LETTER OF 250+ CONCERNED BLACK MEN & OTHER MEN OF COLOR CALLING FOR THE INCLUSION OF WOMEN AND GIRLS
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Posted here is the Letter of 200 Concerned Black Men Calling for the Inclusion of Women and Girls to the President’s "My Brother’s Keeper" Initiative. The open letter questions how attempts to address the challenges facing males of color, without integrating a comparable focus on the complex lives of girls and women who live and struggle together in the same families, homes, schools, and neighborhoods, advances the interests of the community as a whole. As Kiese Leymon, one of the organizers noted, “The men who came together to lift up this issue are organizers, professors, recently incarcerated, filmmakers, taxi drivers, college students, high school teachers, ministers, former proathletes, fathers of sons, and fathers of daughters. These men, identifying as straight, queer and transgender, all share a commitment to the expansion of My Brothers Keeper and all other national youth interventions to include an explicit focus on the structural conditions that negatively impact all youth of color.” All Black men who believe that it is vital for our community to hold up the reality that shared fate requires a shared focus on interventions that work are encouraged to sign the letter by clicking here:
NOTE: Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and do not imply the endorsement of the listed institution.
Letter of 200 Concerned Black Men calling for the Inclusion of Women and Girls in "My Brother's Keeper"
May 28, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C.. 20500
Dear President Obama,
We write as African American men who have supported your presidency, stood behind you when the inevitable racist challenges to your authority have emerged, and have understood that our hopes would be tempered by the political realities that you would encounter. While we continue to support your presidency, we write both out of a sense of mutual respect and personal responsibility to address what we believe to be the unfortunate missteps in the My Brothers Keeper initiative (MBK). In short, in lifting up only the challenges that face males of color, MBK -- in the absence of any comparable initiative for females -- forces us to ask where the complex lives of Black women and Black girls fit into the White House’s vision of racial justice?
Your acknowledgment that race-conscious policies are still needed, and that addressing the needs of those left behind “is as important as any issue that you work on” was inspiring to us. We agree with your sense that racial inequality remains an urgent American problem that, as you indicated, “goes to the very heart” of why you ran for the presidency. We knew very well that you were echoing Dr. King’s observations when you noted that “groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways...require unique solutions.” We understand, as do you, that those ‘’who have seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations” include men and women in our communities who have struggled side-by-side against the opportunity gaps, shrinking resources and disparate conditions that contribute to the desperate circumstances facing our community. So we were surprised and disappointed that your commitments express empathy to only half of our community -- men and boys of color. Simply put, as Black men we cannot afford to turn away from the very sense of a shared fate that has been vital to our quest for racial equality across the course of American history.
As African Americans, and as a nation, we have to be as concerned about the experiences of single Black women who raise their kids on sub-poverty wages as we are about the disproportionate number of Black men who are incarcerated. We must care as much about Black women who are the victims of gender violence as we do about Black boys caught up in the drug trade. We must hold up the fact that Black women on average make less money and have less wealth than both White women and Black men in the United States just as we must focus on the ways in which Black men and women are disproportionately excluded from many professions.
We are not suggesting a national moratorium on Black male-oriented projects. But our sense of accountability does reflect the fact that our historic struggle for racial justice has always included men as well as women who have risked everything not just for themselves or for their own gender but for the prospects of the entire community. Moreover, we are concerned that your admonishment to Black and Latino men to be more responsible and to stop making excuses frames problems of educational attainment, unemployment, and incarceration consistent with those who say Blacks suffer from a “culture of pathology.” We believe in a vision of accountability and racial justice that is neither male-centered, heteropatriarchal or victim blaming.
Taking the lives of Black girls and women seriously would increase the likelihood that we would recognize and lift up loving parents regardless of whether they exist in single, dual, same-sex or opposite sex families; decrease our tendency to express nostalgia for a family structure whose absence wrongfully becomes the putative focal point for all that ails us; and put into sharp relief the fact that the obstacles we face are not simply matters of attitude adjustment and goal setting, but the consequences of deteriorating opportunities, the weakened enforcement of civil rights laws, and the increasing emphasis by government actors on policies that focus on punishment, surveillance, and incarceration.
We recommend an expansion of the MBK -- and all other national youth interventions -- to include an explicit focus on the structural conditions that negatively impact all Black youth. Of course encouraging young Black men and women to do their very best is important, as is holding them accountable when we think that is warranted. Our interventions, however, must acknowledge that the life chances of youth of color are impacted by the converging dynamics of racism, sexism, class stratification, homophobia and other such factors. For example, MBK, in its current iteration, solely collects social data on Black men and boys. What might we find out about the scope, depth and history of our structural impediments, if we also required the collection of targeted data for Black women and girls?
If the denunciation of male privilege, sexism and rape culture is not at the center of our quest for racial justice, then we have endorsed a position of benign neglect towards the challenges that girls and women face that undermine their well-being and the well-being of the community as a whole. As Black men we believe if the nation chooses to “save” only Black males from a house on fire, we will have walked away from a set of problems that we will be compelled to return to when we finally realize the raging fire has consumed the Black women and girls we left behind.
Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr., Civil Rights Icon and Mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Danny Glover, American Actor, Film Director and Political Activist
Darnell L. Moore, Editor, Founder of ‘You Belong,’ Brooklyn, NY
Devon Carbado, The Honorable Harry Pregerson Professor of Law at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Marlon Peterson, Program Coordinator at ‘Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets’, Brooklyn NY
Robin D. G. Kelly, The Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in United States History, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Oscar H. Blayton, Lawyer, Williamsburg, VA
Ricardo Guthrie, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ
Michael Hanchard, SOBA Presidential Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University
Luke Charles Harris, Co-Founder of the African American Policy Forum, Department of Political Science, Vassar College, New York, NY
Kiese Laymon, Author, English Department, Vassar College, Jackson, MS
Mark Anthony Neal, Professor Of African and African American Studies
Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, Pastor for Formation and Justice, First Baptist Church, Jamaica Plains, MA
Dr. James Turner, Founding Director, Africana Studies Center, Cornell University
Michael Dawson, John D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science and the College Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, The University of Chicago
David Ikard, Associate Professor of English at Florida State University, Ph.D.
Nyle Forte, Teacher and Baptist Pastor, Newark, NJ
Walter Fields, Executive Editor and Columnist at North Star News, Irvington, NJ
Houston Baker, Distinguished University Professor of English and African American Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Cedric Robinson, Department of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
Charles Steele, President and CEO, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Atlanta, GA
Thomas Sayers Ellis, Professor, Poet, Photographer
Eduardo Bonilla Silva, Professor of Sociology at Duke University, Durham, NC
Mychal Denzel Smith, freelance writer and social commentator, Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute, Brooklyn, NY
Wade Davis II, Speaker, writer, activist, educator, former NFL player, Co-Founder of You Belong, Executive Director of You Can Play, New York, NY
Scott Poulson-Bryant, Award-winning Journalist and Author, co-founding editor at Vibe Magazine
Alexander Hardy, Writer
Saeed Jones, Writer and Editor, A 2013 Pushcart Prize Winner, Brooklyn, NY
Charles Mills, John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Cleve Tinsley IV, Ordained Baptist minister, Adjunct Professor of Religion and Culture at Rice University and Springfield College, Houston, TX
Al-Lateef Farmer, EOF Recruiter/Student Development Specialist at Mercer County Community College Philadelphia, PA
Kamasi Hill, Evanston Township High School, Chicago, IL
Robert Jones, Jr., Writer and Founder, Son of Baldwin, Brooklyn, NY
Robert Hill, Afro-American and Caribbean History, Editor of the Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Ted Bunch, Activist, Educator, Co-Founder of A Call to Men, Rockville Centre, NY
Brad “Kamikaze” Franklin, President/CEO at Our Glass Entertainment, Jackson, MS
David Whettstone, Public Policy Advocate & Writer, Washington, DC
Adisa Ajamu, Executive Director at the Atunwa Community Collective Development Think Tank, Los Angeles, CA
Herman Beavers, Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Wren Brown, Actor, Los Angeles, CA
Oscar Alexander Robles, Manager of Non-profit Partnerships, Former Co-Director in the Coalition for Equitable Communities at Florida State University
Ade Raphael, Student, Irvine, CA
Seth Bynum, Student, Montclair, NJ
Julian Williams, Director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, Vassar College
Ocasio Wilson, Albany, NY
Merio Maye, Far Rockaway, NY
Dashawn Walker, Bowdoin College Class of 2014, Portland, ME
Ken Miles, Harlem, NY
Elijah Winston, Student, Gilbert, AZ
Matthew Brown, Student, Brooklyn, NY
Juan Thompson, Student, Chicago, IL
Jon Conningham, Digital Media student at the University of Washington
James Cantres, Student, African Diaspora at NYU
Chad Anderson, Program Associate, Office of Integrative Liberal Learning and the Global Commons
Jafari Allen, Associate Professor of Anthropology & African American Studies at Yale University
Guthrie Ramsey, Professor of Music at University of Pennsylvania
Monroe France, Assistant Vice President for Student Diversity/Director of Multicultural Education and Services, NYU
Isaiah M. Wooden, Ph.D candidate and Director-dramaturg, Department of Drama at Stanford
Aaron Talley, Activist, Writer, Educator, Blogger for the Black Youth Project, Detroit, MI
La Marr Jurelle Bruce, Lecturer in Theater Studies, Yale University.
Dr. Van Bailey, Inaugural Direc