The Palm Beach County My Brother’s Keeper Initiative got off to a fantastic start recently when over 50 community leaders showed up at the inaugural meeting to launch the program in the county. Then Mayor and now Palm Beach County commissioner Priscilla Taylor answered President Barack Obama’s challenge to start a My Brother’s Keeper initiative in Palm Beach County last summer. The program is designed to steer young black males down the right path so that they will become productive and successful adults. It was the President’s call to action to address all the ills and challenges facing the black male. “I firmly believe that every child deserves the same chance as I have,” said the President when he announced the program early last year.
Taylor asked James Green, Director of Outreach and Community Programming
PBC Youth Services Department, to lead the cause because he is passionate about helping youth. “This was Commissioner Taylor’s vision for the county,” said Green. “She accepted the President’s challenge and she asked me to lead the cause. It’s certainly something I’m passionate about, and with her support and the support of others we can certainly make this happen,” he said.
At the January 29 meeting, various committees were developed, and Green outlined six milestones for the boys and young men who will make up the group. They are the following: 1) Getting a healthy start and entering school ready to learn. 2) Reading at grade level by third grade. 3) Graduating from high school ready for college and career. 4) Completing post secondary education or training. 5) Successfully entering the workforce. 6) Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances.
Green said with the help of those various entities that attended the initial meeting, the group should have no problem carrying out those goals for the young males. “I was very pleased with the cross section of leaders we had at this meeting. The school district was represented, the county, organizations that work with youth – they were all here to support us. It was very well represented,” he said. “I wanted to lay out the vision and to assess what’s out there in terms of other similar organizations so that we can develop a network. We also wanted to see how these similar groups are feeding into the goals of My Brother’s Keeper. This would allow us to grow leaders and support each other so that we can collectively help our youth,” he added.
Samuel Pierre, a Haitian American, and President of Haitian Heroes, Inc., wanted to join the group because he wants Haitian representation in the effort to steer young males down the right path. “I want to make sure the Haitian community is represented. I was not aware of any effort by the County to include us, but I am glad two of us were there. Now I can’t wait to mobilize the Haitian community in PBC towards the six goals of the MBK,” he said. “I signed up for the youth committee, because in Haitian Heroes, Inc. our work revolved around the youth with the ultimate goal of keeping our sons out of jail, but in school where they belong.”
Valerie Character, 49, an Operation’s Manager from Boynton Beach, says she is eagerly awaiting the program to get off the ground. Character says she has three adult male sons and steering young boys down the right path is crucial. “I want to be involved because I am a mother of three sons 22, 27, and 31 and I can proudly say that through the grace of God they are doing well, and have never been in trouble. They have had several great mentors during their youth and now as adults they too, mentor younger men. I believe that it takes not only a village but every one to guide, teach, lead, shape, and mold them, for they are our future and we are their guidance.” Character has pledged to be on the Leadership committee.
Green said the organization will work with many other groups such as Greek organizations, churches and community centers that target young black boys and men of color. They will seek mentors for the youth in the group.
Green said the group will meet again in March, but will soon establish an outing for the young men. They will go on a black history tour to the Spady Museum in Delray Beach to learn their local black history.