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Dr. Robert “Biko” Baker On My Brother’s Keeper

Ever since its inception earlier this year, President Obama’s initiative for Black male achievement, My Brother’s Keeper, has sparked interest within the African-American community. Describing the [resident’s actions as a “bold move,” the program has especially garnered the support of Dr. Robert “Biko” Baker.

Baker, who is the executive director of The League of Young Voters, professed his support of Obama’s plan to assist Black males in his editorial, “We Don’t Have To Be Afraid Of The Elephant #mybrotherskeeper“. In an interview with JETMag.com, Dr. Baker takes time to expound on his convictions, provides further insight and encourages both Black men and women to become involved this rapidly growing movement.

JET: What prompted your interest in “My Brother’s Keeper?”

Dr. Robert Baker: For the last three or four years, I’ve been involved in a community that stresses Black male achievement. We were talking about it, but it wasn’t until I heard the President speak about it that I was inspired. I wanted to tell the world about an important opportunity for our generation.

JET: “We Don’t Have To Be Afraid Of The Elephant” was a well-balanced piece as you mentioned a few of Obama’s faults. What do you think prompted the president to introduce this initiative?

RB: The key thing is that it’s not a bill. It’s an initiative. Obama is using his presidency as a pulpit. He said if Trayvon Martin was one of his kids, he would be sad, mad and angry. As a Black man, he’s doing this for his legacy. It makes sense for the country. Black men and men of color are struggling. If we want to turn our country around financially, we need a strong Black, Asian and White middle class. It’s a great initiative and I’m proud of him.

JET: What will it take for this initiative to make an impact on the country?

RB: We need to be loud about it. I appreciate you for getting on the phone with me and helping us put a megaphone to this movement. We need to continue to push for change at the local and city levels. The League of Young Voters is part of an initiative in Milwaukee and other places within Cities United where mayors are working with the community to help improve social outcomes for Black men. This is huge! Twenty years ago, these same mayors imposed these same initiatives for the war on drugs, so we need to continue to push for the cities to become united.

JET: What are you doing on your end to make this initiative come to pass?

RB: As far as The League of Young Voters, we’re very involved in the musical and cultural world. We’ve had a partnership for a year and a half with Snoop Dogg for No Guns Allowed. We connected gun violence to policy. We were connected to Cities United prior to My Brother’s Keeper. The League wants to engage the members of these communities to be active citizens and get involved in ways people don’t think are possible.

JET: What do you say to individuals who look at this initiative and say Black women need empowerment, too?

RB: That’s an extremely valid point. The key thing about this initiative is the groups that are getting funded don’t totally cater to Black males. These organizations are diverse, but have various programs that cater to not only one group but the overall organizational vision. Another thing is Black females are the most powerful demographic right now. Your job as Black women is to be even more involved and drive the conversation. I say a strong healthy community of Black men are supported by Black women pushing us to get involved within our community.

JET: How can average citizens get involved in this initiative?

Dr. Baker: There are specific resources we can connect you to. Echoing Green is an organization that funds leaders and organizations. They give up to $75,000 in grants per year. It’s a great organization and I’ve seen plenty of young men excel within that group. I’ve already mentioned Cities United. They have toolkits and grant resources. I would also encourage going to blackmaleinsitute.org. There are more funding opportunities on there to get your organization up and running. Be aggressive, get connected and we can get loud!

(Photo Credit: Andrew-Bryce Hudson)