Dominion of New York

Social Justice

July 26, 2012

Obama Launches Initiative to Address African-American Education

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Written by: Kelly Virella

Barack Obama delivered this speech at the Victory Column (Siegessaeule) in Berlin July 24, 2008, when he was the U.S. Democratic presidential candidate. Photo courtesy of Flickr/Matt Ortega.


bama presented an olive branch yesterday to critics who say he’s done little to help African-Americans, announcing the launch of an initiative that would single out for special attention our educational needs.

The announcement came yesterday during his totally under the radar speech to the National Urban League. Video of the president’s speech is available on the National Urban League’s website. The full-text of the speech is available on the website of AP reporter Jesse Washington.

About the initiative, the president said only this:

tomorrow, I’m establishing the first-ever White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans –- (applause) — so that every child has greater access to a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born all through the time they get a career. interviewed an anonymous official from the Obama administration who told them that:

the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans will be a part of the Department of Education and will work with the president and Cabinet-level agencies “to identify evidence-based best practices to improve African-American students’ achievement in school and college.” It will also build a network of people, grassroots organizations and communities to share those practices.

In addition, the executive order creates a presidential commission on educational advancement for African-American students, with commission members advising the president and Education Secretary Arne Duncan on broad-stroke strategies meant to enhance educational opportunities for black Americans of all ages.

A separate interagency working group will engage Cabinet agencies and senior officials at the White House in building programs “aimed at advancing outcomes for African Americans in early-childhood education; elementary, secondary and postsecondary education; career and technical education; and adult education,” the administration official said.

I have so many questions about this. How historic is it? What will be necessary for it to make a difference?

We need some education scholars to comment on this initiative. Meanwhile, sound-off.

How do you perceive this effort? Is it sufficient to counter criticism of the president’s relationship with African-Americans? Should it be expanded to include other people of color — Afro-Latinos and other Latinos, for example?

About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


A student at Ocean Hill Collegiate Middle School. Photo by Jessica Campbell
The outdoor plaza at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of OlivierJD.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Renato Ganoza

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