MBK Detroit Earns Presidential Pat on the Back
“We want fewer young men in jail; we want more of them in college. We want fewer young men on the streets; we want more in the boardrooms. We want everybody to have a chance to succeed in America.”
– President Barack Obama
My Brother’s Keeper initiative launch, February 27, 2014
In February 2014, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, challenging communities across the nation to close the opportunity gaps that boys and men of color regularly face. Present in the crowd for his announcement were Skillman Foundation President & CEO Tonya Allen and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, both of whom readily accepted the President’s call to action. The Foundation joined with Mayor Duggan’s office, as well as more than 100 other civic, social and corporate leaders, to develop and execute a “cradle to college-and-career” strategy that would help ensure Detroit’s black and brown youth reach their full potential.
Since then, My Brother’s Keeper Detroit has become one of the most strategic and active MBK initiatives in the nation. In December 2015, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement ranked Detroit highest in efforts to reduce disparities for boys and men of color. And, on January 20, 2016, MBK Detroit leadder Dr. Tolulope Sonuyi had the great honor of having lunch with President Obama and a small group of local leaders to discuss the resurgence of the city’s economy and livelihood, and the challenges they face, including efforts to expand opportunities for young men of color and other disconnected youth.
“It was without a doubt a major experience,” said Dr. Sonuyi.
Dr. Sonuyi, an emergency physician at Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit, sees far too many young men end up victims of violence. He knew to really make the boys whole again would require more than treating their physical ailments. So, he launched an intervention program where specialists meet young victims in their hospital room, offering them services and supports to help make better life decisions and escape the cycle of violence.
“I’m motivated by the individuals I’ve met who have overcome tremendous odds. To be able to share that energy with the President was incredible,” said Dr. Sonuyi. “Our discussion centered around the importance of understanding the complex circumstances that surround our young men growing up in challenging environments, and with that understanding, creating solutions driven by compassion and creativity. The President applauds the efforts of the MBK initiative in Detroit and said everyone that is a part of this work should feel very proud.”
“When the President arrives at your doorstep and says ‘good work’, I think all should be encouraged that this work does not occur in a vacuum. This work is vitally important. It has potentially reverberating effects to inspire not only the Detroit community, but the nation at large.”