By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4) – More than a dozen young Black men who have been making big changes in their lives and the communities they live in are now being recognized for that work by the City of Denver and what’s called the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

CBS4 is Elevating Black Voices in our communities in honor of Black History Month.

Dontavion Tootle (credit: CBS)

Dontavion Tootle, 21, is among those who were honored. In September of 2018 he lost a good friend, Khobi Eiland, to gun violence.

“It took me a minute to understand it wasn’t my fault. I have been trying to take that and make a change,” he said.

A major step in reaching that goal was having the support from the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a nationwide initiative launched under President Barack Obama. The initiative challenges communities to take steps to help address opportunity gaps that young men of color are often faced with.

“My Brother’s Keeper is pretty much in what is saying, helping the people around us, our young Black men, minority men that need the help and support,” Tootle said.

Each year the city honors 25 participants, typically those who offer the support to youth. This year the young men making changes were recognized.

(credit: Denver)

Tootle was among them.

“I have plans. I want to start a nonprofit. I want it to be called ‘WAOH’ or ‘What About Our History.’ I want to go to after-school programs in middle schools, high schools and I want to teach kids history they are not taught in school,” he said.

His hope is by showing younger generations new opportunities they can begin to address societal struggles like youth gun violence, that over the last year in Denver has become more prominent.

“A lot of people are scared. There’s this image that is put on us we should do this because that’s the category we are put in,” he said.

Tootle’s ultimate goal is to shatter that image altogether.

“I want to be the biggest change in the world,” he said.

The City of Denver’s Office of Children’s Affairs is working to ensure Denver’s involvement in the My Brother’s Keeper initiative is a success by partnering with different nonprofits, community members and others to identify barriers and different strategies to address them.

LINK: My Brother’s Keeper

Karen Morfitt