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^ a huge turnout greeted the My Brother’s Keeper committee in Mattapan yesterday. Let’s see if the community confidence continues.

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Thanks to our friend Ed Lyons for directing our attention to the report newly issued by the organization My Brother’s Keeper pursuant to Mayor Walsh’s request. It’s worth uoting the preamble in full, by which you can grasp the report’s purpose :

“Mayor Martin J. Walsh tasked the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Boston Advisory Committee to
develop policy and program recommendations to provide a lasting, sustainable impact on Boston’s youth, especially Black and Latino males. By engaging the community and working across subcommittees, the MBK Boston Advisory Committee shaped recommendations supported by best practices, evidence-based practices, and promising practices from effective existing policies and programs locally and nationally. Each recommendation is also supported by action plans and data indicators to measure future progress and success.”

All during the 2013 Mayor campiagn, candidates agreed that improving the oppportunioty prospects for Black and Latino youth was a top priority for whoever won. Mayor Walsh made that clear as well during his inaugural address. 17 months later, we have the action plan that he endorses and will, presumably, now work to implement.

A link to the full report is here, in PDF format :

The first “milestone” in the report concerns education — as it should. The paper’s recommendations will surprise many. It makes no bones about involving business and universities in monitoring, advising, shaping Boston’s schools. The report expects, demands, better school performance : “rigor for all” is its motto. This is all good. It takes the administrative reforms put in place by Superintendent John McDonough and expands them.

If the City can succeed at doing this, it will transform the learning experience for tomorrow’s young people — as it must, if they are to be ready on graduation day to accomplish even entry-level jobs in the new technology economy and its generous pay scales.

Milestone One also includes a commitment to expanding minority staffing of Boston schools. as the City is under Federal Court order to reach 25 percent minority staffing, but hasn’t even come close, this matter is more than a priority. It must be done. Why hasn’t it been done before this ?

Crucial to accomplishing more than just a token of minority staffing is the undertaking that I quote directly from the report :

“Both BPS Human Capital and Equity Offices are rethinking teacher development
strategies and prioritizing the need for central and school based educators to
demonstrate cultural proficiency in their practice. Planned training reforms will
focus on culturally responsive and relevant instruction, and will call on educators to
demonstrate an understanding and use of research-based strategies to engage
students who are disproportionately found in the gaps.”

Milestone Two of the report concerns getting Black and Latino youth from school to employment. The recommendations in this section will reuire constant and broad-based participation from the City’s businesses. I am not bullish that can happen, but the mayor does have many levers of power by which he can persuade business leaders to make this chancey effort. Again, to uote from the report :

“1. Increase resources and policy support for the development of award-winning vocational and technical training within Boston public high schools to support a pipeline of talented Black and Latino youth as well as all youth.
2. Leading by example, re-examine the City of Boston’s hiring policies to build a focused
strategy for investing in and employing Black and Latino residents for construction and
permanent jobs.
3. Launch a new Disparity Study to assess the City of Boston’s record and formal practice of
engaging Minority-Owned & Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs/WBEs & MBEs)
in its contracts and procurement. Study results will guide the City’s official engagement
strategy for leveraging its spending power for economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs.”

Here one senses more wish than achievement. All of these objectives have been part of Boston City government’s stated goals for at least two decades. Why have they not fully happened ? There’s also politics in this section. Mayor Walsh knows that he will likely face a strong, minority opponent in the 2017 election, and the never-ending outcry all across the City’s communities of color is for “jobs, jobs, jobs.” it was so in the 2013 campaign. walsh knows that he must deliver good jobs to people of color, and also contractor work paying prevailing wage. Thus this part of the report. Can he do it ? He will have to.

That said, the closing recommendations in this Milestone read bold, very bold. An all out effort to mentor Black and Latino youth and to encourage entrepreneurship among these youth will be worth doing even as a start-up project. Simply putting Black and Latino youth together with young entrepreneurs and start-up peopl,e from the City’s innovation economy will have social repercussions, enmding the social isolation of people of color from Caucasians, that one confronts everywhere — at night especially — in Downtown Boston.

Milestone Three is the big one : Reducing Youth Violence and Providing a Second Chance.
That’s the title, and it directs the MBk mission not strictly to Black and Latino youth bit to a subset of these young people. It’s nice that the report recognizes that violence and family dysfunction impact far too many young people of color, but — as many Mayor candidates pointed out during the 2013 campaign — this is a mission that involves everyone and everything.

What part can even the most diligent City government play in the lives of young people who live 24-7 in a world of information everywhere from every source and whose most intimate relations are with the street they live on ? Even the most engaged citizens in the highest income neighborhoods do not live civic activism all the time; far from it. In the neighborhoods that Milestone Three seeks to reach, hardly anyone is an activist at all. To most people in Milestone Three’s target communities, government is an outside obstacle, a nuisance, when it isn’t completely irrelevant or, worse, a fearful danger.

Making any dent at all in this disconnect will take all the resoiurces Mayor Walsh is likely to command and far more. The report’s recommedations are worthy, for example :

“Develop a strategic plan for the Boston Centers for Youth & families, outlining short and long
term goals to increase engagement and use of its facilities, especially supporting youth and
families from low-income households.

“Through the Mayor’s Public Safety Initiative, create a quality assurance system to streamline
coordination and communication to improve the delivery of trauma response within the
community and accountability for safer streets and neighborhoods. In tandem, this quality
assurance system should include standard programming to provide outreach and
communication within the community regarding available resources and services.”

But the report does not say exactly who will do these things, or under which City departments, or how much the initiatives will cost. The words do have good intentions. That’s the easy part.

Six My Brother’s Keeper subcommittees will meet, open to the public, during June. There’s a schedule of these meetings at the end of the report. You would do well to attend a few. There we will likely find out if the report’s target communities believe in the initiative. Mayor Walsh had better see that they do.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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