Your Brother's Keeper -- A Perspective from Mother Africa

ImageLast week President Obama announced a new initiative with leading foundations and businesses that will take a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color - and they're getting to work immediately.  He signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the My Brother's Keeper Task Force to help determine which public and private efforts are working, how the Federal government can support those efforts, and how we can get more folks involved in those efforts across the board.


While the President should be applauded for launching this initiative, I am reminded of an example from our motherland  that serves as a call to action within our communities.  We must insist that government resources paid for with our taxes should be directed to our most intractable problems.  Yet, we should also support grassroots efforts that operate in the spirit of the Maasai Warriors of Kenya.


ImageHow are the Children?
Among the most fabled tribes of Africa, are the fearsome warriors of the mighty Maasai.  The traditional greeting among these warriors when they meet others is the question, "How are the children?"

This traditional greeting among the Maasai acknowledges the high value that the Maasai always place on their children's well-being. Even warriors with no children of their own always give the traditional answer: "All the children are well," meaning, of course, that peace and safety prevail, that the priorities of protecting the young, the powerless, are in place, that Maasai society has not forgotten its reason for being, its proper functions and responsibilities. "All the children are well" means that life is good. It means that the daily struggles of existence do not preclude proper caring for the young.  We can learn from the tradition of the Maasai as we embark on this initiative to do a better at being our brothers' keepers.


Existing grassroots programs should not be overlooked.  

I have seen strong leadership at the grassroots level in communities all over the country.  One of the concerns I have about the President's initiative is that the initiative will "cherry pick" programs of the well-connected, and many of the effective grassroots programs will suffer from lack of funding. I am encouraged and hopeful that this initiative will gain support and strength within our communities, and outlive President Obama's term in office.



Roger Madison

CEO, iZania