, a letter-writing campaign spearheaded by the African American Policy Forum has voiced the concerns of prominent Obama backers, among them Rosario Dawson, Danny Glover, as well as legal scholar Kimberle W. Crenshaw, who also attended the Tuesday afternoon meeting. Almost 1500 people signed a letter saying they were “profoundly troubled about the exclusion of women and girls of color from this critical undertaking.”

And on twitter, the hashtag #whywecantwait cropped up:

Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality” to describe the ways in which women of color face discrimination based on race and gender,  said the meeting was both frank and productive.

“We were delighted to have the opportunity to share our concerns about the crises facing women and girls of color and to discuss ways that their issues could be more central to this unprecedented public-private presidential initiative to focus on our youth of color,” she said. “We look forward to continued progress.”

 

 

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