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MBK Rising: Obama, Curry and Legend Help Oakland Rise

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There are some big names in Oakland right now. Barack Obama, Stephen Curry, John Legend, Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan and Karamo Brown are just a sampling of the long list of successful black men participating in the three-day MBK Rising event spawned by an Obama Foundation initiative dubbed My Brother’s Keeper. But the gathering is not at all focused on the rich and famous, instead, it aims to empower, educate and connect young men of color.

Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper Alliance in 2014, inspired to take action by Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012. While still occupying the most powerful position in the world, the former president recognized that Martin, only 17 when he was killed, could have been his own son. He knew then as he knows now that real change needs to happen and his unique platform could be used to help achieve that.

“Every single day there were young men of color who were being shot and killed … Every single day there were young men who were dropping out of school. Every single day there were men who were more likely to go to prison than college,” Obama said.

“The requirement was for society to wake up and find ways where we can come together and say to all of our young people, but particularly young men of color who, according to a whole lot of educators, were having a more difficult time in society for a whole range of historical reasons, we have to be able say to them that, ‘You matter, we care about you, we believe in you and we’re going to make sure you have the opportunity and the chances to move forward just like everybody else.’ And…out of that, we decided to start My Brother’s Keeper.”

The organization has significantly grown in scope and outside support since its inception. The event hosted at Oakland Scottish Rite Center Tuesday and Wednesday, with a day of community service held Monday, is a testament to the power of collective voices. The speaker list is diverse and robust, hailing people of influence from all genders and races who share the MBK Rising goal: “to build safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear paths to opportunity.”

Topics like fatherly influence, social responsibility, education, violence reduction and mentoring were hashed out by individual speakers, panels, breakout group sessions and networking facilitated by leaders from private and public sectors. Young men of color were invited to not only take part in the impressive event, but to take an active role in their own success, with some much needed support and opportunity. The MBK Rising convention was a chance for kids to envision what they could become and for some of those who have reached the top, it served as a reminder of what they have come from.

As this country experiences one of its most divisive and racially charged times, the work of the MBK Alliance and events like this are more important ever before to inspire unity and empowerment.

One helping hand can change a life but many hands can lift whole communities – My Brother’s Keeper aims to do just that.

As Obama is quoted as saying on the organization’s website:

“I have always believed that the single most important task we have as a nation is to make sure our young people can go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them. It is the single most important thing we can do for our country’s future. And we’ve got to do it together.”


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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.