- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

President Obama’s initiative to help black and Hispanic boys will be put to the test in Ferguson, Missouri, where the shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer in August sparked civil unrest.

White House aides said Tuesday that the city of Ferguson is one of the more than 150 communities nationwide that has signed up for the president’s “My Brother’s Keeper” challenge, to focus on programs that will help minority boys succeed in school and get jobs.

Jim Shelton, executive director of the program and deputy secretary of Education, said one of the goals will be to address “the things that led to” the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Mr. Shelton said community leaders will develop recommendations “for how you actually improve the interactions between the police and people in the community, and the kind of things that led to Michael Brown and many other young men in that community feeling like they … didn’t have the opportunity they deserve, and winding up, in that particular case, in a confrontation with police.”

Mr. Obama said Saturday that the shooting in Ferguson exposed a racial divide in the American justice system that “stains the heart of black children.”

“We have to close the justice gap — how justice is applied, but also how it is perceived, how it is experienced,” Mr. Obama said at a Congressional Black Caucus event. “That’s what we saw in Ferguson this summer when Michael Brown was killed and the community was divided.”

The Justice Department is conducting a probe to determine whether the teen’s civil rights were violated.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said the program “isn’t a new federal initiative, but rather a call to action” to community leaders. There’s no new federal money behind the program, whose goals include getting all black and Hispanic boys to read at grade level by the third grade and to graduate high school.

Mr. Obama announced the My Brother’s Keeper program in February, well before the shooting in Ferguson. The challenge unveiled Tuesday is to take it to the local level, Mr. Castro said.

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