For the Love of Oakland

Oakland’s collective heart breaks again, this time for two young men who were shot and killed while working at a restaurant in our neighborhood on Monday night.

Too many folks outside our town will shake their heads and sigh, “Oakland.”  Too many of us inside will say “Oh no, not again.”  Neither response is complete or satisfying.  Neither eases the pain of two grieving families, relieves the trauma inflicted on witnesses, or turns the clock back for the one(s) who chose to pull the trigger.  In a few short moments, dozens of lives were irreversibly changed.

I am not going to make the claim that the Kapor Center is on the front lines of combating urban violence.  But, as a result of Monday’s events, a few of us attempted to articulate our contribution to solutions for the ills we all know too well.  We rejoiced in reliving the recent College Bound Brotherhood graduation, where over 150 young Black men were celebrated as rising college freshmen.  “These are the images we have to lift up in people’s minds,” one colleague said.  CBB_Grad2013-0744

We talked about our efforts to engage more low-income youth of color as technology creators and entrepreneurs.  We reiterated our commitment to creating pathways for youth of color to access education, opportunities and resources and build lives they can be proud of.  We talked about our own journeys, as the majority of our staff members are people of color from low-income backgrounds.  How did we get here? How did we manage to steer around the barriers and pitfalls in the way of our communities? Some of us pointed to our parents, others to key mentors. Every one of us was presented with at least one extraordinary opportunity to defy expectations when we were young. Our plan, at the Kapor Center, is to continue to cultivate extraordinary opportunities for–and with– young people of color. We aim to do this until the opportunities are no longer “extraordinary” and are simply “expectations.”