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|

Our Determination Will Set Us Free!

On July 5th, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old Black man, was wrestled to the ground and executed by Baton Rouge police officers for selling cds outside of a food mart. One day later, Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds captured the murder of her boyfriend Philando Castile, a 32-year-old Black man, by Minnesota police on her cell phone and broadcasted it for the world to see via Facebook. Keeping in line with similar patterns, the criminal justice system responded by placing the murderers and executioners on paid administrative leave. The following day, July 7th, another Black man was found dead hanging from a tree. This time it was in Atlanta, Georgia. It was ruled a suicide.

Philando Castile makes the 123rd Black person killed by police this year.  How many videos have we seen of Black women and men being brutally assaulted or killed by police?  Oscar Grant, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Tanesha Anderson, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice are just a few. Before Alton, there was Rodney King. Before Rodney King there was Bobby Hutton, Medgar Evers, Emmett Till, not to mention, thousands and thousands of our ancestors who were violently lynched in the Jim Crow South. This cycle of violence enacted against Black people has done nothing but evolve into new names and new forms. Racism is the disease of this country and thanks to social media contributing to the high circulation of public lynchings, we are viewing and consuming racism in its most brutal form.

Our political leaders are missing the point.

Our nation’s leaders are encouraging the public to disarm themselves and are adamantly pushing for more gun laws. Following the mass murder at a queer nightclub in Orlando, FL, Democrats, led […]

July 21st, 2016|

Exploring the Idea of Radical Love

The Black Organizing Project’s Summer Youth Space Internship Program has traditionally been a space to engage our young Black minds within an interactive Black-centered learning environment. Our space kicked off this July 21st right in the heat of summer!  This year, our organizers have the pleasure of working with a group of 19 youth interns who have been submerged in a unique learning experience that will last for six weeks.

Now,  halfway into the program, we reached out to Brandie Bowen, one of the program facilitators, to help highlight exactly what BOP interns have been learning and how the program has been going so far.

“When we created the curriculum we wanted to work on a transformative pedagogy and wanted the kids to leave with a greater consciousness of themselves, each other, and the community,” said Brandie.

With the curriculum set and strong foundation in mind, week one and two of the program focused on community building and bonding, while also recognizing the vision they held of their own communities and why. Together with Lead Organizer and co-facilitator, Jessica Black, Brandie engaged in a variety of interactive activities to help engrain the theme of community to get the juices flowing!

One particular activity, The Radical Love Identity Box Activity, encouraged youth to look into themselves and critically think about the perceptions they have of themselves as well as the perceptions others have of them.

“The main purpose was to explore radical love. First, we talked about what radical means and  decided that it means going to the root or true nature,” said Brandie. “ We then combined that idea with love– so the idea behind the identity box is to explore the truest nature of ourselves, loving it– in hopes […]

July 19th, 2016|

Baby BOP: Leadership at Any Age

It’s that time of year again!

Baby BOP is back and this year’s theme, “Leadership at Any Age,” is our renewed commitment to provide Oakland’s Black youth, ages 6-11, with community organizing and leadership skills. It is our hope that through the creation of educational, supportive, and creative spaces that our Black youth will realize their full potential and be a resource in their communities.

It is not a secret that there is an entire system set out to limit and restrict their light and potential. This is why it is imperative that we create spaces where our youth can feel empowered, affirmed, and held. It is our intention to create a safe and nurturing space for our youth where they can learn the basic skills they need to thrive and grow.

Starting July 9th, Baby BOP will be held on every 2nd Saturday of the month  and we will close out the program with a Graduation/Recognition Ceremony which will be held in December.

Our vision is to expose our youth to the social, cultural, and political conditions happening in Oakland, help them make broader connections, think critically, and finally, how to use this knowledge to help empower themselves and their communities.
“…we need a r/evolution of the mind. we need a r/evolution of the heart. we need a r/evolution of the spirit. the power of the people is stronger than any weapon. a people’s r/evolution can’t be stopped. we need to be weapons of mass construction. weapons of mass love. it’s not enough just to change the system. we need to change ourselves. we have got to make this world user friendly. user friendly.”

July 19th, 2016|

Developing Black Organizers and Moving the Ground

Since our founding in 2009, BOP has had a strong commitment to develop Black organizers.  Before initiating the project, we had conversations with organizations across the country and heard a consistent challenge in recruiting, hiring and retaining Black organizers.  We found that some of the  contributing factors to the lack, and overall absence of Black organizing included: lack of access to organizing training– especially for working class families who couldn’t take significant unpaid or low-paid time away from work, the absence of accessible specialized Black organizing training, gaps in Black-led Black organizations that could support organizers to work within their community and an overall lack of resources allocated  for Black-led organizations or Black organizing in general.  As we developed into a project and eventually into an organization, we decided that we needed to contribute to a larger Black movement and be a vehicle for developing Black leadership and Black organizing.

This is not easy work.

Still, even now, there is a critical need for more Black organizers who can organize and develop leadership within the Black community. Truth is, it takes more than just doing outreach, mobilizing people, encouraging community engagement or gathering input.  Developing organizers to do the hard yet authentic work of really listening to people, really seeing people and really connecting them to a collective group with a collective vision, takes an incredible amount of time and persistence. There is an immense amount of love and humility that is required for this kind of work. No matter how much an organizer has learned about writing a good rap, keeping good tracking systems and doing swift follow up–  although important—  the heart that you need for this work cannot be substituted.

The issues we are addressing […]

June 20th, 2016|