In November 2012, Building Blocks for Kids Collaborative held our first Empowered Parents, Informed Educators Summit, a gathering and conversation among parents and educators. After a day of training and dialogue, participants identified the four most pressing issues in schools as:
- The need for two way communication between parents and educators
- Closing the “achievement and opportunity gap”
- Safety, i.e. a need to eliminate violence at schools and in the community
- Ethnic studies, i.e. the need for more culturally relevant education.
Understanding that the current failing conditions of Iron Triangle schools did not happen overnight, we recognized that the work we do to transform these conditions must be consistent and unwavering. Partnering with the Contra Costa County Office of Education to bring Iron Triangle parents to participate in the annual Young Children’s Issues Forum on March 23rd seemed like a good way to continue the work we started just last year.
Preparing for the Event
The evening of Thursday March 21, 2013 the new Building Blocks for Kids office hosted its first full house as Iron Triangle parents came together to discuss and identify their concerns with the current state of failing Iron Triangle schools. Issues such as safety, insufficient after school programs, the lack of childcare and pre-school programs, poor food, apathetic teachers, and poor communication with parents were just some of the items discussed. Parents were appalled to learn that on average the state of California spends $150,000 or more per year, per youth incarcerated, yet only about $8,000 per year, per child on public school education in West Contra Costa County. After a large group discussion parents broke into groups and filled out a worksheet explaining their concerns to educators and policy makers. By the end of the evening they were ready to take those concerns to the Annual Young Children’s Issues Forum in Concord on March 23rd.
Concord, California, is a suburban city 23 miles east of Richmond and in many ways very different from Richmond. Despite the distance and difficult public transportation options from western Contra Costa County, Concord was selected–for the second year in a row–as the location for Contra Costa County’s Annual Young Children’s Issues Forum. This forum is a yearly meeting of parents, educators, state and local lawmakers and business leaders, addressing the concerns and needs of children ages 0 to 12 years of age. But ironically no childcare was provided at the event. Nonetheless Iron Triangle parents were determined to make their voices heard. Not to be stopped by the inconvenient location and lack of public transportation, the Collaborative charted a bus to transport parents to Concord. At 7:30 in the morning Iron Triangle parents and residents, some with children in tow, boarded the bus motivated by love and commitment to their children’s future. In Concord they met with other Iron Triangle parents at the event and sat together in solidarity of purpose and presence. Over 30 Iron Triangle parents, children, and residents attended the event. Emboldened by the preparation meeting just a few nights before, parents did not hesitate to pose tough questions to the panelists, though many questions went unanswered and remain so after the event.
Some of those questions include:
- Why not have such an event in Richmond, the Contra Costa County community with the most need?
- Why not provide childcare so that parents can be fully present to engage with the panelists?
- How can we structure these types of convenings in a way to maximize participation and dialogue?
- Moreover, what explains the state’s tremendous spending on incarcerating our youth compared to the small amount spent on their education?
- And what can we do about further cuts to programs like Head Start given the already severe lack of quality pre-school for Iron Triangle families?
Parents came away determined to get answers to these questions. On May 1, Iron Triangle parents will once again convene at the BBK Collaborative office to craft recommendations for next year’s forum. They’ll also develop a plan for engaging with educators and policy makers to hold themselves, and the school district, accountable for living up to the responsibility of ensuring all children graduate from high school prepared for college and the career of their choice. These “Parents in Power/Padres en Poder” as they have come to be known, are just beginning to see how they are the key to their children’s future and thus the future of the entire community. They are beginning to explore how to overcome existing barriers to transforming the current realities in the education system by using their collective voice and power. Building Blocks for Kids Collaborative will continue to support parents with the tools needed to continue this important work for the future of Iron Triangle youth and families
On Saturday October 20, 2012 members of the Community Engagement and Advocacy Team (CEAT) of the Building Blocks for Kids Collaborative, in partnership with members of the RYSE Youth Organizing Hub (YOHub) held a community teach-in entitled “What’s Up With the Soda Tax in Richmond?” The event was attended by approximately 30 youth and adult residents.
The immediate goals of the event were that Richmond residents: 1) would learn about policy and how it is developed; 2) learn about the specifics of the soda tax ballot measures N and O; 3) receive balanced information such that they had the capacity to make an informed decision on election day, and have a heightened awareness about the election and the importance of voting on November 6 in order to have a voice in the policies that affect their environment.
The day started off with an overview of local policy describing how communities can organize to create the changes that will make a positive difference (e.g. community gardens, safer streets and the elimination of food deserts). The day then moved on to an overview of Measures N and O, including an overview of the soda industry told through a comical skit, a breakdown of the health impacts of soda consumption and an explanation of what Measures N and O would have accomplished if passed. The day ended with an interactive small group activity where participants were given a fictional scenario about “Raining Sugar Rocks” and asked how they would organize to address the issue. Finally, we ended the day with an invitation to register to vote.
At the end of the event participants were asked to complete an evaluation. Of those that responded the results were:
- 100% of respondents stated that they planned to vote on November 6, 2012
- 92% stated that they either agreed or strongly agreed that attending the event was a valuable experience
- 92 % agreed or strongly agreed that they had a better understanding of Measure N
- 92% agreed or strongly agreed that they had a better understanding of how policy works
- 85% agreed or strongly agreed that they had a better understanding of how people can make changes in their community
- 92% agreed or strongly agreed that they feel more confident about getting involved in making changes in their community
- 93% indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that they liked the activities
- 92% agreed or strongly agreed that they “learned a lot from this event”
- 92% agreed or strongly agreed that they “enjoyed this event.”
Some additional comments were:
“With the voice of people, there comes power.”
“I hope that I can stop drinking soda.”
“Great youth led facilitation”
“I like your work”
We would like to thank everyone who supported the 2nd Annual African American Community Baby Shower (AACBS) for parents living in the Iron Triangle and Greater Richmond area. This event was the result of a partnership between the African American Health Initiative (AAHI) and Building Blocks for Kids Richmond Collaborative (BBK).
This year, AACBS took place June 23, 10:30am-3:00pm at the Nevin Recreation Center and was an overwhelming success. It was attended by 124 mothers, fathers, grandparents, and other care providers interested in making sure their babies have a very healthy start. While there, families enjoyed networking, games relevant to parenting, dancing and each other. The 25 participating organizations, provided educational materials and workshops related to nutrition, physical activity, strategies for ensuing healthy baby and child outcomes, and a Men’s Involvement Group.
Some key results from our participant survey:
- 85% of attendees reported that the information provided by agencies was very good or excellent.
- 85% of attendees reported that the quality of the workshops were very good or excellent.
- 90% either agreed or strongly agreed that the African American Baby Shower is a benefit to the West Contra Costa Community.