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Boston’s ‘Brother’s Keeper’ gets a new director and new grants

Boston’s version of My Brother’s Keeper is entering its third year with a new director and $100,000 in grants for programs seeking to help the city’s black and Latino boys and young men.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Saturday that Conan Harris will lead the initiative, which is modeled after President Obama’s efforts to close the gap between men of color and their potential achievements.

“We’re taking My Brother’s Keeper and we’re putting big arms around the city and we’re going to wrap the city in those arms,” Walsh said at a gathering at the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Roxbury. “We have to make sure everybody has that opportunity to be successful.”

Harris, the deputy director of the mayor’s Office of Public Safety Initiatives, said he plans to continue in his current role as he takes the reins as the first director of My Brother’s Keeper in Boston.

He said the initiative is focused on assisting groups in Boston that seek to help men of color succeed. Black and Latino males represent more than half of all men under age 24 living in Boston and 67 percent of all males age 17 and under, the city said.

“It’s really about supporting programs that are there to support black and brown young people and giving them sincere opportunities,” Harris said in an interview. “When you think about black and brown boys throughout the city, how do we make sure we’re supporting each one of them?”

The announcement of Harris’s appointment and the grant funding coincided with the release of a report that found service providers and advocacy organizations in the neighborhoods where most of the city’s young black and Latino men live need to do a better job of coordinating their efforts.

The report, “Mapping Momentum for Boston’s Youth: Programs & Opportunities for Black and Latino Young Men,” was prepared by Root Cause, which advises nonprofits, foundations, and governments.

Researchers mapped 142 organizations in Boston that serve black and Latino boys and young men, and examined their operations, the report said.

The inquiry found that despite the investment of more than $14 billion over the past decade from public and philanthropic sectors, that demographic has not seen gains in areas like reading and math proficiency, high school graduation rates, and employment.

James Jennings, a co-author of the report, said the group’s research found that many black and Latino boys and men connect more easily with smaller, neighborhood nonprofits.

“We have to work with the grass-roots organizations,” said Jennings, a professor emeritus at Tufts University. “That piece has been missing from a lot of policies.”

He said the new grant funding represents an important step in supporting those smaller groups.

“I would push for even more,” Jennings said.

The city and the Boston Foundation provided the $100,000 in grant funding, Harris said.

Organizations can begin applying immediately for grants of $1,000 to $7,000 through the website for My Brother’s Keeper in Boston, he said. A committee has been formed to review applications, Harris said.

He said the committee is interested in funding programs for mentors, employment opportunities, and giving second chances to young people.

Dorchester resident Taquari Milton, 21, who addressed the gathering, credited Harris and My Brother’s Keeper for helping him even when he faced criminal charges. He said he is now on track to graduate next year from Bunker Hill Community College.

“The reality is there are still a lot of kids out there that still don’t have that help, especially in Dorchester,” Milton said. “This is a chance to bring the hope back.”

Globe correspondent Vivian Wang contributed to this article. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at

Originally published by the Globe

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