The annual My Brother’s & Sister’s Keeper (MBSK) Celebration of Champions got underway last month at the historic Coliseum. Pictured (left to right) former Mayor Rick Kriseman and Rev. Kenny Irby
BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — The annual My Brother’s & Sister’s Keeper (MBSK) Celebration of Champions got underway last month at the historic Coliseum, complete with bounce houses, food galore, entertainment, and heartwarming stories. Honors were given to the Champions, families, coaches, community partners, advisors, and youth development programs for their hard work and commitment.
St. Pete’s My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper (MBSK) initiative addresses persistent opportunity gaps faced by young men and women of color. It aims to connect young people to mentoring, support networks, and workforce development programs. Under the MBSK umbrella are programs such as Cohort of Champions, Not My Son, and Youth Development Grants.
Cohort of Champions is a training program that involves educational, entrepreneurial, workforce, and enrichment training opportunities for young men and women, ages 12 to 24, aiming to prepare African-American young men and women for the future and develop a trained, qualified workforce.
During the Cohort of Champions summer program, students had the opportunity to repair and customize a bicycle, participate in robotics and manufacturing activities, and earn incentives.
“You guys are the future of this city,” said then-Mayor Rick Kriseman in addressing the young people on hand. “We have great confidence in you guys. We know what you’re capable of, and we know that the city of St. Petersburg is going to be in good hands.”
Former Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin said the night’s event took her back to the moment the administration decided to go all-in on the My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper initiative.
“The mayor and I were walking through Jordan Park because there had just been a shooting,” she recalled. “We’d lost another young Black man to senseless violence and decided at that moment that we were going to invest whatever it took to make sure that young, Black men and women in this city understand that our city loves you, will invest in you and do whatever it takes to ensure your future is as bright as any child born in this city.”
Tomalin remembered that Kriseman agreed to invest $1 million in the My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper initiative right on the spot. He hired Rev. Kenny Irby as community intervention director with the St. Pete Police Department, who continues to “make a difference every day,” she said. Kriseman charged Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, then-director of Urban Affairs, with a huge vision: “to breathe life and love and light into our children in a way that ensures their future is as bright as possible.”
Irby pointed out that though St. Pete has distinguished itself in many ways, the My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper initiative is unique to the city, unlike any other program in the country.
“We in the city of St. Petersburg said that girls are equally at risk and should have the same opportunities as boys,” he said. “We created this unique collaboration in our city.”
Speaking about the Not My Son campaign, Irby said it has been “a celebration of safe activity and outreach programs” for six years. And with the federal government giving the city more funds for such programs, he said the city will be able to take its work “to another level.”