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Obama to address race, hint at his future

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obamaPresident Barack Obama is expected to weigh in on ongoing tensions in America over police treatment of blacks — and possibly offer a glimpse of his post-White House plans — during remarks in New York on Monday.

Obama will travel to the Bronx to spin off the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative as an independent non-profit organization dedicated to improving opportunities for young black men.

The program began in Obama’s White House and has taken on more political relevance in the wake of racially-tinged unrest in Baltimore and other US cities over a series of high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of police.

Launching My Brother’s Keeper a year ago, Obama described the plight of minority youths as an “outrage.”

“The stubborn fact is that the life chances of the average black or brown child in this country lags behind by almost every measure and is worse for boys and young men,” he said.

Making the initiative independent of the White House could portend a future role for Obama when he leaves the Oval Office in 2017.

Predecessors Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have both engaged in charity and policy work since leaving office.

“I’m not in a position to describe the specific, detailed relationship between the president and this alliance that will continue after his presidency,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday.

“I can tell you that this is an issue that the president intends to continue to be focused on, long after he has left the Oval Office.”

Recent violence in Baltimore was prompted by the death in police custody of 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray.

Stores were looted, hundreds were arrested, a curfew imposed and the National Guard deployed — all in a city which lies about an hour’s drive away from the US capital.

Obama has been criticized in some quarters for not becoming more involved in easing tensions.

But while calling for justice to be done, he urged Americans to look at the deeper underlying issues.

He said it was essential that “we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS (store) burns. And we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped.”

“I think there are police departments that have to do some soul-searching,” he said last week.

“I think there’s some communities that have to do some soul-searching. I think we as a country have to do some soul-searching. This is not new. It’s been going on for decades.”

My Brother’s Keeper is expected to focus on improving education for boys and young men of color, as well as reducing violence.

Leveraging his presidential pulpit, Obama has convinced a series of high-profile businessmen, political leaders and entertainment stars to become involved including singer John Legend and former secretary of state Colin Powell.

It will be run by retired Deloitte CEO Joe Echevarria.


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