Keeping the Oakland Promise

You have to love the Oakland Promise Initiative, an ambitious visionary look at the supports that families and students need to be successful; coordinated early care, school based college and career pathway development and money to pay for college.  Kudos to the mayor, superintendent, district, and the constellation of funders and nonprofits for making this happen.  This is visionary stuff, and my hands are clapping.

But like the recent blog from Urban Strategies Council “What Else Must Oakland Promise” where Junious Williams questioned whether the vision can be realized in isolation,

for Oakland’s Education Promise to reach its full potential, this community needs to make two other promises and to pursue them with similar commitments of resources and cooperative leadership: the economic security promise and the safety promise. The success of the education promise depends on the economic security and safety of children, their families and their neighborhoods.

If we don’t make Oakland a less violent community and develop a city that economically works for Oakland residents, I wonder whether my hands will still be clapping 5 or 10 years from now.

I also wonder whether the students that need the most help will benefit.  These are great programs, but many times kids and families need to opt in, and for our most challenged, that just often doesn’t happen for a whole host of reasons.

So as big and collaborative as the Promise is, we need more.  We need to situate the schools in broader safety and economic plans, measure our progress, and from an equity standpoint we need to judge our success by the progress of our most challenged kids, who often are literally lost in the statistics as they are lost in and out of the system.

We darker folks are used to broken promises much more than kept ones.  And interest in our children seems to wane with the political and economic winds.  Let us make this different.

As the Arabian Proverb says, “a promise is a cloud; fulfillment is rain.”   We’ve had years of drought in Oakland, and need a deluge of fulfillment.  Make it rain Oakland.

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