Letter from the President

As we wind down 2017, I have been reflecting on both successes and wins, and how much our communities and our families have endured this year. From the onslaught of attacks against freedom and progress in the form of executive orders, Congressional agendas, and the rise and new-found legitimacy of self-proclaimed neo-Nazis, it is clear that our nation, our democracy, is in crisis.

Yet, in the midst of this crisis, we at Akonadi Foundation continue to find hope in the power of the people. Every day our grant partners show us that we cannot submit to fear and resignation and that we must organize and empower our communities to keep fighting for lasting systemic change.

We draw strength from the work of grant partners like Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network, or PLAN, which builds the power of parents to transform schools so that all students achieve success. This network of parents is organizing to keep Oakland Unified School District away from state receivership, prevent unnecessary school closures, and ensure that budget cuts are not hurting our most vulnerable youth.

We are inspired by organizations like AYPAL, which empowers Oakland’s low-income Asian and Pacific Islander immigrant and refugee families to lead on school reform and neighborhood change. Among other successes, AYPAL pushed OUSD to pass a disaggregated data resolution for AAPI youth, the first of its kind in the state.

We applaud the organizing wins of Urban Peace Movement, which builds the leadership of youth of color from Oakland and the East Bay to end community violence and mass incarceration. These young people are fighting to decrease the amount of money spent on mass incarceration and increase investments in opportunities that create real safety, end the treatment of juveniles as adults in the criminal injustice system, and lower the barriers to employment and housing for formerly incarcerated people.

History teaches us that all great movements are led by those with the most at stake, and that we will win only when we center the voices, experiences, and leadership of the people who are directly affected by injustice. Looking ahead to 2018, Akonadi Foundation is committed to redoubling our efforts to equip communities with the resources they need to organize, fight, and win. The need for racial justice not just nationally, but also locally, is urgent. Right here in Oakland, communities of color that are indigenous to our city are under siege from policies that harm, not help. Here are just a few examples:

  • In the past decade alone, Oakland has lost 25 percent of its Black community to gentrification and the high cost of living. Oakland is now the fourth most expensive rental market in the country.
  • The poverty rate among children in Oakland has increased 50 percent in the past eight years, and the rate for Black children is five times that for white children.
  • Oakland residents who live in high poverty neighborhoods are four times less likely than residents overall to have a high school degree.
  • Black youth in Oakland and Alameda County are referred by their schools to the police at more than 2.5 times their percentage of the population; 44 percent of Black male students who are suspended or arrested in Oakland’s schools are charged with the arbitrary and subjective offense of “willful defiance.”

At Akonadi we believe the answer to these challenges lies in grassroots organizing, movement building, and institutional policy change. There is hope in the resistance and insurgency being built by communities that have everything to live and fight for because the stakes are so high for our people and our families.  Through our Arc Toward Justice, Beloved Community, and So Love Can Win community response funds, we will continue to walk in lockstep with our grant partners to turn this moment of crisis in our country and our city into a time for revolutionary action.

Now more than ever, let’s support the leaders and movements that are not only beating back the forces of injustice but also creating powerful, transformational, and lasting change for all of us.

In Solidarity,

Lateefah Simon
Akonadi Foundation President