By Iris Garcia, Learning and Impact Program Officer, Akonadi Foundation
Since its founding, Akonadi Foundation has focused on supporting power building and organizing to advance racial justice in Oakland and around the state.
In 2000, a year after Akonadi Foundation was launched, California voters approved Proposition 21, which targeted young people of color. Under Prop. 21, many 14-year-olds could be tried as adults rather than in juvenile court, and 16-year olds could be incarcerated in adult prisons. At Akonadi Foundation, we were inspired by the activism and efforts of youth advocates and youth-led groups against this racist ballot measure.
Since then, through our grantmaking, we have supported groups and advocates organizing to end mass incarceration and reduce harm to our young people and families. Akonadi grantees have fought hard for decriminalization of people and youth of color, and have won significant concessions in Oakland and around the state. Examples of victories by grantees include:
- In 2011, grantees Black Organizing Project (BOP) launched the Bettering Our School System (BOSS) campaign to address the impact of law enforcement and harsh school discipline on OUSD students. By June 2012, BOP had developed and won a district-wide school police complaint process and reports policy for students and parents, one of the first of its kind in the country.
- In May 2014, BOP and allies convinced the OUSD School Board to adopt a new policy that limits the role of the Oakland school police and precludes school administrators and staff from relying on police to handle discipline issues. In May 2015, organizers won a major victory when the OUSD Board voted to eliminate willful defiance as a reason to suspend any student.
- After organizing for nearly five years, Akonadi grantees Stop the Injunctions Coalition and Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ), forced the city to drop gang injunctions, which criminalized young people of color. This was the first community organizing effort to defeat gang injunctions in the nation.
- Akonadi grantees CURYJ and Urban Peace Movement were among the advocates who helped pass Proposition 47 in 2014, a statewide ballot measure that reduced incarceration by reclassifying six types of nonviolent, non-serious felonies to misdemeanors and redirecting the funds saved to prevention and intervention.
- In 2016, Akonadi grantees were among a coalition of grassroots organizers helped lead the successful effort to pass Proposition 57, a ballot initiative that abolished the “direct file” practice that allowed prosecutors to file charges against youth as young as 14 directly in adult criminal court.
Moving forward, Akonadi Foundation believes there is a critical window of opportunity for Oakland and Alameda County to transform the approach to youth justice in schools and in communities. California’s new governor has signaled his intention to reform the state’s juvenile justice system. Groundbreaking advocacy is also leading to historic shifts toward youth development in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other parts of California.
That is why, over the next five years, we will invest in and mobilize resources for people of color-led advocacy and power building to end the criminalization of young people of color in schools and in communities in Oakland and Alameda County. We look forward to working with grant partners, as well as our colleagues in philanthropy to reshape our region into a place where all young people can live free.