My Brother's Keeper

Detroit & East Lansing MI
United States

The My Brother's Keeper program (MBK), under the directorship of Dr. Austin Jackson, is a civic engagement partnership between the RCAH and Detroit Public Schools. MBK provides early intervention teaching and mentoring for at-risk African American males, grades six through eight, attending the Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy. Many of these students lack confidence in their ability to learn and succeed in school, and some are already on the suspension track. Early intervention is crucial to provide incentives and alternatives so that they do not become part of the deplorable national and local statistics on Black males.

MBK was established in January 1990, at Detroit’s Woodward Elementary School by Dr. Geneva Smitherman (“Dr. G”), University Distinguished Professor Emerita, Department of English, who is internationally known for her research and publications on language and her work in African American Studies. MBK originally served several Detroit schools, but since 1993, it has operated exclusively at Malcolm X Academy, an African Centered, K-8 Detroit Public School, founded by the late math and science educator, Dr. Clifford Watson, in 1991. In 2010, the school merged with Paul Robeson Academy, also an African Centered, K-8 Detroit Public School. The on-site MBK Teacher-Coordinator is Dr. Jeffery Robinson, Principal of the Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy and Milkin Family Foundation National Educator (2001). Dr. Robinson received his PhD in African American and African Studies from Michigan State University. 

In conjunction with Dr. Jackson’s civic engagement course, “We Real Cool: Early Intervention Strategies for At-Risk Black Males” (RCAH 292), MSU undergraduate and graduate students serve as MBK coordinators, mentors, and role models. MBK has the following objectives:

  1. to eradicate fear of the unknown, i.e., college life, by exposing the Detroit students to college at an early age (high school is often to late since many young Black males in this urban school district do not even make it to high school);
  2. to expose the Detroit mentees to college life through the eyes of their mentors, many of whom share the same socio-economic legacy as their mentees;
  3. to increase the mentees’ knowledge of viable career options for the twenty-first century; and
  4. to increase the mentees’ sense of educational self-esteem, personal responsibility, self-control and self-discipline. 

Annually, there are approximately twenty mentees in MBK. Each mentee spends three years in the program, and the population is staggered such that each year one third of the group is replaced when they reach ninth grade and go on to high school. Mentoring sessions are held on Saturdays, either on the MSU campus or at Malcolm X Academy, two to three times a month, September through April. Additionally, mentees spend two weekends on the MSU campus during the school year and when funding is available, a week on campus during the summer. 

Since its inception in 1990, MBK has developed and refined a mentoring framework, focused on Black Popular Culture and life skills lessons that teach social and community responsibility. Mentoring sessions and weekend campus activities are designed and constructed by the mentors, who are trained and supervised by MSU doctoral students and the Program Director. 

Some mentors serve as volunteers.  Others have the option of receiving credit (RCAH 292 for undergraduates; satisfies internship requirement for AAAS doctoral students).

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