Without struggle there is no progress. That was the theme hammered home at out kickoff event for the State of Black Education in Oakland. It was a rousing night, inspired by the words of our elders and highlighted by Activist and publisher of the Oakland Post, Paul Cobb, who led us back to his decades of work with national civil rights icons, walking alongside Dr. King, being on the ground floor as the Panthers formed in Oakland and more.
Stories of elders locking themselves to the school board door, and standing in the gears of the machine, demanding change. Stories of the struggle and how community came together to force change. At that time 147 organizations, organized by rotary phone supported the needs of Black folks in Oakland, how many do now, even though organization should be easier.
The continuing reminder that what we get we get by organizing and fighting for it. And how essential that fight is. And what we lose when we don’t.
It was deep. You can see a video here
Another reminder of the giants whose shoulders we stand upon, that are here, and also the dust of those forgotten, the blood in the fields, and the city of ancestral bones that trace the Middle Passage.
A Crossroads for Black Families in Oakland
Things are not going well for Black children and families in Oakland and we sit at a critical juncture. Once a “chocolate city” Oakland has become increasingly White, and in fact Blacks are now the third largest ethnic group. And in many ways we have backslid, victims of the subprime crisis, rising rents and reduced opportunities. And unless we are organized and have a positive platform, things will not get better.
Schools will close in Oakland, and we can guess which schools those will be. And whose children will be dislocated. Typically that means either going to an equally challenged school further away or going to a school that culturally may not feel like it needs to adapt itself for the Black students coming through the door.
That they will need to learn to waltz or leave and the DJ ain’t taking no requests.
And how are the children doing?
15% of Black charter elementary students are on grade level and 14% of distinct kids are—let’s be clear, no sector is consistently serving our students and meeting their needs. So let’s get to the debate about quality, access, and change that we need—which is exactly the narrative I hear from parents and Black staff in Oakland.
Without struggle there is no progress-Please join us
Our State Black Education in Oakland series will continue over the next several months, listening to and sharing the stories of our elders, families, youth, educators, academics and the community. We will dig into the context of Black education in Oakland, how we got here, how the Black community is experiencing it, and ultimately what we can do to continue the struggle for progress. This will culminate in the “Black Paper” a set of findings and recommendations for change—that will have specific policy reforms for elected officials, as well as commitments that other stakeholders need to make to drive progress.
We have events coming up, that you can register for
4/24 The Past, Present, and Future of Activism for Black Families in Oakland; A Conversation with the NAACP- Details are coming but you can register here
5/10 Talk with Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law, elected, activists and community on government created segregation, the geography of opportunity in West Oakland, and our responsibility to do something- you can register here and see the event info
TBD- A celebration of Black Educators- Supporting and Increasing the Pipeline
TBD- Listening to student voices, understanding the challenges and changes needed
And we also want to capture community stories, and to actively engage the community in this process, we will be doing interviews, accepting blogs and self-made videos, helping to cover and support partner events, and ultimately share the community’s content. If you want to share your story please click here.
Power concedes nothing without demand
I will end with some Frederick Douglass, since we started with his spirit—everyone knows his quote around, there being no progress without struggle, well a few lines further down is a bit more on that idea that I hope we remember as we do this work,
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
Look forward to working folks in building out this work more.