A Look at BOP’s Integrated Voter Engagement Program

By Jasmine Williams, Staff Writer
December 16, 2016
“IVE was amazing. The door-knocking just brought us together as a community and reminded us why we value face to face interactions with the community,” “The work we did with IVE was very unique. It was work by Black people for Black people. you could feel the energy, it was different–intentional. We noticed a lot of gratitude and appreciation from our community which affirmed the very important work that we set ourselves out to do.” -Mirishae McDonald
The Black Organizing Project has always been invested in outreach and listening to our community. Through door knocking, street outreach and listening sessions we have been able to hear the concerns of our community and strategize together around solutions. Through consistent outreach we are able  to create transformational  change  that is rooted in the power of community . Civic engagement  can be another  vehicle to  leverage that  power, especially around local and statewide propositions. This year, along with other groups across the state, we chose to launch our first Integrated Voter Engagement Program. We believe that creating practices that encourage civic engagement as well developing leaders in the community can support the long-term change that we are invested in as an organization.

The IVE program is part of a new initiative launched by California Calls that supported groups across the state like Youth Uprising, PANA, LA CAN, Safe Returns, among other groups that are working for social justice.  It is a strategy sought to get Oakland residents informed on local and state ballot measures and increase the number of African American voters.BOP’s  program launched officially October 20th of this year and entailed 13 days of street outreach, door-knocking, surveying and phone-banking to reach […]

December 6th, 2016|

Post-Election Thoughts: What’s Changed?

By: Shani Ealey, Staff Writer 
December 16, 2016

Knots and twists.

What are they? It’s that feeling you get when something is fundamentally in direct opposition with your spirit, heart, and mind. That uncomfortable turning in your stomach signaling that something is incredibly off. Not right. Your body’s internal alarm letting you know that something is up.

Knots and twists.

It is the feeling that gripped many of us as we watched the electoral college elect a misogynistic, xenophobic, white-supremacist as the nation’s leader, confirming that little has changed regarding attitudes about Black lives. The mask has been completely lifted, revealing the ugly truth that many of us had come to terms with years ago when George Zimmerman was acquitted from killing a young Trayvon Martin for eating skittles and tea– or when we saw Oscar Grant get murdered in cold blood. The ruling hand of white supremacy is alive and well. But let’s not get it twisted, our hope has never lied in the white house.

On November 8, 2016 Donald Trump was named president-elect of the United States of America. This is the same man with zero political experience, who has publicly ridiculed and mocked disabled people, has sexually assaulted women, called Latino people rapists, and has called Black people inherently lazy and thugs. Trump’s racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic beliefs are now being turned into policy as is outlined in Trump’s plan for his first 100 days in office.1 What’s top priority for Trump? Well, apparently to restore security and the constitutional rule of law. Sounds familiar right? If you are familiar with the “law and order” rhetoric of former U.S presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bush, then you know how this goes down. Of the many attacks on our […]

December 6th, 2016|

The Militarization of Police: An Extension of the COINTELPRO

A few weeks ago the news showed a quick glimpse of a scene and there were 4 or 5 police officers hanging on to a tank.  This was not somewhere across the world.  It could have been South LA or Sacramento or San Leandro or Ferguson Missouri, but it wasn’t. This was in East Oakland.

We barely noticed.

This September, the San Leandro Police Department, a city just outside Oakland,  accepted a BearCat which is an armoured military vehicle. In an effort to explain the need for such drastic “security” equipment,  San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor called the military vehicles “a critical resource” for “times of emergency.”

As we learn more and more about advanced surveillance technology and the regular presence of drones and military vehicles in police departments; We are forced to ask the question–  What would inspire the federal government to give free access to military equipment to local police forces?

Last month, the Black Panther Party celebrated its 50th anniversary. Considered the Vanguard of the Movement, the Panther’s revolutionary spirit was rooted in self-determination and Black empowerment.  It was because of this courageous and unshakeable faith that the Panthers were targeted, harassed, surveilled, thrown in jail, and murdered. Led by former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the COINTELPRO program was created to “investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the United States.” 1 In other words, the government under COINTELPRO, used tactics to monitor, dismantle and ultimately destroy the Panthers that caused chaos and violence across the country. For what exactly? To prevent Black unity, to prevent coalitions, to stop the rise of a “messiah” who could unite and inspire the Black movement. 2

When leaders of the Party tried to point out the infiltration […]

November 3rd, 2016|

Black Panthers’ Oakland Community School: A Model for Liberation

by Shani Ealey, Staff Writer
November 3, 2016

Community. It is all about community.

This was the common theme repeated at the Oakland Community School panel discussion with Ericka Huggins at the Black Panther Party’s 50th Anniversary Conference.  This October the Black Panther Party for Self Defense celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. The four day anniversary conference was one of the many events that was held throughout the Bay in honor of the  Party’s work and legacy. Founded in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale–two students at Merritt College at the time– the Black Panther Party was created to empower the Black community and to challenge the injustices going on globally. Known as the ‘Vanguard of the Movement’, the Black Panther Party put into practice a vision that has forever changed Oakland’s Black community and continues to inspire and politicize Black people throughout the nation.

From monitoring the excessive violence of police, to providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner to Black youth in need of food, the Black Panther Party was truly about the empowerment and upliftment of Black people. Furthermore, the importance of self-determination was present throughout everything the Black Panther Party touched. Yes, the Black Panther Party was about calling out white supremacy and the way in which it continues to exploit and oppress Black women and men for capital gain; But let’s be clear, the Party was rooted in community.  That commitment to community can be seen in the 60 plus survival programs that emerged from the Black Panther Party–one of those being the Oakland Community School.

The longest standing program of all the survival programs, the Oakland Community School (OCS) was established in 1973 in East Oakland, with the underlying principle being, “We serve the people […]

November 3rd, 2016|

Where Do We Go From Here? BOP Sits Down with Former Black Panther

Steve McCutchen Interview .mov
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was a revolutionary organization founded in 1966 in Oakland, California. The Party not only united Black communities across the country but served as springboard for the movement towards Black liberation. It is because of the revolutionary spirit left behind by the Panthers and other inspirational freedom-fighters- The Black Organizing Project exists.

In honor of The Party’s 50th year anniversary,  Black Organizing Project sat down with former Black Panther, Steve McCutchen to gain insight on his experiences and to learn his  perspective on the social conditions that continue to plague Black lives 50 years later.

Steve, born in Baltimore, Maryland, moved across the country to Oakland at age 23 to join the fight of securing social , economic, , and racial justice for Black people . His courageous spirit is an inspiration to our mission and our work and we are honored to share his story with you all.

In Unity.

November 3rd, 2016|

BOP Youth Speak out on Police in Schools

POLICE HAVE NO PLACE IN SCHOOLS!

Why is it that our nation feels it is ok to prioritize police over counselors and teachers? Police are not mentors , educators, or counselors. Policing and the over criminalization of Black youth has been proven to create hostile and unwelcoming environments that lead to Black youth being funneled into the criminal justice system. We do not need police with military mindsets in our schools. Check out what some of our youth had to say about their experiences with police in schools.

October 28th, 2016|

Message to the DOJ: Cops Are Not Educators or Mentors!

by Shani Ealey, Staff Writer
October 18, 2016

Earlier this month, The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education (DOE) released guidance and recommendations 1 calling for expanding– rather than eliminating– police in schools.  In addition, they called for increased funding for the DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. The DOJ has chosen to take a position that does not value the lives of Black youth and families. Although fully aware of the harms that Black children face as a result of “zero tolerance” policies,2 the DOJ’s guidances urges communities impacted by police violence to deepen and strengthen their relationships with school resource officers (SROs). Director of the COPS program, Ronald L. Davis said that he “strongly believes that properly implemented school resource officers (SROs) can positively impact the lives of our nation’s students.” Davis then goes on to say that police officers fill critical roles in schools such as “educators and mentors.”

Blurring the lines of police with mentors and educators is dangerous and problematic for several reasons including: 1)  it creates confusion for students on the role of police and the lines of counsel versus questioning students becomes unclear 2) educators are trained professionals and our often paid half the salary of school police. 3) the impact of police guised as mentors to  youth has ranged from trauma and incarceration to sexual exploitation.3  It is an illogical, dangerous and expensive notion that police could step into the roles of teachers, counselors and mentors.

The DOJ’s COPS recommendations are not the answer to police in schools but in fact a proponent in the maintenance of the school-to-prison pipeline. According to Davis, “the COPS office has provided funding for the nationwide hiring of more than 7,000 SROs since […]

October 18th, 2016|

Returning Back to Ourselves: What Black August Teaches Us

by Shani Ealey, Staff Writer
August 25, 2016

It is an interesting time to be Black in America. With ever-evolving technology and the prevalence and hyper-usage of social media, we are living in a time where we see, learn and experience a lot at once. Through technology we are experiencing first-hand, the violent assault of Black lives at the hands of police officers from the very comfort of our homes and computer screens. Collectively, we mourn the loss of our children, mothers, fathers, friends, and loved ones from our timelines and newsfeeds, sometimes, more than once a day. We are witnessing the complete apathy and indifference to the lives of Black people from politicians and leaders who were given titles and wages to serve the public. With each brutal atrocity and act of indifference we uncover deeper and wider cracks in the “just” and “pristine” image of America.

Typically, our first line of action is to respond to tragedy. More often than not, we do this by demanding justice and accountability from those who have the power to reform this crooked system. But what happens when all of our energy is spent fighting a broken institution who’s committed to our perpetual exploitation and oppression? We become distracted–distracted from our communities, families and most importantly ourselves. We can’t fight anything if we are not right within ourselves, our communities and the people who hold us down. We can’t make a shift in this pattern of violence if we don’t make an intentional effort to reconnect with our ancestors and those freedom fighters who have walked this road before us. As a part of Black resilience, Black people have always created traditions and practices that work to uplift a history […]

August 23rd, 2016|

Uplifting Young Black Leaders: BOP’s Summer Youth Space Wrap Up

As the end of August nears and the new school year approaches, we have bid our goodbyes to our youth interns from our Summer Youth Space. Although we like to view our goodbye’s as “see you laters”, the moment still has been bittersweet. Within a short period time we have not only built bonds, but have created a learning space where our Black youth are uplifted, valued, and empowered. The growth that transpired within the 6 weeks is immeasurable beyond words. However, we asked the Youth Space Lead Facilitator Jessica Black to reflect on some of the most memorable moments of the space this summer. Check out what she had to say below!

What are some of the highlights from this year’s Summer Youth Space?

It’s hard to wrap my head around all of the highlights this summer. There was a lot of growth in this space. Some things that come to the top of my head are that 12 youth became new BOP members, 9 of those 12 are on committees, and that all youth who started the program, completed the program (no drop outs!).

What are some of the initial struggles you all faced when starting the space this summer?

In the beginning, learning to be in community with one another, learning to accept, trust, and love one another was a struggle. Yes we are all Black and are unified through that general struggle, however our youth come from various backgrounds and all have their own stories. By the end of the program though, it seemed like everyone was best friends!

What would you do differently next year that you didn’t do this year?

I think this year set a pretty high standard for our youth space’s to […]

August 23rd, 2016|

Changing School Culture: 5 Schools Practicing Restorative Justice

by Shani Ealey, Staff Writer
August 25, 2016

The end of August is quickly approaching which means many of our students will be getting ready for the new school year. School is the place for new possibilities and higher learning. It is a place where youth are encouraged and supported throughout their academic journey. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case for every student. If you are Black or Brown and attend a school where there are police officers or school resource officers in schools, your academic experience may be wrought with violent and uncomfortable encounters with police.

This is something that no child should have to endure.

Over the last few years we have been working to address the criminalization of Black youth in schools. Through our Bettering Our School System campaign (BOSS), we have fought hard for the disinvestment of police in schools. Police officers are not the solution to school conflicts. There are other ways — restorative justice is one of them. Alternatives may seem hard to imagine when for so long police have been the resort that educators fall on when dealing with school conflict. But it is important that we stress that there are other ways to address the issue of school discipline. We can create healthy, encouraging, and supportive environments for our youth that do not involve police.

Check out these 5 schools that are utilizing alternative practices for dealing with school conflict, disciplinary actions, and well being.

1. Robert W. Coleman Elementary – West Baltimore

What happens when a school makes an intentional effort to center the emotional, mental, and academic well-being of their students? What happens when a school takes a step away from traditional punitive measures for student discipline and decides to center mindfulness? The […]

August 23rd, 2016|