Almost 10 years after President Barack Obama started My Brother’s Keeper to address issues facing young men of color in poverty or without father figures, the organization now includes young women in My Sister’s Keeper, and students participate from 24 schools in Bronx School District 7.
The two groups had their first joint induction ceremony on Nov. 13 in the auditorium of Jill Chaifetz Transfer High School, with calls to the approximately 400 new members to create their own support systems.
The goal of My Brother’s Keeper and My Sister’s Keeper is to connect young people to each other and to other social support networks, including mentorships, that will help them build the skills needed to go to college and enter the workforce.
Dr. Roshone Ault, principal of the South Bronx Academy for Applied Media and a leader of My Brother’s Keeper in District 7, spoke to the new inductees about the importance of understanding their worth and their role in taking care of each other.
Students in grades 4 to 12 volunteer to participate in 24 schools in the district.
“We strive to ensure we are changing life outcomes for our young people whether they be male, female, or gender expansive youth,” Ault said. ”Today’s ceremony was really that initial point into a brotherhood and a sisterhood where they know they are responsible for each other.”
The core mission of the My Sister’s Keeper chapter, according to its website, is to “change life outcomes for girls and young women of color, build safe and supportive communities where girls feel valued and create clear pathways to opportunity.”
Similarly, My Brother’s Keeper “believes that all children deserve opportunities that lead to achievement. To live and work in safe communities and to have a clear path and equitable path to success,” as described on its website.
This message was emphasized by Bronx native Dr. Asheena Aleana Baez, chief executive of Asheena Baez Consulting and adjunct professor at Columbia University. She began with an exercise.
“In order to attain generational success we have to counteract generational memories,” she explained. “In the Bronx we have memories sometimes of not thriving and not surviving so we’re going to interrupt that. Before I even begin, you’re going to turn to your partner and tell them ‘I need you to survive.’”
“I need you to survive!” the youngsters chanted as they looked at one another, some laughing.