The Great Oakland Public Schools team took a risk last week – in the midst of a busy back-to-school season—our entire team took four days away from our office to spend together at NOI’s Organizing Bootcamp. Risks don’t always pay off, but this one most certainly did.
As we reflected on our week together yesterday as a team, it was clear that we left feeling inspired about what we learned and got the chance to practice together. We were reminded of our country’s long history of successful organizing and were pushed to think about what those stories can tell us about how to get things done in our own work today.
Throughout the week, we learned about and were reminded of the courage and thoughtfulness it takes to make changes. One of the specific organizing stories we came back to again and again was that of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We spent time reflecting on the risks African-American citizens took in not riding the buses. While the organizers took steps to take care of their people, the Bus Boycott wouldn’t have made history if they had not been thoughtful about identifying their lever for change; made a meaningful “ask” of the community; and supported their community’s sacrifices.
In our work today, we must be willing to have the same courage to ask to actively take on the status quo – which is not an easy or “safe” thing to do.
Because of our experience at NOI, our team is thinking differently about our approach. We must be more courageous in holding leaders accountable, unafraid to ask our network to stand up for themselves, and impatient for change. Our schools need transformation, and it cannot wait.
Written by Jessica Stewart, Managing Director for GO Public Schools | Photo: Andrew Nazdin