Detroit leaders accept President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Challenge; Skillman commits $2M


DETROIT – More than 50 leaders from Detroit’s civic, corporate and philanthropic communities, including Mayor Mike Duggan and former Mayor Dave Bing, gathered today on Wayne State University’s campus to commit to President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and to begin work on a plan to change outcomes for young men of color in Detroit.

The Obama administration began the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative in February in response to the growing disparities that young African American and Latino men face. In May, after a listening tour that included a stop in Detroit, the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force submitted a report to President Obama. This summer, Obama issued a playbook that outlined a set of recommendations and steps for implementing the initiative across the country, and he invited mayors to take on the challenge.


Skillman Foundation President & CEO, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and Detroit City Councilman James Tate speak at the My Brother's Keeper Detroit event on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014 at St. Andrew's Hall on Wayne State University's campus. Credit: Paul Engstrom/Skillman Foundation

Duggan did just that on Monday, saying that his administration has hired a Director of Youth Services, Shawn Blanchard, who already has several initiatives underway. Earlier this year, the Mayor announced a plan to provide summer employment in 2015 for 5,000 youth ages 15-24. He also launched Goal Detroit, a citywide youth soccer league that is open to all elementary schools. 

“The success of Detroit is directly tied to its young people,” Duggan said. “The My Brother's Keeper program is vital, especially in a city like Detroit that is 83 percent African American. With the President's leadership and the support of the Skillman Foundation, we will do our part to make sure Detroit youths have access to opportunities and the support they require to reach their full potential." 

The Skillman Foundation is committing $2 million total in grants to support the My Brother’s Keeper work in Detroit. This week, it is making a $750,000 grant to the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, a national program will coordinate efforts in Detroit. The grant, to be paid over two years with $375,000 each in 2015 and 2016, focuses on building local leadership to collaborate on a shared framework to advance the work. Of those funds, $500,000 will be deployed locally to support My Brother’s Keeper initiatives and projects on the ground in Detroit.

Those in attendance Monday represented organizations including Detroit Public Schools, the Educational Achievement Authority, the City of Detroit, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Detroit City Council, the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, charter schools, and prominent neighborhood organizations. The goal of the convening was to form a workgroup with two subcommittees — a policy subcommittee and a resources and assets subcommittee — that will produce a joint report in 120 days that includes a set of recommendations for dramatically improving the life outcomes for young men of color in Detroit.

“We know that this is possible,” said Tonya Allen, president & CEO of the Skillman Foundation. “We’ve seen it happen in our neighborhoods, where graduation rates for African American males have risen 15 percent since 2008. We have many strong partners working on these issues in Detroit. We need an alignment across agencies, neighborhoods and programs — a shared urgency. Today is a big step toward that alignment. We have accepted Obama’s challenge, and now the real work begins.”

Data shared at Monday’s meeting included citywide demographic breakdowns and statistics that show how African American and Hispanic populations are struggling in Detroit to achieve academically. Among the data:

  • Roughly 54 percent of both African American and Hispanic males ages 0-24 live in poverty in Detroit.
  •  86 percent of African-American male births from 2010-2012 were to mothers who had never been married. The same measure was 57 percent for Hispanic male births.
  •  The estimated number of third-grade males proficient in reading on the Fall 2013 MEAP was 28 percent for Hispanic males and 33 percent for African Americans.
  •  The estimate number of males in the 2020 graduation class who scored proficient in math of the Fall 2013 MEAP was 19 percent for Hispanics and 16 percent for African Americans.
  •  The citywide graduate rate was 62 percent for African American males and 55 percent for Hispanic males in 2013.
  •  In the six Skillman Foundation-targeted neighborhoods (Brightmoor, Chadsey Condon, Cody Rouge, Northend, Osborn, and Southwest Detroit), where multiple agencies have come together to focus on improving outcomes, graduate rates for African American boys rose 15 percent from 2008 to 2013.

Media contacts:

Krista Jahnke, Skillman Foundation


John Roach, City of Detroit, Mayor’s Office

Communications Director