My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Nashville Alliance kicks off Black History Month

At the My Brother’s Keeper Launch are (l-r) Chris Hope, Raheem DeVaughn, Lonnell Matthews and Howard Gentry. (photo by Cass Teague)

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The My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Nashville Alliance has launched President Obama’s My Brother Keeper mentorship initiative in the city of Nashville. The MBK Launch Celebration kicked off Black History Month and brought together several stakeholders with the intent to create a public space where Black men and other men of color, together with Black and Brown male youth, can assemble to unify the causes of brotherhood, manhood and alliance. The event was held Saturday, February 1, 2020, at the I.T. Creswell Middle School of the Arts.

MBK Nashville is determined to build a coalition of organizations and individuals to prioritize achievement for boys and young men of color (BYMOC) by focusing on six key milestones and promoting positive mentorship for Black and Brown boys. Nashville’s MBK will first emphasize three of the six key milestones as a beginning: Reading at Grade Level by 3rd grade; Graduating from high school ready for college and career; and Reducing violence and providing a second chance opportunities.

“That’s what ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ is all about,” said President Barack Obama on February 27, 2014. “Helping more of our young people stay on track. Providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future. Building on what works – when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.”

The Nashville MBK group is spearheaded by Ashford Hughes, Lonnell Matthews, and several other dedicated men who see the immense value in making Black and Brown male youth, and the equity needed to create better opportunities for them, a top priority for the city of Nashville. Joining them at the kickoff launch event were dozens of youth, some brought by local community organizations and some by parents and mentors.

Among the local community groups represented at the event were (in no particular order): US Census 2020, Metro Nashville Police Dept., Chris Hope’s book P.R.O.S. (Parents Relying On their Seeds), Tennessee Volunteer Challenge Academy, the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity’s Sigma Beta youth group, The YMCA and the YWCA AMEND program, OASIS, R.E.A.L. (Reaching Excellence As Leaders), 92Q’s Kenny Smoove and his guest recording artist Raheem DeVaughn, and Tillman Payne for Judge.

After an introductory video and brief remarks by Ashford Hughes and Chris Hope, a drum circle led by Musa Smith was followed by two sets of four 45 minute discussion groups, one each before and after lunch. Among the topics discussed in the eight breakout sessions were “Against the Grain: Barbershop talk about manhood and relationships,” led by Shan Foster and Lamont Doty from the AMEND Together program at the YWCA. Lunch was provided by the Local Distro, a black-owned restaurant in Germantown.

My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) is a collaborative impact movement to support and improve achievement for boys and young men of color, started by President Barack Obama in 2014. Their goal is making boys and young men of color, and the equity needed to create better opportunities for them, a top priority in the city of Nashville.