Obama: Ferguson Highlights Need For Black Youth Mentorship. Here's Who Is Stepping Up

08/20/2014 01:02 pm ET | Updated Aug 21, 2014
  • Robbie Couch Associate Editor of Impact, The Huffington Post
Win McNamee via Getty Images

President Obama delivered remarks addressing the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, on Tuesday, using the volatile situation to discuss initiatives aiming to close an opportunity gap affecting young black males.

Speaking from the White House, Obama confirmed the Justice Department has opened an independent civil rights investigation into the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. In his remarks published by the Washington Post, the President linked recent happenings in Ferguson to a national issue of suspicion based on racial bias. He stated that programs such as My Brother's Keeper, his administration's education initiative empowering young men of color through mentorship, will help improve the status quo.

My Brother's Keeper aims to connect businesses, foundations and communities with youth in need of mentorship. The initiative outlines six milestones to track progress, which include ensuring students are reading at grade level by age 8, and graduating from high school prepared for college. Through the initiative, the Obama administration has committed to promote programs that work to ensure access to basic health, nutrition and early education for boys of color, as well as to partner with communities to reduce violence on the streets and in the classroom.

"In too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement," President Obama said. "In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear. And through initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper, I’m personally committed to changing both perception and reality."

The President's remarks, however, did not bode well with some prominent black media figures, who expressed on Twitter that connecting the current turmoil in Ferguson with a political initiative was a dissatisfying response, the Washington Post pointed out.

Untethered to politics or the current tragedy in Ferguson, there are a number of organizations providing mentorship for America's black youth.

With its emphasis on respect for family and integrity, 100 Black Men Of America, for example, provides mentorship programs through its local chapters to improve educational opportunities for young black Americans.

Similarly, the Student African American Brotherhood is committed to increasing the number of black male college graduates by promoting positive relationship-building between students on campus.

And on the other end of the academic spectrum, the National Black Child Development Institute is dedicated to ensuring quality education for black children long before their collegiate careers, focused on issues like early schooling, literacy and child welfare.

While some could argue these organizations are making progress — high school dropout rates for black males have declined nationally in recent years — rates still remain “unacceptably high in our African-American, Latino and Native-American communities,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted in a statement last year. He was referring to a report from the Department of Education that studied 2010 data and concluded black students have more than double the high school dropout rate as compared to white students.

President Obama ended his remarks concluding that while the U.S. has made strides, further progress can only be had when unity trumps division.

"We’re making some significant progress, as people of good will of all races are ready to chip in. But that requires that we build, and not tear down," he said. "And that requires we listen, and not just shout ... We’re going to have to hold tight to those values in the days ahead. And that’s how we bring about justice, and that’s how we bring about peace."

Related on HuffPost:

  • MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images
  • Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol speaks to media during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas in another night of unrest in a Missouri town where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, just hours after President Barack Obama called for calm. AFP PHOTO / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
  • MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images
  • A demonstrator reacts during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas in another night of unrest in a Missouri town where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, just hours after President Barack Obama called for calm. AFP PHOTO / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
  • MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images
  • A demonstrator gestures to police officers during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas in another night of unrest in a Missouri town where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, just hours after President Barack Obama called for calm. AFP PHOTO / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
  • MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images
  • Law enforcement officers watch on during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas in another night of unrest in a Missouri town where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, just hours after President Barack Obama called for calm. AFP PHOTO / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
  • MICHAEL B. THOMAS via Getty Images
  • A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas in another night of unrest in a Missouri town where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, just hours after President Barack Obama called for calm. AFP PHOTO / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Protesters walk through a cloud of tear gas Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by police has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Police in riot gear mobilize during a standoff with protesters Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a rally for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man stands in the street during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed a by police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man stands in front of police during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man holds up a rose during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man holds his hands up in the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man wipes his eyes with water after getting hit with tear gas during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man is detained after a standoff between protesters and police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man stands in the street during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man tries to recover after being treated for tear gas during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man is detained by police during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • In this photo taken with a fisheye lens, people protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by police Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man protests Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by police Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Police advance to clear people Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man is detained by police during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man is helped ease the effects of tear gas during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man is lead away by police during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • People protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A man tries to recover after being treated for getting hit with tear gas during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by police Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Men walk away from a cloud of tear gas during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • A member of the Missouri Highway Patrol is seen atop an armored personnel carrier Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by police has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Police fire tear gas from atop an armored personnel carrier Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by police has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Police take up positions after being shot at Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Police scramble in all directions as they take gunfire Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by police has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas and Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to help restore order Monday. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Police take up positions after being shot at Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas and Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to help restore order Monday. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
    Teargas is deployed after police were fired upon Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas and Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to help restore order Monday. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
    People walk through the streets after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
    Police detain a protester Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
    People march down the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
    A man is detained after a standoff between protesters and police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
    Law enforcement officers watch on during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas in another night of unrest in a Missouri town where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, just hours after President Barack Obama called for calm. AFP PHOTO / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
    Demonstrators display signs during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas in another night of unrest in a Missouri town where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, just hours after President Barack Obama called for calm. AFP PHOTO / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
    Demonstrators display signs during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas in another night of unrest in a Missouri town where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, just hours after President Barack Obama called for calm. AFP PHOTO / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
    FERGUSON, MO - AUGUST 18: Demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown walk down the street on August 18, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters have been vocal asking for justice in the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on August 9th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
    FERGUSON, MO - AUGUST 18: Police officers arrest a demonstrator on August 18, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Violent outbreaks have taken place in Ferguson since the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on August 9th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
    Law enforcement officers watch on during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas in another night of unrest in a Missouri town where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, just hours after President Barack Obama called for calm. AFP PHOTO / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
    A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas in another night of unrest in a Missouri town where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, just hours after President Barack Obama called for calm. AFP PHOTO / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
    A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri on August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas in another night of unrest in a Missouri town where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, just hours after President Barack Obama called for calm. AFP PHOTO / Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
    A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown wears a gas mask on August 18, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters have been vocal asking for justice in the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on August 9th.

CONVERSATIONS