AFRICANGLOBE – I have been a community activist for 20 years, and now it’s my time to do more to help children and families in our community. In April, I began having conversations with colleagues and residents of the Bayview on organizing a summit in October 2015: “Not Our Children.”
In my studies at City College I found the Children’s Defense Fund’s manual “The Cradle to the Pipeline to Prison” and the book “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander. My professor, Donna W., brought in ex-offenders Eddy Zheng and Nate Williams, and I heard their stories of survival in a world that couldn’t care less about children. A seed was planted in my heart to help Black and Brown children.
These experiences woke me up to reality. I spent countless nights reading and searching how to better equip myself to help families of color understand that we are in a state of emergency. If we don’t gather to help the generations to come, we will help a system that’s designed to harm us all.
What really inspired me to start the Not Our Children movement were the words of Al Sharpton in his book, “The Rejected Stone.” He said that if communities don’t take the next few years to organize, the next president will be looking at a landscape that resembles 1950s America.
I hope this will shake every parent into action. Al Sharpton goes on to explain: “I fear we will look back in 20 years and wonder why we didn’t take advantage of so many opportunities, to get more done while we have Obama in office. We will look back with regret as our children will not even have the rights and legal protection we have.”
After reading his book, I was in shock as I stared out my window. I said to myself, here we are in a place called America that cares nothing about the life of Black people. Today we are still not appreciated or respected, in a world we helped build. Public schools don’t teach us about our good deeds, so our children will never learn about them. The system teaches us Black lives don’t matter. I decided I didn’t come this far to get scared now, so my voice shall be heard.
I will be working closely with local and national elected officials to guide the families that are most impacted by these mishaps, families living in public housing, tuned out and purposely left behind by the system. Today I will take a bold stand to say, “Not our children.”
Black children will not be funneled into a pipeline to prison but a pipeline to success, and I will do anything and everything this year to help save Black lives. I believe if our children are taught better, they will do better.
To find out more about the Not Our Children summit and our call to action or to get involved, donate, sponsor the summit or help with speaking to our youths, please email [email protected] or call 415-571-5998. Let’s work together to help our children and their children. We can no longer sit around waiting for Superman – he’s not coming. We must help our own Black children.
By: Vanessa Banks
A native of the Bayview, Vanessa Banks is vice chair of the San Francisco Unified School District Parent Advisory Council, founder of Friends of Youngblood Coleman Park and a 2014 graduate of City College of San Francisco’s Community Health, Youth Worker Post Prison Certificate Program. She can be reached via [email protected].