My Brother My Sister will receive $25,000 prize

It’s human nature to mark each year as it passes. We celebrate anniversaries, publish annual reports and (hopefully) get annual check-ups. Another important thing we do annually is honor outstanding work by a nonprofit organization with the $25,000 Anisfield-Wolf Memorial Award.

After a robust review of all the nominations, this year’s committee selected My Brother My Sister to receive the prize for its innovative and creative programs that help young people of color stay in school, graduate and go on to college.

My Brother My Sister was created by Malcolm Burton in 2008 when he was only 16-years-old. When he noticed that many of his peers—especially African-American males—spent more time in detention than in class, he wanted to create a way to engage them in positive ways at school. He started by organizing group sessions where teens could use hip-hop music, movies and other media to openly discuss challenges and issues they faced. The sessions became a support system, to helping each other with homework, to cope with the environment they shared and more. They involved teachers and others and it worked so well that Burton continued the groups even after graduating.

My Brother My Sister was created by Malcolm Burton in 2008 when he was only 16-years-old

While furthering his education, he stayed active with the high school students, encouraged them to stay in school and welcomed new participants. With a master’s degree in social work in hand, he began to work at a neighborhood organization that helps families. But one day every week, his coworkers saw him stay after hours with a bunch of teens. He was still working with youth—on his own time, with his own resources. By request of the organization, he expanded the group and began engaging middle-schoolers who were at risk of not even entering high school.

Burton recently gave notice at the neighborhood center to devote his full attention to growing My Brother My Sister, which will be run as an independent organization housed at East End Neighborhood Center. To help cover some of the costs, he runs an online clothing line—4everbright.

As each year passes, My Brother My Sister grows and experiences new successes. The program successfully provides opportunities for young people to express themselves in a healthy manner while learning to help each other. All participants graduate high school and some even go on to graduate college. They also often return as volunteers to helping others.

The Anisfield-Wolf Memorial Award is one of two awards established by the late Edith Anisfield Wolf and is presented annually by Community Solutions and the Cleveland Foundation. Wolf was especially concerned about giving attention to the unheard voices of people at the margins of society and about building a more just community. By giving young people of color—those whose voices are often unnoticed—opportunities to experience healthy, fun learning that motivates them to build more successful lives, My Brother My Sister demonstrates its worthiness to receive this year’s award.

The award will be presented to My Brother My Sister during Community Solutions’ 2019 Celebration of Human Services luncheon at noon on Friday, October 25, at the Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center—Downtown. You can reserve your seat online today. And plan to come early! The first 100 guests will be welcome to attend a special 11 a.m. panel discussion with three Ohio legislators about the state’s efforts to address maternal health issues.

PS: Mrs. Wolf also established the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards in 1935 to honor literature that furthered the cause of race relations, deepened the understanding of racism and enhanced appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures. The 2019 Book Awards were presented last Thursday, September 26, as part of Cleveland Book Week.