Frederica Wilson

Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fl.) is forming a Congressional group that will focus on young men of color. (Courtesy Photo)

A new focus on the lives and well-being of at-risk boys and young men of color is taking shape in Congress, said Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, a Florida Democrat, who launched the new Congressional My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Caucus on May 17.

Wilson, a former elementary school principal in Miami, said the new caucus will work to educate Congressional lawmakers and the public on issues related to increasing opportunities and removing barriers facing boys of color, including Black, Hispanic and tribal boys.

“As a nation we have to invest in that population because they are the most at risk in health care, health maladies, education and the criminal justice system,” Wilson told the AFRO, following a Capitol Hill program to announce the formation of the caucus attended by lawmakers, students, and Michael Smith, White House special assistant to the president for My Brother’s Keeper. The most dangerous issue facing Black boys in the United States is racism, Wilson said, adding that many in society fear Black boys and see them as criminals by age five.

Wilson called for more federal investment to educate the public and change the mindset of boys of color.  She said the caucus is promoting the value of mentoring programs, which can be an effective guide to move young men into a successful adulthood.

“I have witnessed firsthand the seemingly miraculous transformations that can take place in a young boy’s life when paired with caring adults who are willing to help guide them along the rocky road toward adulthood and teach them how to make the right choices,” Wilson said.

In addition to Wilson, caucus board members include Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Other members include Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.),  Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.),  Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), and  Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), the sole Republican lawmaker.

“I feel like we’re still in the foothills and we have a mountain to climb,” said Booker, when asked about problems facing young Black boys, minority-and-Latino men. He said a lot of innovations are in place to reach this population and are just starting to work.

Booker also noted that educational data shows that young Black boys are disproportionally singled out for out-of-school suspension. He said even though young White men have higher rates of dealing drugs, young Black men will be arrested for using and dealing drugs about 3.7 times more.