The Youth Empowerment Services (YES) afterschool program fundraising event was presented this past Sunday at Humanist Hall in Oakland.
Speakers and community members at the event included Orville Ellis, a teacher in the Oakland Unified School District; Dr. Marvin X, professor and publisher at Black Bird Press; Yolanda Maker, owner of SOFA Financial Freedom Security Services; Sandra Pitts Johnson, Alameda County Probation Officer; Ebun Akanke Adesokan, founder and principal of Rise Innerprize; and Paradise Freejahlove, poet and performance artist.
Laney College President Dr. Elñora Webb was the event’s keynote speaker. Marvin X introduced her with a reading of his Parable of YES.
Dr. Webb spoke from the heart, talking about her survival as the child of a 13-year-old mother.
She said she never met her father and recalled going to six foster homes. As a child, she was told she would never amount to anything, that she was trash, and a thrown away child.
Nonetheless, she defied all detractors.
In high school, Webb was told to forget about preparing for college and just get a job at McDonald’s. Her counselor didn’t know she was already working at McDonald’s.
But she wanted to go to college because she had learned that one could attain student housing, which was her primary concern. Almost 18, she would soon be out of foster care, and as a result, homeless.
Webb persisted. She liked math and participated in drama, sports and other extracurricular activities. Through her determination, she was able to achieve her position as president of Laney College.
Imagine how many children could tell a similar story.