Milwaukee Named My Brother’s Keeper Alliance “Community to Watch”
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Milwaukee Named My Brother’s Keeper Alliance “Community to Watch”

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From left: Mike Peeples, Shannon Reed, and Donovan Hemphill

April 19, 2019

We are proud to announce that Milwaukee was recently named a My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBKA) “Community to Watch.”


President Barack Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper in 2014 to address the persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and to ensure all youth can reach their full potential.

Since that time, an unstoppable movement has grown around the country to uphold and advance that promise, with MBKA working to sustain that mission through support of local initiatives.


In response to the recent My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, the City of Milwaukee and United Way, Milwaukee Public School (MPS) and Employ Milwaukee have worked hand-in-hand to submit an overview of the current work being done to uplift black and brown boys in our community and make the case for how additional funding streams could elevate our collective ability to achieve true, lasting change.


“There are a lot of strong players in this space in Milwaukee,” said Mike Peeples, Community Engagement & Achievement Collaborative Manager and Director over My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, Black Male Achievement, and Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative. “Once we all came together at the same table to talk about how we can collaborate, we realized how drastically we could improve outcomes for boys and men of color in our city.”


The need for collaboration around innovative strategies to uplift boys and men of color in our community is clear. Milwaukee, where 66% of Wisconsin’s African Americans live, is the nation's most segregated and 5th most impoverished city.


Many of Milwaukee’s boys and young men of color grow up without access to their fathers and other positive male role models they need to become successful. They become isolated in areas exhibiting intergenerational urban poverty with little racial, economic and cultural diversity or access to jobs.


Fortunately, when boys and young men of color internalize a sense of pride about being Black or Latino, they are less likely to experience mental health difficulties, more likely to have positive relationships in life, feel more connected to school, and are more likely to succeed academically compared to peers who internalize negative stereotypes (Neblett, 2012).


By implementing strategies that enhance self-esteem, belonging, and brotherhood, Milwaukee can transform into the nation’s greatest city for boys and young men of color.


“Mentorship is key here,” said Shannon Reed, Director of Innovative Strategies for Boys & Men of Color at United Way. “We can give boys and young men of color all the resources and opportunities we have, but if they don’t believe ‘I can do this’ or ‘I can be this,’ it doesn’t work.”


Being designated as a My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Community to Watch will expose Milwaukee to opportunities to connect with other cities doing this work to share ideas, as well as to funders looking to support initiatives that uplift boys and young men of color.


Recently, Shannon, Mike, and Donovan Hemphill, a Milwaukee native, MATC student, and young man of color, were invited to attend MBK Rising!, an event held in Oakland, California that brought together leaders, organizations, and young men from across the country to share expertise and learn from one another.


Back in Milwaukee, Shannon, Mike, Donovan, and the collaborative team got right back to work, helping coordinate the recent Black Male Summit at UWM, which impacted close to 1,200  students, and moving ahead on a program to connect the 6600 city employees to opportunities to mentor students. .


“What excites me about the MBK Alliance designation is that we are in the trenches with other cities all around the country in helping black and brown boys,” said Shannon Reed. “At the MBK Rising! event, President Obama shared a great quote: ‘our work is great in isolation, but it is even greater in collaboration.’ When it comes to working in this space, we are truly stronger together.”


Contact Shannon Reed at to learn more.  

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