A Baltimore for millennials

Story highlights

  • President Obama announced a new initiative, "My Brother's Keeper Alliance" to address inequalities
  • Donna Brazile: Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby has a similar message for millennials in Freddie Gray case

Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. A nationally syndicated columnist, she is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in America." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)On Monday, President Obama announced a new independent nonprofit organization, "My Brother's Keeper Alliance," or MBKA. As a spinoff to his "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, MBKA will work to address systemic issues that plague neighborhoods around the country and to close opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color.

A year into the effort, foundations, corporations and their partners have committed nearly $500 million to invest in evidence-based interventions to address inequalities. As the President has said, "We are stronger when America fields a full team."
In the wake of unrest in Baltimore, the announcement of an enduring organization that will outlast this President's time in office is welcome news.
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    Similarly, Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby is trying to address issues of inequality in the case of Freddie Gray.
    When Mosby announced criminal charges against six police officers in the Gray case a few days ago, it was a surprising and significant development.
    Even more surprising — and in the long run, perhaps more significant — was Mosby's use of the opportunity to address millennials.
    For the media, the focal point of Mosby's long and detailed statement was that "the findings of our comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation coupled with the medical examiner's determination that Mr. Gray's death was a homicide, which we received today, has led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges."
    Donna Brazile
    But for those young people of color whose communities have borne the brunt of the inequities in the justice system — and their own anguished response to those inequities — the most important part of Mosby's statement was this: "Last but certainly not least, to the youth of the city. I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment. This is your moment. Let's ensure we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You're at the forefront of this cause and as young people, your time is now."
    The State's Attorney was not just speaking to the young people of Baltimore. She was speaking to an entire generation of millennials of all colors.
    As Baltimore's new state's attorney, Mosby is both uniquely qualified and uniquely positioned to speak to young people. Elected only four months ago, she is, at 35, the youngest top prosecutor for any major city in America. Her husband is Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby, who represents areas of West Baltimore where the recent unrest has been centered. The couple is raising two daughters.
    Mosby's 17-year-old cousin was shot to death on her front stoop in broad daylight. She said during her campaign that the incident taught her that the criminal justice system isn't just about police, judges and prosecutors. She said, "It's much more than that. I believe that we are the justice system. We, the members of the community, are the justice system because we are the victims of crimes."
    But Mosby also has ties to those who are part of the system, whose help is needed to reform the system. She has stressed that she came "from five generations of law enforcement" and that the charges against these six officers were "not an indictment of the entire force." She understands that change in the justice system and change within the community are intertwined.
    The young state's attorney has to calm passions both on the street and within the corridors of power.
    Ultimately, Mosby's goal is to see that justice is served in this case and beyond. Justice is just the first step in healing, and healing cannot take place in the blighted neighborhoods of Baltimore or the rest of America without a commitment to meaningful change.
    The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said people of all races need to work together to eradicate poverty and create equality of opportunity. That's exactly the sort of difficult, long-term solution that people hate to think about when they want easy answers. But only difficult solutions can solve difficult problems.
    After the race riots in 1967, President Johnson created the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, which became known as the Kerner Commission, to study the root causes of the unrest and recommend solutions.
    The Kerner Commission determined that the root cause of the violence was frustration in the minority community at the lack of economic opportunity -- a lack ultimately driven by racism. And the solutions it called for were massive efforts to create jobs, provide decent housing and reform policing.
    The only way to solve the problems that created the situation in which Freddie Gray died is to commit to the sort of hard but honest solutions we already recognized back in 1968. And the people who have to commit to do that today are the millennials that Marilyn Mosby spoke to during her announcement of the charges: "To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for 'No justice, no peace,'" she said. "Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man."
    We need peace now, and firm resolve going forward. The difficult issue of criminal justice reform, demilitarizing local police organizations and investing in our youth and strengthening these communities require the building of coalitions and partnerships with multiple stakeholders.
    In order to truly address these problems, we have to remain calm in the short term and remain committed in the long term.