My Brother’s Keeper: White House Cabinet Members Talk Entrepreneurship Advocacy

Maria Contreras-Sweet and Broderick Johnson share why initiative is vital and going strong

This week, media, industry leaders, and members of President Obama’s cabinet gathered in Harlem at the historic Apollo Theater to celebrate a milestone: the second anniversary of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, launched and made an official presidential memorandum by the POTUS in 2014.

[Related: Baltimore Welcomes President Obama’s TechHire Initiative]

The initiative is a federal effort to combat opportunity gaps boys and young men of color face and help them with the tools and resources they need to advance. Since its inception, the White House reports that more than 250 communities in all 50 states accepted the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge; more than $600 million in private sector and philanthropic grants and in-kind resources; and $1 billion in low-interest financing have been committed in alignment with MBK.

The event celebrating these accomplishments was hosted by Mike Muse, an entrepreneur and political commentator, in partnership with the Small Business Administration, and it featured one-on-one Q&As with Obama cabinet member and SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet and Broderick Johnson, assistant to the president, cabinet secretary, and chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

With a focus on millennial entrepreneurship, the night also included a viewing of the clips from a special six-part series featuring leading men of color in various industries, from entertainment to fitness, including Beyoncé stylist and fashion expert Ty Hunter, and celebrity trainer “Hollywood Hino” Ehikhamenor, who also served as panel speakers and shared their stories of success.

Contreras-Sweet stressed the importance of not only empowering young men in areas of lifestyle and vocation, but promoting opportunities to become their own bosses who create opportunities for others.

“We are looking at how to offer a skill set. We see people who are great on YouTube and they convert that into a business. There are stars who have a great voice and [we look at] how we can train them to be consultants. That’s our job, and that’s what I’ve found great joy in,” she said. “When the president introduced the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, we at the SBA said there’s going to be an entrepreneurial component to it. Yes, there’s education. There’s a social and a labor component, but there has to be an entrepreneurial component to it.”

Johnson offered insights on how small business owners can help advocate for the advancement of My Brother’s Keeper and what the initiative stands for.

“Take a young person under your wing as a mentor and show them what it means to run a business. Give someone a second chance who may have been in trouble, and spread the word,” he said. “My Brother’s Keeper is not going anywhere. We have 260 days left [in the Obama administration]…we’re not counting down the days, we’re making the days count.”



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