By the time they enter kindergarten, 1 out of 4 African-American boys in California expect to never be successful, according to last year’s findings by the state’s Assembly. In response, schools and various organizations in Oakland are focusing their energies to reverse the fortunes of young Black boys and men in the state.
PBS NewsHour aired a special report on Tuesday focusing on the efforts of American Graduate Project group, which is working to reverse the trend of high school dropouts. As host Gwen Ifill opened the segment, the clip quickly opened with Sizwe Abakah, who teaches the manhood development class at Oakland’s Skyline High School. Abakah is one of a dozen teachers working to help the boys graduate.
“We’re trying to make transformations,” shares Abakah. “A lot of our brothers are failing disproportionately. Like, if we look at the statistics in Oakland, we’re the highest in everything we don’t need to be in.”
This sobering fact was backed up by Junious Williams, CEO of the Urban Strategies Council. “You will see higher rates of dropout, lower rates of graduation, higher rates of chronic absence, higher rates of suspension,” said Williams. Williams’ group joined forces with the Oakland School District, which later spawned the Office of African-American Male Achievement.
“One of the strategies with our manhood-development classes and just getting eye level with the youth is, how do we put kind of the swag back in education, in learning,” said Chris Chatmon, the Office of African-American Male Achievement CEO.
Watch PBSNewsHour’s segment on “Transforming School Experience for African-American Boys” in the video.