Obama and Curry keep it 100 on the fifth anniversary of “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.
Young men of color understand many of the challenges they face on a daily basis, no matter where they are. It’s a situation that many have worked hard to address, through education, inspiration, and other means of support.
But having real leaders, tangible figures, these young men can physically interact with, is what really drives results. Two of these individuals did just that in Oakland earlier this week. President Barack Obama and Steph Curry stepped on stage during the 5th anniversary of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to speak with young men of color about the realities they face.
The President addressed many issues, including representation, character, pop culture influence and rising above expectations.
“We tend to rise to the expectations that are set for us,” said Obama. “If a young boy is taught early on, ‘You are going to be kind to people, not bully people,’ that will have an impact. If you say, ‘You treat young women with respect. They are not objects. They are humans with the same aspirations and desires, and they are just as worthy of respect as you are,’ that has an impact. We’ve got to set that tone early in life.”
And setting that tone can come from any man who is willing to step up and get involved. It doesn’t have to be blood; rather, it can be someone who simply cares and takes the initiative to engage.
“We can all be surrogate fathers. We can all be big brothers. It turns out that if you give somebody some attention, and say ‘you know what? You matter. How are you doing? How are you thinking about your next steps? Do you really think that that’s the best to do?’ People respond to that.”
“So my father might not have been in my house, but there were a whole bunch of men around who taught me something and guided me.”
Obama was very direct when it came to how young men should carry themselves, going right at the images they see in rap videos, many of which portray a fictional lifestyle that many artists don’t even live. He said you don’t need to be surrounded by multiple women while flaunting your money. Materialism isn’t a quality that exudes real confidence or inspiration.
“If you are really confident about your financial situation, you probably are not going to be wearing an eight-pound chain around your neck because you know, ‘I got bank. I don’t have to show you how much I’ve got because I feel good.”
“If you are very confident about your sexuality, you don’t have to have eight women around you twerking … because [you know], ‘I’ve got one woman, who I am very happy with. And she’s a strong woman.’”
President Obama did not shy away from race either, something he wasn’t able to completely tackle while in office. But he was spot on with his points, going back to the ideas of respect, positive role models and what it means to be a man.
“A lot of the violence and pain that we suffer in our communities arises out of young men who nobody has said to them what it means to be respected. So they are looking around and thinking, ‘Well, I guess being respected means [that] I can make you back down.’ Or, ‘I can disrespect you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ That is a self-defeating model for being a man! So we have to constantly lift up examples of the successful men who don’t take that approach. That’s hard to do in this society.”
Obama and Curry went on to touch on other subjects such as confidence, incarceration and fatherhood. You can watch the entire discussion here: