Penn well represented on new offshoot of Obama’s ‘Brother’s Keeper’ initiative

In the midst of racial tensions in Baltimore, President Barack Obama has expanded his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative into an alliance of private and public stakeholders tasked with addressing racial inequity.

The council guiding the alliance will include three members connected with the University of Pennsylvania.

Professor Shaun Harper, executive director of Penn’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, has devoted his career to researching the societal forces which help disadvantaged young men of color succeed.

Harper is the only university professor on the council.

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“I very much see my role as bringing research, expertise, evidence and data to help advance the work of the alliance, and to ensure that the investments that are being made are invested into things that we know work,” he said.

Harper hopes to steer the committee towards solutions that will address what he sees as the root causes of academic underperformance among young men of color.

“It can’t just be about fixing the guy,” Harper said. “It has to be about fixing the economy, the criminal justice system, crime and poverty and other things in his community.”

In addition to Harper, the 33-member council will include two other Penn alumni: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and musician John Legend. They’ll join other appointees including U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New York, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and former NBA great Shaquille O’Neal.

The group already has $80 million in commitments from some of the nation’s top companies.

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