Community organizers, parents and educators convened last week at Oakland’s Kingston 11 Jamaican Restaurant to take part in a kickoff for the State of Black Education Oakland (SBEO). Participants included the Oakland Unified School District, Great School Voices, Energy Convertors, Patterson Consulting, the NAACP, and the Black Teacher Project.
While enjoying authentic Jamaican cuisine, guests engaged in purposeful dialogue on Oakland’s education system and solutions for the most important problems.
“We really want to analyze the past, present and future of Black education in Oakland, generate ideas and track it for the next 3-4 months,” said Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Oakland School Board vice president – (D-3).
Co-organizer, Charles Cole of Energy Convertors finds it essential to have elders and younger generations in the same space. ”
The wisdom of the elders and the energy of the youth and today’s activists will provide a broader research community as we promote change in our schools,” he said.
Guest speaker, Oakland Post – Post News Group Publisher, Paul Cobb shared how growing up in West Oakland with his childhood friends positioned him to take part in both heroic and historic movements, nationally and locally.
“Being an activist, born in West Oakland on 7th street, I went to elementary school and grew up around the corner from Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and other Panthers,” said Cobb. “We became politically active, got jobs with the City of Oakland’s summer youth program and we began to monitor government. “
Prior to owning the Oakland Post, Cobb was a reporter in 1968, under the previous owner, Thomas Berkeley.
“My first assignment was the Selma March. I got a chance to walk beside Dr. King as a reporter, an usher and activist. I have 14 hours of taped exclusive interviews and involvement.”
As a reporter, government monitor and now activist, Cobb and other activists sought to seize the vote for change.
“We then began to do voter registration through the original Black Panther Party (BPP) in Alabama and when Stokley Carmichael and others came out to the Bay Area for a fundraiser, the BPP movement took on the name of the BPP voter registration party in Alabama.”
Before 1968 was over, Cobb became the chair of the Oakland Black Caucus, comprised of 147 organizations.
“We started putting pressure on government, city hall, the school board, EBMUD, Peralta College and everywhere. If we had the cell phone technology you have today, things would have moved even faster.”
Cobb reminded guests that people can register to vote via an app on the cell phone. “There is no excuse for not registering to vote or not voting.”
Being unapologetic, monitoring government and communicating regularly are all keys to change the societal trajectory.
“Like Jesse Jackson says,“’we have to be unafraid to call the wicked man wicked to the wicked man’s face.’”
While discussing the Oakland Pride Trial of 1968, Cobb shared the costs of his activism.
“We got arrested after we went to the Oakland Board of Education, closed the doors and refused to adjourn the meeting until a Black superintendent was voted in. After an 11 week trial, one of the longest trials in Oakland, Paul was acquitted “thanks to the testimony of a guy in Piedmont, who witnessed the events.”
Cobb’s acknowledged the amazing partnership in life he shared with his beautiful wife in the audience.
“My wife, Gaye Cobb was elected to the Alameda County Board of education 4 times, marched with King and helps with jobs through the Oakland Private Industry Council (OPIC), Oakland. We have been fighters for Oakland through the years and together we were a big part of renaming the freeway after the Loma Prieta Earthquake.”
Creating change requires being heard and Cobb encouraged audience members to use all the avenues they have access to. “We want each of you to go to the school board meetings and FaceBook, Tweet and SnapChat. The Post news Group is with you and we can collaborate.”