By Alice Kenny
High unemployment rates. High incarceration rates. Worst of all, sky-high murder rates among black men gunned down in their youth.
President Obama takes on these key issues in his just-announced “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, issues long-tackled by Catholic Charities.
This past month, for example, Catholic Charities Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Center in Harlem held its third annual Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. basketball tournament. Run during the February schools break, it provided recreation during the winter recess to keep teens off the streets and inside a supportive environment.
Manhattan District attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (son of former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance. Sr). presented trophies and ribbon medals to the team members who are residents of Juvenal Justice System Homes. Each home comprised one team.
A special five-foot trophy was given to the one player who exhibited the best sportsmanship throughout the tournament.
The motto resounding through each of the five days was “Put down the guns, pick up a ball and recreate. ”
And that’s what they did. Each day different speakers addressed these youth with testimony and advise about how to survive adverse climates. Speakers included Inspector Rodney Harris, commander of the 32nd precinct, Deacon Rodney Beckford, director of Catholic Charities Community Services Kennedy Center and numerous officers from NYPD.
Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. (Stop Another Violent Act) that helped sponsor the event was founded by Jackie Rowe-Adams and fellow mothers who lost sons to gun violence. The group meets and holds events at Catholic Charities Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Memorial Community Center.
“I didn’t have a dad in the house,” President Obama said when he announced the initiative named after the biblical phrase he often uses to share his belief that society must help those facing challenges. “I made bad choices…I made excuses, sometimes I sold myself short.”
The time to change the cycle is now, President Obama continued. His “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative will work with nonprofit agencies, churches and political leaders to fight back against the drum beat of violence and addiction that has plagued too many for too long.