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Men’s Letter to President Obama Seeking Inclusion of Black Females



President Obama during his press conference for "My Brother's Keeper" (courtesy of Freddie Allen/NNPA)

President Obama during his press conference for “My Brother’s Keeper” (courtesy of Freddie Allen/NNPA)

[Below is the full text of men’s letter to President Obama seeking inclusion of Black females into “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative]

We write as African American men who have supported your presidency, stood behind you when the inevitable racist challenges to your authority have emerged, and have understood that our hopes would be tempered by the political realities that you would encounter.  While we continue to support your presidency, we write both out of a sense of mutual respect and personal responsibility to address what we believe to be the unfortunate missteps in the My Brothers Keeper initiative (MBK).  In short, in lifting up only the challenges that face males of color, MBK — in the absence of any comparable initiative for females — forces us to ask where the complex lives of Black women and Black girls fit into the White House’s vision of racial justice?

Your acknowledgment that race-conscious policies are still needed, and that addressing the needs of those left behind “is as important as any issue that you work on” was inspiring to us. We agree with your sense that racial inequality remains an urgent American problem that, as you indicated, “goes to the very heart” of why you ran for the presidency. We knew very well that you were echoing Dr. King’s observations when you noted that “groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways…require unique solutions.” We understand, as do you, that those ‘’who have seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations” include men and women in our communities who have struggled side-by-side against the opportunity gaps, shrinking resources and disparate conditions that contribute to the desperate circumstances facing our community.So we were surprised and disappointed that your commitments express empathy to only half of our community — men and boys of color. Simply put, as Black men we cannot afford to turn away from the very sense of a shared fate that has been vital to our quest for racial equality across the course of American history.

As African Americans, and as a nation, we have to be as concerned about the experiences of single Black women who raise their kids on sub-poverty wages as we are about the disproportionate number of Black men who are incarcerated. We must care as much about Black women who are the victims of gender violence as we do about Black boys caught up in the drug trade.  We must hold up the fact that Black women on average make less money and have less wealth than both White women and Black men in the United States just as we must focus on the ways in which Black men and women are disproportionately excluded from many professions.

We are not suggesting a national moratorium on Black male-oriented projects. But our sense of accountability does reflect the fact that our historic struggle for racial justice has always included men as well as women who have risked everything not just for themselves or for their own gender but for the prospects of the entire community. Moreover, we are concerned that your admonishment to Black and Latino men to be more responsible and to stop making excuses frames problems of educational attainment, unemployment, and incarceration consistent with those who say Blacks suffer from a “culture of pathology.”  We believe in a vision of accountability and racial justice that is neither male-centered, heteropatriarchal or victim blaming.

Taking the lives of Black girls and women seriously would increase the likelihood that we would recognize and lift up loving parents regardless of whether they exist in single, dual, same-sex or opposite sex families; decrease our tendency to express nostalgia for a family structure whose absence wrongfully becomes the putative focal point for all that ails us; and put into sharp relief the fact that the obstacles we face are not simply matters of attitude adjustment and goal setting, but the consequences of deteriorating opportunities, the weakened enforcement of civil rights laws, and the increasing emphasis by government actors on policies that focus on punishment, surveillance, and incarceration.

We recommend an expansion of the MBK — and all other national youth interventions — to include an explicit focus on the structural conditions that negatively impact all Black youth.  Of course encouraging young Black men and women to do their very best is important, as is holding them accountable when we think that is warranted. Our interventions, however, must acknowledge that the life chances of youth of color are impacted by the converging dynamics of racism, sexism, class stratification, homophobia and other such factors. For example, MBK, in its current iteration, solely collects social data on Black men and boys. What might we find out about the scope, depth and history of our structural impediments, if we also required the collection of targeted data for Black women and girls?

If the denunciation of male privilege, sexism and rape culture is not at the center of our quest for racial justice, then we have endorsed a position of benign neglect towards the challenges that girls and women face that undermine their well-being and the well-being of the community as a whole. As Black men we believe if the nation chooses to “save” only Black males from a house on fire, we will have walked away from a set of problems that we will be compelled to return to when we finally realize the raging fire has consumed the Black women and girls we left behind.



(*Affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and do not imply the endorsement of the listed institution. For an updated list of those who signed letter, go to http://www.aapf.org)

  • Darnell L. Moore, Editor, Founder, ‘You Belong,’ Brooklyn, NY
  • Devon Carbado, The Honorable Harry Pregerson Professor of Law at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
  • Marlon Peterson, Program Coordinator at ‘Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets’, Brooklyn N.Y.
  • Robin D. G. Kelly,  The Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in United States History, UCLA
  • Oscar H. Blayton, Williamsburg, VA, Lawyer
  • Ricardo Guthrie, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at Northern Arizona University; Flagstaff, AZ
  • Michael Hanchard, SOBA Presidential Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University.
  • Luke Charles Harris, Co-Founder of the African American Policy Forum, Department of Political Science, Vassar College, New York,  N.Y
  • Kiese Laymon, Author, English Department, Vassar College, Jackson, Mississippi
  • Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of African and African American Studies
  • Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, Pastor for Formation and Justice, First Baptist Church, Jamaica Plains, MA
  • Dr. James Turner, Founding Director, Africana Studies Center, Cornell University
  • Danny Glover, actor
  • Michael Dawson, John D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science and the College Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, The University of Chicago
  • David Ikard- Associate Professor of English at Florida State University, Ph.D.
  • Nyle Forte, Teacher and Baptist Pastor, Newark, NJ
  • Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr.
  • Walter Fields, Executive Editor and Columnist at North Star News; Irvington, NJ
  • Eduardo Bonilla Silva, Professor of Sociology at Duke University; Durham, NC
  • Mychal Denzel Smith- freelance writer and social commentator; Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute; Brooklyn, NY
  • Wade Davis II, Speaker, writer, activist, educator, former NFL player; Co-Founder of the ‘You Belong”; Executive Director of You Can Play; New York, NY
  • Scott Poulson-Bryant, Award-winning Journalist and Author, co-founding editor at Vibe Magazine
  • Alexander Hardy, Writer
  • Saeed Jones, Writer and Editor, A 2013 Pushcart Prize Winner, Brooklyn, N.Y
  • Charles Mills, John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy at Northwestern University; Evanston, IL
  • Cleve Tinsley IV, Ordained Baptist minister, Adjunct Professor of Religion and Culture at Rice University and Springfield College, Houston TX,
  • Al-Lateef Farmer, EOF Recruiter/Student Development Specialist at Mercer County Community College Philadelphia, PA
  • Kamasi Hill, Evanston Township High School, Chicago, IL,  
  • Robert Jones, Jr., Writer and Founder, Son of Baldwin; Brooklyn, NY
  • Robert Hill, Afro-American and Caribbean History, Editor of the Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers, UCLA, Los Angeles California
  • Ted Bunch,Activist, Educator, Co-Founder of A Call to Men, Rockville Centre, NY
  • Brad “Kamikaze” Franklin- President/CEO at Our Glass Entertainment, Jackson, Mississippi
  • David Whettstone, Public Policy Advocate & Writer, Washington, D.C.
  • Adisa Ajamu, Executive Director at the Atunwa Community Collective Development Think Tank; Los Angeles, CA
  • Herman Beavers, Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies at University of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, PA
  • Wren Brown, Actor, Los Angeles, CA
  • Oscar Alexander Robles, Manager of Non-profit Partnerships, Former Co-Director in the Coalition for Equitable Communities at Florida State University,
  • Ade Raphael, Student, Irvine, CA
  • Seth Bynum, Student, Montclair, NJ,
  • Julian Williams- Director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, Vassar College
  • Ocasio Wilson, Albany, NY
  • Merio Maye – Far Rockaway, NY
  • Dashawn Walker, Bowdoin College Class of 2014, Portland, Maine
  • Ken Miles, Co-chair, African American Alumni Association at Vassar
  • Elijah Winston, student, Gilbert, AZ,
  • Matthew Brown, student, Brooklyn, NY,
  • Juan Thompson, student, Chicago, Ill
  • Jon Conningham, Digital Media student at the University of Washington
  • James Cantres, student, African Diaspora at NYU
  • Chad Anderson, Program Associate, Office of Integrative Liberal Learning and the Global Commons
  • Jafari Allen, Associate Professor of Anthropology & African American Studies at Yale University,
  • Guthrie RamseyProfessor of Music at University of Pennsylvania
  • Monroe France, Assistant Vice President for Student Diversity/Director of Multicultural Education and Services , NYU
  • Isaiah M. Wooden, Ph.D candidate and Director-dramaturg, Department of Drama at Stanford
  • Aaron Talley, activist, writer, educator, blogger for the Black Youth Project; Detroit, Michigan
  • Terrell Tate
  • La Marr Jurelle Bruce, Lecturer in Theater Studies, Yale University
  • Dr. Van Bailey, inaugural director of the Office of BGLTQ Student Life at Harvard College
  • Donald P. Gagnon, Associate Professor of English at Western Connecticut State University
  • Donald Anthonyson, Organizer, Families for Freedom, New York, NY
  • Andrew Cory Greene, Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, Alternative to Incarceration and Higher Education Intervention”  New York, NY
  • Abraham Paulos, Director of Families for Freedom; New York
  • Hashim K. Pipkin, Writer and educator,  Randallstown, MD
  • Bryson Rose  Ohio University Program Coordinator of Pregnancy Prevention at the Hetrick-Martin Institute HMHS,NY, NY
  • Clifton Hall
  • Luis Inoa, Assistant Dean of Students/Director of Residential Life at Vassar College, From Brooklyn/Queens
  • Akeel St. Vil, Brooklyn, NY
  • Herman Gray, UC Santa Cruz
  • Tony Porter, Educator and Activist, Co-Founder of A Call to Men, Rockville Centre,
  • Matthew Brown,student, Brooklyn, NY
  • Kleaver Cruz, New York, NY, Writer and Teacher, Dream Director at Leadership Institute in the Bronx
  • Walter Cruz, Graphic designer, New York, NY,
  • Abraham Gatling, Watertown, CT
  • Kendall Coleman, Bronx, NY
  • Russell Robinson, Professor and Distinguished Haas Chair in LGBT Equity, UC Berkeley Law
  • Quincy James Rineheart, M.Div., Candler School of Theology, Emory University; Atlanta, GA.
  • Ahmad Greene-Hayes, Williams College ‘16; Williamstown, MA
  • Paul Daniels II, Morehouse College ‘12; Atlanta Georgia
  • Tim’m T. West,  Activist, Educator, Artist, Director of Youth Services at the Center on Halsted; Chicago, IL
  • Weslee Glenn, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cal Tech,  Los Angeles, CA
  • Duane Robinson
  • Vaughn E. Taylor-Akutagawa, Activist, Entrepreneur, Researcher, and Executive Director at Gay Men of African Descent; New York, NY
  • Charles McKinney, Associate Professor and Director of Africana Studies Program at Rhodes College; Memphis, TN
  • Hiram Perez, Assistant Professor, English Department at Vassar College; Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Preston Mitchum, Adjunct Professor, Advanced Legal Research and Writing at Georgetown University; Washington, D.C.
  • Kiyan Williams, Artist, Performer, Stanford ‘13; Stanford, CA
  • John Murillo III, PhD candidate, English Department at Brown University; Providence, RI
  • Dymir Arthur,  Dean of School Culture at Achievement First; Brooklyn, NY
  • Kevin Lawrence Henry Jr., PhD candidate in Education at University of Madison-Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • Michael Dumas, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Education Leadership at NYU Steinhardt; New York, NY
  • Riko A. Boone, Counselor at The Door, Outstanding HIV prevention work of the the year awardee; New York, NY
  • Devon Tyrone Wade, Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow in Sociology at Columbia University; New York, NY
  • Aunsha Hall-Everett, Consultant at Harm Reduction Coalition; New York, NY
  • Durrell Callier, Doctoral student at University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign’s School of Education, Policy, Organization & Leadership; Champaign-Urbana, IL
  • James Roane, Graduate Student in History at Columbia University; New York, NY
  • George Bellinger, Jr., AIDS activist; New York, NY
  • Darius Clark Monroe, Filmmaker, Director of Evolution of a Criminal; Brooklyn, NY
  • Oscar Alexander Robles, Manager of Non-profit Partnerships, Former Co-Director in the Coalition for Equitable Communities at Florida State University, John Jay College of Criminal Justice ‘15; New York, NY
  • Richard Yarborough, Professor of English at UCLA, Faculty Research Associate at the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA; Los Angeles, CA
  • Alex Blue V, Doctoral Student in Ethnomusicology at UC Santa Barbara, University of Northern Texas
  • Alvin Starks, Creator and and Former Director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the Open Society Institute; Brooklyn, NY
  • Chris Mcauley, Associate Professor in Black Studies at UC Santa Barbara, PhD in Political Science from the University of Michigan; Santa Barbara, CA
  • Clarence Lusane, Professor of Political Science and International Relations, American University; Washington, D.C.
  • Monty Pender, Transportation Director, ABCD, Canton Ohio
  • James Gordon Williams, Theorist, Composer, Pianist, a Yale Bouchet scholar
  • Roderick Ferguson, Professor of American Studies at University of Minnesota; Minneapolis, MN
  • Johari Jabir, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at University of Illinois-Chicago; Chicago, IL
  • Scot Brown, Associate Professor of History at UCLA; Los Angeles, CA
  • Guy Lefevre
  • Tyrone Forman, Associate Professor of Sociology at Emory University; Atlanta, GA
  • Eddie Bruce-Jones, Lecturer in Law, Program Director, Admissions Tutor at Birkbeck University of London; London, England
  • Obari Cartman, Photographer, Artist, Activist; Chicago, IL
  • Maurice Jackson, Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University; Washington, D.C.
  • Dr. Clemmie Harris, PhD candidate, Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, PA
  • Justin Stucey, Producer and Business Developer at Production Glue; New York, NY
  • Gregory Davis, J.D./M.A. in Afro-American Studies and Law at UCLA,  Los Angeles, CA
  • Roland Roebuck,Activist; Washington, D.C.
  • R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, PhD, Associate Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York, CUNY
  • Davarian L. Baldwin, Paul Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies, Trinity College (CT)
  • M. Keith Claybrook, Jr., CSU, Dominguez Hills/ Claremont Graduate University, Compton, CA
  • Christopher Stackhouse, Maryland Institute College of Art Brooklyn, New York
  • Nahum D. Chandler, Associate Professor of African American Studies University of California, Irvine
  • Darrell Moore, Philosophy, De Paul University Chicago, IL
  • Jason Saunders, Graduate student, UVA
  • Thomas Sayers Ellis, Professor, Poet, Photographer
  • Robeson Taj Frazier, University of Southern California, Los Angeles,CA
  • Avery R. Young, Teaching Artist – Urban Gateways, Chicago, IL
  • Johnny E. Williams, Department of Sociology, Trinity College, Hartford, CT
  • Herman Gray. Department of Sociology, UCSC, Santa Cruz CA
  • Derrick Walker
  • Arthur Little, Professor of English, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
  • Abdul Ali, Goucher College, Towson, MD
  • David H. Anthony, III, Department of History, University of California, Santa Cruz,Santa Cruz, CA
  • Kai M. Green, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
  • Bill Fletcher, Jr., Activist/Educator/Writer, Mitchellville, MD
  • Tommie Shelby, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
  • Peniel E. Joseph, Founding Director, Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, Tufts University, Somerville, MA
  • Marcus Anthony Hunter, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Yale University, New Haven, CT
  • Professor Joseph Wilson, City University of New York, New York
  • Neil Roberts, Williams College  Associate Professor, Africana Studies Program
  • Jonathan Collins Doctoral Student, Department of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
  • Erik S McDuffie, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign-Urbana, IL
  • Tavia Nyong’o, New York University, New York, NY
  • Charles Steele, President and CEO, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Atlanta, GA
  • Sidney J. Lemelle, Professor of History and Africana Studies, Pomona College, Claremont, California
  • Minkah Makalani, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX & Brooklyn, NY
  • Darnell Hunt, Director, Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA
  • Pete Carr, Attorney
  • Robert O’Meilly, Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English, Columbia University, New York, NY
  • Robert Williams, Assistant Professor of African American Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
  • John Keene, Author/Artist/Professor, Rutgers University, Jersey City, NJ
  • Makungu M. Akinyela, Ph.D., LMFT, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
  • Eric A. Hurley PhD, Pomona College -Department of Psychology, Claremont, CA
  • Alan Mullins
  • Geffrey Davis, Ph.D. Candidate, University Park, PA
  • Davarian L. Baldwin, Paul Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies, Trinity College (CT)
  • M. Keith Claybrook, Jr., CSU, Dominguez Hills/ Claremont Graduate University, Compton, CA
  • Michael Stoll, Professor of Public Policy, and Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Urban Poverty
  • Fred Moten, University of California-Riverside
  • Steve Edwards, Director of Marketing & Business Development, Elite Daily, N.Y., N.Y.
  • Jerry G. Watts, Professor of English, Sociology and American Studies, CUNY Graduate Center
  • Dr. Brian Peterson
  • Brian Tate, President, the Tate Group, Brooklyn, NY 112
  • Frank Guridy,  Department of History at UT-Austin, Austin Texas
  • Cedric Robinson, Department of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.
  • Professor Eric Miller, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, CA
  • Tarell Alvin McCraney, playwright, Steppenwolf Ensemble Member, Chicago, MacArthur Grant Recipient 2013
  • Dr. Tony Laing, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Damien Sojoyner, Scripps College, City: Los Angeles
  • David Melton
  • Bryan Epps, Newark, NJ, The Shabazz Center
  • Percy E. Holmes, Education Specialist, Brooklyn, N.Y
  • Robert Warren, Personal trainer and fitness expert, New York, N.Y
  • Benjamin Reynolds, clergy and doctoral seminary student, Chicago, IL
  • Jason Craig Harris, humanities educator, New York, N.Y.
  • Robert West, LGBT advocate and non-profit administrator, New York, N.Y
  • George Turner, Trial Lawyer
  • Jelani Lindsey, Attorney, Rancho Cucamonga, Los Angeles
  • Allen K. James
  • Robert Reid-Pharr, Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies, City University of New York, New York
  • Michael Mitchell, PhD student, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, Ca.
  • Geoff Ward, Professor and parent, School of social ecology, UC Irvine, Irvine, Ca
  • Bennett Capers, Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, New York
  • David Troutt, Professor of Law, Rutgers School of Law, Newark, NJ
  • Kevin Powell
  • Nick Mitchell
  • Devon Peterson
  • Prescott Saunders, data analyst, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
  • William Johnson, professor at University of Memphis, Memphis, TN
  • Jason Saunders, grad student, UVA
  • Nicholas Brady, graduate student, University of California, Irvine.
  • Professor Ronald S. Sullivan, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA
  • Professor Robert Westley, Tulane Law School
  • David Wasserman, Public Defender, Los Angeles
  • Professor Thomas Mitchell, University of Wisconsin Law School
  • Houston Baker, Distinguished University Professor of English and African American Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University; Nashville, TN
  • Christopher Marsburn, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Psychology & Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine
  • Herb Ruffin II, Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies at Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
  • Rahsaan Patterson, Singer and Actor; Los Angeles, CA.
  • James Ford
  • Stephen Ward, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Lester Myers, retired security guard, Forrest, Mississippi





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