Last Tuesday, the Urban Strategies Council released a series of alarming reports on Oakland Unified School District’s suspension rates for young African-American males. The study revealed that beginning as early as elementary school, nearly half of the districts black males were in danger of not earning a high school diploma due to high rates of suspension and chronic absenteeism.
While African American boys comprised 17 percent of the Oakland Unified School District student population in 2010-11, they made up 42 percent of students suspended–a rate more than six times that of white males. Furthermore, almost one in five African American males was chronically absent last school year, missing 10 percent or more of the school year which is double the district average.
Examinations like this expose the severity of social and educational inequality even in the Bay Area, which underscores our experience. In 2004, we noticed a disturbing trend when it came to black males and education programs. “Black male applicants were visibly absent from the selection pool for the educational programs run by our sister organization, the Level Playing Field Institute. At the same time, we were dismayed by the news of several shootings of young black men, among them a college-bound high school senior. We knew then that we had to do something,” says CEO, Cedric Brown.
From here, the College Bound Brotherhood was born. Eight years later, we are a network of 145 organizations and we are celebrating the 3rd College Bound Brotherhood graduation. We are also a part of a growing national philanthropic movement that is investing more resources and attention towards our black male youth. Our work, however, is only just beginning. The latest Oakland study proves that there is tremendous work ahead in the effort to level the educational playing field in the Bay Area and support our young black males throughout elementary, middle, and high school and on to college.
Photo: Terry McCombs/Flickr