On Sunday, June 21, 2015, the Discovery Channel and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) premiered the documentary Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper from award-winning director Dawn Porter. A partnership between the Discovery Channel and The White House, the documentary follows the lives of boys and young men of color in four education-based programs designed to improve the life outcomes of boys and young men of color.Â The film featured never-before-seen interviews withÂ President Obama, Bishop TD Jakes, Reverend Gabriel Salguero, and youth, teachers and mentors in the program.
Last year, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. “I’m grateful to the president for announcing this initiative,” says Porter. “To carve out the amount of time for this speaks to its importance to our country and to him personally.” Porter, who also directed the award-winning documentary Gideon’s Army, couldn’t resist the opportunity to work on this film. “I was frustrated and tired of shaking my head and being outraged and saddened by the state of our community. This felt like a cathartic opportunity. I know what I see from the young men I know and I don’t hear enough from men like them. It was easy to find people to profile. So much is working.”
Still, Porter recognizes the importance of these conversations to address the negative narrative of boys and men of color in this country. The exposure of police violence, she feels, is rooted in stereotypes of black men and boys. “These images impact the dominant culture, and our own boys,” says, Porter. “We went around the country to show their approach [with this initiative]. Â We wanted to hear from not only mentors and teachers, but from the youth as well. We wanted to address the challenges the youth face, and how they overcome them. That’s what we tried to do in this film.”
Porter, who is a mother of two boys, hopes that viewers feel a sense of positivity while watching the film. “We could use some good news. It’s a time when we’re thinking about family and what that means.” She continues, “When we speak of supporting our youth, we’re also talking about family. I hope that in sharing how these mothers and fathers work with schools sand groups for their children, we see ourselves. It’s the core of My Brother’s Keeper. We have to work for society we live in. We’re living in our communities and we all have something to give and contribute.”