Torrence Banks, News Editor
On Tuesday, Morehouse professor Dr. Bryant Marks instructed the My Brother’s Keeper Master Class: Black to Business class. The course is also co-instructed by Dr. Shaquille O’Neal. This week, the special guest in the course was the Executive Director of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBK) at the Obama Foundation Michael Smith.
Each semester, the course will focus on a different theme. This semester, the course will focus on Black entrepreneurship, personal branding, and life skills.
The My Brother’s Keeper Initiative was started back in 2014 by President Obama. The goal of this initiative is to enhance the life outcomes of boys and young men of color. Smith started the conversation off by discussing how the MBK initiative got started.
“My Brother’s Keeper had its roots in the killing of Trayvon Martin and probably even more so in the verdict in the case where George Zimmerman got off.” Smith said. “There have been so many incidents that have happened since then, so many young men of color that have been killed in cold blood, by neighbors or by the state.”
After the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, Smith said that former President Barack Obama surprised the press briefing room by trying to convey the frustration that families of color were feeling.
“When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said, ‘This could have been my son,’” the former president said during the 2013 press briefing. “Another way of saying that is Tryavon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
“There’s got to be something that we can do to make sure that young men of color in this country know that their country cares about them and is willing to invest in them,” Smith said when discussing Obama’s mindset.
In order to ensure that young men of color and all youths have the opportunity to reach their full potential, Obama created a team to launch MBK. Smith was the only White House Director of the initiative. When Donald Trump was elected into the White House, moves were made to ensure this initiative would live outside the Obama administration.
“By the time we left the White House, there were 250 My Brother’s Keeper communities in all 50 states,” Smith said.
The MBK initiative allowed Morehouse senior Noah McQueen to be mentored by Obama along with other White House staff. During the discussion, McQueen described what the president was like.
“He doesn’t put the weight of his position on you, but every time you interact with him he has some type of gem, or amazing knowledge to share,” McQueen said. “I remember when we were at the MBK Summit in California and he shared how he used to work at a sandwich shop right after he graduated.
“I thought it was interesting because, at least being in senior year at Morehouse, were big on JP Morgan or go to this huge non-profit. But, I’m looking at the president of the United States and he was working at a sandwich shop after six months.”
In terms of black entrepreneurship, Smith emphasized the importance of owning the wealth and one’s unique creativity. Risk shouldn’t prevent someone from trying to be an entrepreneur.
“If you have that spirit, if you have that attitude, if you have that drive, then you’ve got to try it.” Smith said. “ You owe it to yourselves and you owe to the generations that came before us.”
This won’t be the last time that the MBK initiative is mentioned in Atlanta. Marks revealed that Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will be launching a local MBK Initiative.
“The Mayor of Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, is going to launch a My Brother’s Keeper Atlanta initiative that’s hopefully going to launch formally next month or so,” Marks said.