Michael Smith Shares Special Farewell Message with the MBK Alliance Community
December 9, 2021 6:00 PM
I have had the extraordinary privilege of helping build a race and gender-conscious movement across the United States to obliterate the barriers that stand in the way of our boys and young men achieving their greatest potential. As I think about my time as the founding executive director of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, I wanted to take this opportunity to share my final reflection on wins, losses and the road ahead.
From a White House task force to a program at the Obama Foundation, My Brother’s Keeper has catalyzed a national call to action dedicated to addressing the real need to expand opportunities to ensure an equitable future for our boys and their families. It was through our collective vision and tireless work that:
- The Obama Administration instituted scores of new federal policy initiatives, grant programs, and guidance, such as Second Chance Pell, Ban the Box and Rethink School Discipline.
- More than 250 communities in nearly all 50 states and 19 tribal nations accepted the MBK Community Challenge.
- More than $1 billion in private sector and philanthropic grants, in-kind resources, and low-interest financing were committed to advance the goals of MBK.
- More than $5M in MBK-issued grants were provided to 19 organizations across 10 states and Puerto Rico since 2019, with an additional $1M in grants in 2020 alone to support urgent needs stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and police violence.
- MBK Alliance partnered with the NBA and MENTOR—inspiring more than 50,000 new mentors.
- More than 300 local jurisdictions took our Reimagine Policing Pledge to review and reform use-of-force policies and combat systemic racism within law enforcement.
While I am proud of the work we’ve accomplished thus far, I recognize there is still a long road ahead of us and many learning lessons for us to lean into like:
- Creating a more intersectional movement that puts an end to the false notion of competing oppressions.
- Ensuring Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian American and Pacific Islander boys and young men see themselves in our policies, programs and theory of change.
- Boldly growing the tent of individuals and institutions taking meaningful action to call out and address the unique challenges facing boys and young men of color.
With these learnings in mind, in addition to the unprecedented needs that arose from the pandemic, we took some time as a team to recalibrate the priorities of our program—identifying these renewed commitments:
- Across the network of MBK Communities, we will focus on our convening power, working with partners to provide the information, training, and resources needed to enact city-wide action plans that lead to measurable gains—rooted in the MBK Equity Framework.
- Across the nation, we will serve as a champion for the cause of racial equity, leveraging our unique voice in a strategic approach to drive policy reform and growth of effective programs.
- Across our hometown of Chicago, we will focus our efforts on the neighborhoods near the Obama Presidential Center. We will also work with city and nonprofit partners to reinvigorate a city-wide strategy that serves as a national model of what it takes to close opportunity gaps at scale.
President Obama has always said there should be joy in this work. Joy when barriers are broken, when expectations are exceeded, and when dreams are fulfilled. I leave this role filled with joy and grateful for the chance to have worked alongside such an extraordinary group of devoted changemakers. I look forward to continuing to fight alongside you in a new arena; forever learning, growing, and working towards the day when all of our children can go as far as their dreams will take them.
– Michael Smith