Why am I educated?

Why am I educated if I still have to live from check to check? My car overheated and now I have to borrow $440 to get it fixed. I’m already behind on my student loan payments and child support so I guess owing one more person won’t really make a difference.


Why am I educated if my cousin still suffers from mental illness? Of all the fanciful philosophies and culturally relevant literature that I studied while at University I can share none of it with him. He is released from the county jail and comes straight to my doorstep in his county issued slippers. He asks to come in and I allow him to as long as he understands that he cannot spend the night. I give him clothes and food and he takes a shower. He wants to tell me his sad story but I don’t want to hear it again. After all the letters I’ve written and the money I’ve lent him I’m burnt out. I usher him out of the door at about 10:30pm. He bangs on my door again at 6:00am and said he left something at my house, on the table. I check for it but by the time I go back to the door to tell him it isn’t there he’s gone. How is my education going to lessen the grief that nearly overcomes me when I have to tell him that he is no longer welcome in my house and that he must never come back?


Why am I educated if I’m still going to live in the hood? I don’t stay on the block for street credibility or because I think it’s fly or because it’s convenient but it’s because I’m trapped. Just like the guys who hang out on the corner or the woman next door with all the children. I can’t leave. I can’t get out. I’ll probably die here overeducated and in extreme debt.


Why am I educated if Sean Scott, Ronnie Kid, Lamar Brown, Kevin Reese, and Eric Allen were still going to be blown away? How is my education going to stop a man from shooting 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine to death while she was at a sleepover? Is my education really helping anyone or is it creating a distance between my community and myself?


Why am I educated if I still can’t find full-time work? Why did I listen to the propaganda about education opening up all doors and guaranteeing success? Why am I educated and still poor? How does this happen? Is it me? I don’t get it.


Why am I educated if I’m still going to be confused?



Giving juvenile offenders a second chance at Oakland’s Youth UpRising

Photo credit: http://youthuprising.org

Note: Here is a piece that I recently wrote for a local online publication.


The Youth Uprising Social Enterprises complex at 8711 MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland serves as an oasis of positivity in an otherwise destitute and severely underserved community.

On the ground leading up to the front door of the 25,000 square foot facility are the words “KNOWLEDGE OF” in multicolored letters, which intersect with the word “Self,” spelled out in solid black print.

On any given day there is a multitude of youth from the ages of 13-24 who are strongly encouraged to be themselves in the facility. Youth Uprising is home to a recording studio, dance studio, computer lab, skate park, basketball court, restaurant, media center and is still growing. The atmosphere at YU is the furthest thing from stressful for the young people who attend and it is even further from the sometimes-hopeless attitude that seems to permeate the air right outside its doors.

This is why since October of last year, Youth Uprising has been successfully running an Evening Reporting Center for juvenile offenders. The Evening Reporting Center, as Youth Uprising President and CEO Olis Simmons explains, is based on a national model, but it is the first of its kind in Alameda County.

“It’s based on the notion that juveniles who are low to medium risk are better served in the community than they are [in jail],” Simmons says. “The chance of changing their trajectory in life is increased when we provide a community base, a hub and a builder of positive social capitol for them.”

The center also can be seen as a mandatory after-school program for youngsters who have been found in violation of the law. In order for them to maintain their freedom they must report straight to Youth Uprising after school where they must stay until 8 p.m.

This relatively new installment of YU has four major components that have contributed to its success in keeping black and brown kids out of juvenile hall:

  • Culturally relevant meaningful activities such as art, sports, music, etc.
  • The consistent presence of caring adults so they know that some people will always be there for them.
  • They all have dinner together.
  • And all the youth who are part of the center get a ride home.

This formula has already changed the lives of several kids in the program. At least one who started out going to the court mandated Evening Reporting Center, finished out his term, found out that YU Lead (a youth leadership program also at Youth Uprising) was looking for young people to serve on their youth advisory board, interviewed and landed a spot on the team. He is now “like a rock star in YU lead. [He] speaks up and takes initiative and is like exactly what we would want from our children,” Simmons says beaming with pride.

The Evening Reporting Center, specifically, and Youth Uprising, in general, serve to fulfill the void that was left by the crack epidemic, the AIDS epidemic and the mass departure of blue collar jobs from Oakland. Although these issues may take several generations to fix when you walk into Youth Uprising you get a sense that the young people of today are definitely headed in the right direction.