Every successful harvest streams from a well planted seed. Take a seed the size of a freckle. Put it under several inches of dirt. Give it enough water, light, and fertilizer. And get ready. A mountain will be moved. It doesn't matter that the ground is a zillion times the weight of the seed. The seed will push it back. Never underestimate the power of a seed.
President Barack Obama's My Brother's Keeper Initiative can be the water, light, and fertilizer for a well planted seed to assist young men of color with achieving educational and economic success. It is important that all children have caring adults who are engaged in their lives. But too many young men in our communities lack this support and it ultimately impacts our entire community - including our young women.
Roughly two-thirds of Black and one-third of Hispanic children live with only one parent. Research suggests that a father's absence increases the risk of his child dropping out of school among Blacks and Hispanics by 75 percent and 96 percent respectively. And we see dropout rates as high as 50 percent in some school districts--including among boys and young men from certain Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander populations. African American males have higher rates of suspension, expulsion, placement in special education, and dropout than any other group. And sadly, young men of color are far more likely to be victims of murder, accounting for almost half of the country's murder victims each year.
These outcomes are troubling, and they represent only a portion of the social and economic cost to our nation when the full potential of so many young men of color is left unrealized. But these statistics make the case as to why My Brother's Keeper Initiative is needed - providing communities and organizations with the necessary tools to plant their seeds on solid ground.
Over half of incarcerated African American men with children lived with their children before incarceration. And without the emotional and economic support provided by fathers, the family structure is destabilized and the entire family is impacted including mothers and daughters.
We must not forget our young women of color as we work together to plant seeds of hope into our young men of color. Every young man of color will be nurtured by a woman during his early years of life and every young woman of color will learn her definition of a man from her father or some other male figure. My Brother's Keeper can play a role in the lives of young women of color by teaching young men of color how to be strong productive fathers and husbands. Young women of color are an integral part of My Brother's Keeper because they will be the mother's who nurture their sons and wives who support their husbands.
My Brother's Keeper offers all of us an opportunity to help change the direction of our countries greatest resource - our children - by planting positive seeds that teach them how to be efficacious.
As I spoke to one of my interns, Chelsea Banks, a Spelman College student, about the effects My Brother's Keeper can have on young women, I was intrigued by her response.
Chelsea stated, "My Brother's Keeper is a phenomenal initiative and I support the movement to enhance young African American men in my generation. As a student at a historically black college, I know the importance of strengthening women in today's society. We are impacted because those same young men who are struggling to achieve educational and economic success are our brothers, uncles, cousins, and even fathers. As women we look to those men as examples for our lives and for them to be the super-glue that holds everything together. From personal experience, growing up in an area that wasn't surrounded by million dollar homes on large acres of land, my brother and I were still able to witness how an African American male, our father, could achieve educational and economic success. I can see firsthand the need for a program like My Brother's Keeper to assist in the recovery of men of color of my generation."
The seeds that we plant in our young men of color today will determine the type of fruit they bear tomorrow. It is time that we all get involved to do our part and invest positive seeds that will have a major impact into the future of young men of color, young women of color, and young families of color. Never underestimate the power of a seed.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee represents the 18th Congressional District in Houston, Texas and is a senior Member of the Judiciary Committee and Founder and co-Chair of the Congressional Children's Caucus