My Brother’s Keeper: Stop Writing Letters, Just Do the Work

Your Take: Dillard University’s president talks about what should be done to focus on both black boys and girls without waiting for the president’s initiative.

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But we did something anyway, and saw a graduation rate that was some 24 points below the national average for black students in 2010 move to 5 points above the national average four years later, a remarkable accomplishment with a population overwhelmingly low-income and first-generation.

My Brother’s Keeper will disappear as soon as President Obama leaves office. So in three years we will be back in the same place, maybe with a little money spent for some programs, but with no agenda.

And waiting.

I agree, we can’t wait. So let’s go to work. At Dillard University we are revamping our program for black males to find new ways to engage men. Simultaneously we are partnering with the Hip-Hop Sisters Foundation for some exciting initiatives for the women on campus. We are also expanding programs for children in our community, like a new summer sports camp.

In all of our communities we can make a difference. As a member of the African-American advisory board for Big Brothers and Big Sisters I hear about the long waiting lists filled with children of color, and how the organization struggles to get us to do something about it. While we have been waiting, these children have been waiting—on us.

Let’s not write any more open letters, op-eds or tweets. Instead, write grants for studies on black girls and women, or to support existing programs like Black Girls Rock or Black Girls Code. Write black mayors, whom we never challenge on anything, and ask them to fund specific initiatives. Write plans for community action. We need to develop an agenda and act on it.

We can do this! Stop waiting and start working.

Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough is the seventh president of Dillard University in New Orleans. He is in his 10th year as a college president, previously serving seven-and-a-half years at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. You can follow Kimbrough here on Twitter.

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