Monday, November 21, 2005

SFOP's Avenues of Hope Organizing for San Francisco Youth and Families - great post by Kim Knox

The San Francisco Organizing Project - SFOP's Sunday afternoon ['accountability session'] rally at Mission High School with 3000 community folks staring down politicians like me, Nancy Pelosi, Mark Leno, Aaron Peskin, Gavin Newsom and Norman Yee [Tom Ammiano, Sophie Maxwell and Ross Mirkarimi and Mark Sanchez and Sarah Lipson were also in the audience] was a breath of fresh air in SF schools and City politics.
SFOP's base and organizers deserve a lot of credit for building their voice and power by successfully bringing together one of the most diverse - multi-ethnic, multilingual, neighborhood and parish-based - political events of the year which linked issues of housing and economic justice with community safety and educational justice.
Their leaders talked about a broader vision of social justice - their AVENUES OF HOPE CAMPAIGN - that will help people unite to defeat the conservatism in Sacramento and the White House and advance SFOP's strategies of community organizing and policy change. It was very inspiring too to see so many young folks [older folks too] from June Jordan High School of Equity and Aim High Academy, 2 amazingly successful small schools in SF, and Principal Dr. Raymond Isola from Sanchez Elementary School in the Misison District as well.

Here's educational justice activist Kim Knox's article on the 11/20/05 SFOP rally from the Left in SF website: [one of the SFOP leaders she accidentally omits is Natalie Gee who challenged Assemblyman Mark Leno on universal health care and job training for working families and youth. Natalie is also active the Board of SFOP and a leader of the Chinese Progressive Association who will be going to the 4th World Social Forum in Hong Kong in a few weeks to join with other grassroots organizers in the US and throughout the world fighting against globalization]
The San Francisco Organizing Project, a coalition of churches and schools, had an organizing conference on “Avenues of Hope: Offering a Future to the Youth and Families of San Francisco.”
The program’s organizers estimated 3,000 people at the conference. The presenters were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Assemblymember Mark Leno, BOS President Aaron Peskin, BOE President Eric Mar and BOE Vice President Norman Yee.
Co-Chair Eleanor Williams of Providence Baptist Church explained that the proposal was created by 3,000 surveys received by SFOP from their members. They found that the biggest concerns that members had were education and jobs for youth. SFOP then did research to create nine proposals.
Co-Chair and Deacon Nate Bacon of St. Peter’s stated some of the information that they found-only 50% of African-American and Latinon students that enter in the 9th grade graduate from SFUSD in the 12th grade. Even though San Francisco has the lowest percentage (versus its population) of children of any urban area in California, it has the largest number of jailed youth. Bacon said, “We need to create avenues of hope where families can survive and thrive in the City of Saint Francisco.” Later Bacon also quoted a local minister who stated, “Nothing stops a bullet better than a job.”
At that point, several youth gave testimonies on the impact of education and lack of jobs on their lives. Marcus Garrett explained that he started hanging out with dealers and in the streets at 14-till he was sent to Sacramento at 16 by his mother. Another young speaker spoke about how when he got out of Juvenile Hall at 16, his parole officer wouldn’t give him approval to go back to a traditional high school. At 18, his parole officer refused to give him approval to enter the Job Corps program. But he announced that he has three sons and his wife has just been accepted to USF. He also reports that he is working with construction-and helping his friends get jobs in constructin.
Joe Trigueros and Brittany Donaldson then asked Mayor Gavin Newsom four questions-

1) Would the Mayor support programs that would allow all youth in the
juvenile justice system to have access to job training and education programs,
2) Would the Mayor agree to sponsor an employment summit with key
businesses to create summer jobs for youth in 2006,
3) Would the Mayor agree to implement CityBuild (a construction jobs
program that the Mayor is planning to implement in January 2006) and replicate
it for jobs in digital media, biotech and clean technology,
4) Would the Mayor agree to provide an annual public report card that
documents progress of local hiring?

The Mayor stated that he applaud SFOP of bringing this issues out to the community. He stated that he had already hired a new person to head Juvenile Justice, a point person for the new program for CityBuild along with Jesse Blout to work on these type of programs. He also promised to give SFOP a one year to five year program to show the progress of various programs. Newsom also stated that he had been to the Gates Foundation in San Francisco to get a honest assessment of why they reluctantly withdrew a $10 million grant from SFUSD. He didn’t give a list of what the Gates Foundation thought that SFUSD could do better.
Frank Arana asked Assemblymember Mark Leno two questions-

1) Would he promise to again sponsor legislation to provide universal
health care program to all youth up to age of 25 in California and
2) Would he promise to sponsor legislation on job training.

Leno agreed very quickly to both-and pointed out that even though the Governor vetoed Leno’s last legislation for universal health care for all children, the Governor recently sent a message that he was now (after the election) willing to support it. Leno also stated that he would continue to push for legislation that would allow San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors to pass a local vehicle tax that would bring $70 million into the coffers.
Marcus Garrett then asked President Peskin if he was willing to support legislation that would reduce youth violence and would he support the Small Schools Initiative? Peskin was the only one who repeated SFOP’s theme by stating “The Board of Superivsors is willing to follow your lead in creating Avenues of Hope.” He pointed out that Mirkarimi and Maxwell had passed legislation to create a Select Committee to Study Guns and Violence in San Francisco. He also pointed out Ammiano’s legislation to get more jobs for youth in San Francisco.
Ayanna Banks first directed her questions to BOE President Eric Mar-

1) Would he support community involvement in the Superintendent selection
process, including townhall meetings and school-based meetings,
2) Would he support taking “small schools by design” off the closure list,
including Aim High, June Jordan and Sanchez?,
3) Create a policy that supports the development of “small schools by
design” and gives them autonomy to be successful?

The crowd was at its loudest and on its feet when Eric simply said, “Yes, Yes, Yes!”
Eric said that he wanted a process where community input was truly heard and not just a tokenism. He agreed to work to get the three small schools off of the closure list. He also stated that he would work with other School Board members to do all that they could to support the Small School Initiative.
Ayanna Banks then directed the same questions to Vice President Norman Yee. Norman stated that he has always been supportive of community input in the superintendent selection. He noted that a citizen advisory board was being created in order to faciliate community invovlement in the selection.
As for the small schools, Norman stated that he is always supportive of “successful schools that are doing well with academics.” He noted that both of the high schools listed-Aim High and June Jordan-were doing well academically and he would be willing to support getting them off the closure list. He didn’t say anything about Sanchez.
At that point, Mayor Newsom was asked to return to the podium. Before Regnaldo Woods from Bethel AME Church asked Newsom if he felt the urgency that SFOP feels about getting programs on education and youth training implemented. Newsom said that he did-and he said,”When SFOP comes back in a year or two from now, we want to make sure that you all will know what progress will be making over the next five years.”
At that point, the program was concluded.
Full Posting from Left in SF

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