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President Obama, Ryan Coogler, and Stephen Curry Challenge Negative Stereotypes of Young Black Men

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President Obama shares a laugh at the first My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Conference, February 19, 2019. Oakland, CA.

The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance celebrated its fifth anniversary with a star-studded conference in Oakland, CA on February 19-20, 2019. The organization was launched during President Barack Obama’s historic presidency and is now part of the Obama Foundation.

Hundreds of young men of color from communities across the US were in attendance. Other notable participants in the conference included:

  • Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors’ point guard  
  • Ryan Coogler, director-producer-screenwriter of hit films such as “Fruitvale Station” and Oscar-winner “Black Panther”
  • Michael B. Jordan, actor-producer-entrepreneur
  • John Legend, singer-songwriter
  • Sybrina Fulton, social change advocate and mother Trayvon Martin
  • Representative Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis

“SHOW ME HOW STRONG YOU ARE”

In the conference’s Town Hall segment, President Obama and the NBA’s Stephen Curry encouraged young men to go against the current trends established by popular culture. Obama dared attendees, whether black, brown, or native American, to “lift up others instead of putting others down.” Obama stressed that true manhood is not measured by showing off wealth or fame, saying instead that, “If you’re confident about your strength…show me how strong you are that you can lift somebody else up and lead in that fashion.”

He went on to say that the people who garner true respect in the world are those who live to better the lives of others, and who take responsibility for their families and their communities. The organization wants to shine a light on young men like those. “That story,” said Obama, “is not told often enough.”

Panel discussion participants during the conference included director, producer, and screenwriter Ryan Coogler, who is from Oakland and included the city in the history-making film “Black Panther.”  Coogler, alongside actor-producer-entrepreneur Michael B. Jordan, discussed the negative effects of the media on people of color, and the power of storytelling to change that narrative. Both men stressed that we each have the ability to change the negative stereotypes currently adopted by society and to change the story being told about our cultures by how we live our lives.

Other panel discussion topics included:

  • Sparking system change
  • Interrupting violence
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Why mentors matter
  • Men’s responsibility to women
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Obama, Coogler Challenge Stereotypes – Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan trade compliments at the 1st My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Conference. Oakland, CA, Feb. 2019.

MY BROTHER’S KEEPER: HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PAST 5 YEARS

Former President Obama said that he still remembers the day that Trayvon Martin was killed, which occurred during his presidency.  

“That could have been my son,” he said. “Every single day, young men of color are being shot and killed, dropping out of school, and are more likely to end up in prison than in college…That required us to wake up as a society.”

Launched after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance prepares young men of color to be the leaders of the future and is now represented in over 250 cities, counties, and Tribal Nations. These communities have committed to what is called the MBK Community Challenge: President Obama’s call to action to adopt innovative approaches, strengthen support, and build ladders of opportunity for boys and young men of color.

Some of the successes of the organization over the past 5 years include:

  • Expansion of  access to Pell Grants; helping more students, including the incarcerated
  • Expungement of  juvenile records
  • Discriminatory disciplinary policy reform  in American schools
  • Mobilization and connection of advocacy groups, local governments, businesses, grassroots organizations, and faith communities
  • Support for mentoring programs and violence prevention initiatives

The vision of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance is to create an equal opportunity to success for all of America’s boys and young men of color.  Said President Obama, “We can all be surrogate fathers.  We can all be mentors. My father may not have been around, but there were a whole bunch of men around who taught me something; who guided me.”

He continued with a message to the young men of color across the nation:

“You matter. We believe in you. We care about you.”

Watch the entire conference HERE – https://www.obama.org/mbka/rising/

Photos: The Obama Foundation/My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.west angeles logo

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