Walsh plays key role in president’s plan for boys of color

Mayor Walsh visited the White House on Monday. He was one of eight US mayors invited to join President Obama for a discussion of his initiative dubbed My Brothers Keeper. The presidential effort is aimed at eliminating employment and educational hurdles for boys of color nationally. The president announced the $200 million plan in February and Walsh has since signed on to make Boston one of the key participants in the plan.

“I’m making this a big push for the president because I want this to succeed,” Walsh told the Reporter upon his return from Washington Monday night. “Here in Boston, two-thirds of our young people under 19 are black or brown. These are really big numbers here and we’ve got to make sure we don’t lose another generation to higher rates of incarceration and unemployment.”

Walsh said he met with Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and several mayors, including Philadelphia’s Michael Nutter and New Orleans’s Mitch Landrieu to discuss the parameters that will be used to measure the success of the initiative.

During a town hall forum held on Monday that Walsh attended, the president explained that he expects the initiative to have long-term impacts.

“This is not something that is just a one-off that’s going to happen one time and then we’re done,” Obama said. “This is a movement that we’re trying to build over the next year, five years, ten years, so that we can look back and say we were part of something that reversed some trends that we don’t want to see. We want fewer young men in jail; we want more of them in college. We want fewer young men on the streets; we want more in the boardrooms. We want everybody to have a chance to succeed in America.”

The president continued: “My Brother’s Keeper isn't some new, big government program. It's actually a team effort. It’s all about a whole bunch of folks -- educators, business leaders, faith leaders, foundations, government -- all working together to give boys and young men of color the tools that they need to succeed and make sure that every young person can reach their potential.”

The president sought to tie in his own experience as a young person of color growing up in what he called a “pretty forgiving environment.”

“So if I made a mistake, I often had a second chance, or I often had a third chance. And some of the costs of making mistakes, they weren’t deadly. I wasn’t going to end up shot. I wasn’t going to end up in jail.”

Here in Boston, Walsh said he wants to build on the model that he created in his role as head of the city’s building trades union . The Building Pathways program targets men and women of color for apprenticeships in unions that have been traditionally seen as white-dominated. The program is now recruiting a new class of students for the fall with a workshop planned for tonight at the Lower Mills Library (6 p.m., 27 Richmond St.)

“One of the things we want to do here is really target high-impact kids, kids who are gang-involved, and get them placed into a program that can lead them into the trades,” Walsh told the Reporter.

Creating new paths to careers is just one facet of the president’s initiative, however. As a member of the Task Force, Walsh says, he’ll call on all elements of city government to participate. “We’re going after it from all different fronts,” said the mayor, who spoke briefly to the president at the meeting. “He said, ‘My team told me you’re committed to this program.’ He knew everything I was doing.”