Black Minds Matter Press Release Feb 2016

Black Minds Matter

Groundbreaking invitation for youth to testify at “Black Minds Matter” legislative briefing at the State Capitol on Wednesday, February 10, from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm

Sacramento, CA (February 5, 2016): The Alliance for Education Solutions, the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center (CCLC) at California State University, Chico and Opportunity Youth United are pleased to announce the ground breaking invitation for two young African-American men to testify at the “Black Minds Matter” informational briefing sponsored by the California Legislative Black Caucus and Education Trust–West on the state of California’s nearly one million black youth. This is a landmark opportunity for policymakers to hear directly from young people what challenges they faced, and what opportunities they found, in California public high schools.

The two young men, Davion Johnson and Samuel Akinwande, both now students at Chico State, met with state legislative staff at the end of December, during which time they gave compelling testimony about their experiences attending schools in high poverty communities, where racial strife, violence, gang activity and drugs were a predominant part of their school environment.

The young men’s stories and ideas were so compelling that both were invited by the California Black Caucus to testify at the briefing along with adult researchers, educators, activists and policymakers.

Davion did not believe a high school education was important; he came from a broken home and was involved in gangs as a San Juan High School student. Until he was a sophomore, he saw no future that didn’t involve gangs and drugs. Fortunately for him, a new principal at his high school “believed in me and encouraged me to make better decisions.” She conducted a formal assessment of the school’s climate and adopted changes in policies, including the formation of a restorative justice program that reduced suspension rates by 65% over a two-year period. Additional changes as a result of the school climate assessment created a school culture that focused on improving the emotional and social support of students. “I wouldn’t have gone to college if our school’s climate and culture hadn’t changed,” stated Davion. Now a freshman in college, Davion was recently hired by the San Juan school district (home to his high school) to oversee the restorative justice program for four high schools.

Samuel, an immigrant from Nigeria with a strong and supportive family, arrived in the United States at the age of 10. In his conversation with legislators he described how teachers at his high school repeatedly told students “they weren’t good enough.” He said the school offered few support services and in some cases students couldn’t enroll in classes because of the lack of chairs. As an Advanced Placement (AP) student, Samuel did not have access to needed instruction, and teachers and counselors didn’t take the time to understand him and provide the help he needed. Samuel said students lacked self-confidence and “there existed a culture of oppression” with school personnel providing no emotional support. “I believe if the students were shown respect, and were cared for, many of them would succeed instead of dropping out of school,” he stated.

The briefing on February 10th will examine the recently published Black Minds Matter: Supporting the Educational Success of Black Children in California by Education Trust-West, highlighting the report’s findings and identifying promising practices to consider in addressing disparities and inequities in access, opportunity, and achievement. Many of the recommendations focus on improving school climate and culture, an issue AES has been advocating for over the last several years.

Youth Voice

Both young men will share their stories and will recommend what changes are needed to improve schools for students of color. Their stories reflect recently released policy recommendations of the National Youth Council – founders of Opportunity Youth United – a national movement of young people which AES convenes in the Sacramento area. OYU’s policy recommendations can be found here

A final agenda will be send out on Tuesday.
DETAILS: Wednesday, February 10th, 9:30 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.