OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Former President Barack Obama is visiting Oakland this week to mark the first national gathering of the Obama Foundation's My Brother's Keeper Alliance that supports boys and young men of color.
MBK Rising! will begin with a day of service Monday in partnership with Bay Area community-based organizations, followed by the convening of hundreds of youth and community leaders on Tuesday and Wednesday.
They have come to Oakland from across the country to be part of a new solution to the problems facing many young men and boys of color in the United States.
"President Obama asked who will accept the challenge. Not who will participate," says Dr. Anael Alston, who works for New York's Department of Education.
He says he is one of those accepting the challenge. He is leading a team from New York that is part of the Obama Foundation's My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a program designed to close the opportunity gaps faced young men of color.
"We know that children who believe they are going somewhere behave very differently than those who don't. So, we start to put those things together and start funding initiatives," says Dr. Alston.
The MBK Rising is a two-day series of workshops aimed at finding solutions to the many obstacles many young men and boys of color face.
It kicked off with a Day of Service that included cleaning up the campus at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary in Oakland.
Among those taking part is former Oakland A's all-star pitcher Dave Stewart. He says as a black man, it's important for young black men to believe they have opportunities to achieve greatness. MBK Rising helps achieve that he says.
"We are looking out for each other and making sure of the advancement of our youth and minorities. We are making sure we pave a way for them," says Stewart.
Stewart says by President Obama backing MBK Rising, it will unite people and make them want to get involved. And that can be the difference from other similar programs. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf agrees.
"What's different, is for the President of the United States to lift this conversation up at a national level, to pull in national resources," says Mayor Schaaf.
Oakland native and high school sophomore, Ivan Garcia, will emcee one of the MBK Rising events. He says too often young men of color are often exclude from the conversations around the challenges that they face. He says MBK Rising gives them a voice.
"I find it extremely necessary to have young leaders, especially young men and boys of color, to be in these conversations and to be able to create that change," explains Garcia.
One of those conversations will be at a Town Hall meeting with President Obama on Tuesday. Other speakers over the next two days include Warriors star Steph Curry and music giant John Legend.
David Harris and his crew from Urban Strategies Council help young men get back on track after getting out of juvenile hall. They are one of only three Bay Area organizations invited to take participate. They were also awarded a $100,000 grant by the My Brother's Keeper Alliance.
He says MBK Rising event puts a national spotlight on some of the more serious issues, which will help their cause.
"If they don't graduate, roughly, about 90 percent of (black men) have some exposure to the criminal justice system. We got to break that school to prison pipeline," says Harris.
Senior Miguel Argumeel, who attended workshops in San Francisco, says a program like MBK Rising finally gives people like him a forum for their voice to be heard.
"If school teaches me that your people were conquered, and your people were enslaved, then that's how I am going to perceive myself. Because that's how everyone else perceives me," says Argumeel.
He hopes MBK Rising teaches him how to write his own history.
The gathering will be held at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Drive. Mainstage sessions will be streamed live here.
Sessions will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and 9:30 to 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and San Francisco Mayor London Breed are co-chairing MBK Rising!'s host committee.