The "My Brother's Keeper" program was created by the Obama administration in 2014, and Washtenaw County was among the first to sign on. Two representatives from Washtenaw My Brother's Keeper (WMBK), Rod Wallace and Jamall Bufford, talk to WEMU's David Fair about its latest projects for this week's "Washtenaw United."
WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw County to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'
ABOUT THE GUESTS:
Rod Wallace was born and raised in Flint, MI. He attended Eastern Michigan University and achieved his bachelor's degrees in History and African-American Studies. Soon thereafter, receiving his Masters in Education from Marygrove College. For almost 20 years, Rod has had the privilege of working with thousands of inner-city youth through his work as a teacher and school administrator. Prior to joining the team at Eastern Michigan University’s Upward Bound program, he served as an administrator at River Rouge High School, where he specialized in trauma-sensitive practices and raised several million dollars in scholarship funds for students.
Jamall Bufford has stepped in as the new Project Specialist coordinating Washtenaw My Brother’s Keeper. As the first county in the nation to sign onto the Obama-era White House initiative, hiring a full-time Project Specialist to rally the community and manage partnerships is a significant step in WMBK’s development. Bufford received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 2005 and is no stranger to working with youth in Washtenaw County. Bufford’s background as a hip-hop recording artist led to his passion of working with young people. He spent 5 years working at the Neutral Zone in downtown Ann Arbor as an Emcee Workshop Facilitator and Music Coordinator, and he was most recently employed as a Paraprofessional at Ann Arbor Public Schools' Tappan Middle School, where he worked with students with emotional impairments. Bufford is also a trained facilitator in restorative practices.
Programs like Washtenaw My Brother’s Keeper seek to transform communities of color and the lives of boys and men of color. The data show us significant disparities faced by boys of color.
- National suspension rates show that 17%, or 1 out of every 6 Black school children enrolled in K-12, were suspended at least once. That is much higher than the 1 in 13 (8%) risk for Native Americans; 1 in 14 (7%) for Latinos; 1 in 20 (5%) for Whites; or the 1 in 50 (2%) for Asian Americans.
- Black boys are suspended three times as often as white boys, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.
- Black girls are suspended six times more often than white girls.
- One out of every four (25%) Black children with disabilities enrolled in grades K-12 was suspended at least once in 2009-2010.
- Students with disabilities and Black students were also more likely to be suspended repeatedly in a given year than to be suspended just once. The reverse was true for students without disabilities and for most other racial/ethnic groups.
These inequities are unacceptable and cause harm and a lifetime of negative outcomes. Programs like My Brother’s Keeper are vital to lifting up and ensuring boys and men of color have support and avenues to thrive. When all students do well, our community thrives. United Way of Washtenaw County will continue to lift up the voices of individuals and organizations leveraging their power and striving for transformation. Indeed, we recognize that all of our futures are linked, and no one’s race should determine their opportunity in life.
Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support. Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.