Unbrotherly Love: Black Groups Feel Locked Out of Obama's Young Men of Color Initiative

A rule change makes organizations like 100 Black Men and the NAACP ineligible for grants to participate in the program.

Posted: 04/30/2014 07:43 AM EDT

When President Obama in February unveiled My Brother's Keeper, an initiative to provide opportunities for young boys and men of color, African-American civic and community groups offered their overwhelmingly enthusiastic support. More important, they expressed an eagerness to do their bit.

But now those groups are feeling left on the sideline because of a change in the eligibility requirements to apply for grants to participate in the program made by the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Initially, national programs seeking to offer mentoring programs through the initiative were required to have active chapters or sub-awardees in at least 30 states. But according to a letter obtained by BET.com written by Michael J. Brown, president of 100 Black Men of America, Inc., that number has increased to 45.

The increase prevents organizations like Brown's to participate because they don't currently operate in states where there frankly is no need.

"Requiring organizations that currently serve the target population you seek to empower to have a presence in states in which the demographics do not support the establishment of such a presence, is not only antithetical to the very charters in which we operate as historically Black organizations, but virtually ensures that the monopoly on federal funding that the few 'national organizations,' as narrowly defined by OJJDP, get on a regular, consistent, and more often than not, annual basis, continues to persist into perpetuity," Brown writes.

In addition, he noted, the change has “dashed any hopes that such venerable institutions as the National Urban League, the NAACP and each of the nine Historically Black Greek Letter Organizations may have had in competing in this significant funding opportunity.”

Brown has asked that the 45-state requirement be reduced to 30 and that the RFP submission deadline be extended so that his and other organizations will have a "fair opportunity to successfully apply for funding."

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus met Tuesday night with Obama administration officials Jim Shelton and Broderick Johnson to discuss the rule change.

Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.

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