Foundation Puts $12.5 Million Up to End Black Youth Criminalization in Oakland

Akonadi Foundation, an Oakland-based family grant maker, has announced a five-year, $12.5 million effort to end the criminalization of Black youth and other youth of color in Oakland.

Akonadi, which has been focused on fighting structural racism for two decades, selected 11 local grassroots organizations to receive funding for various projects under the project’s umbrella name of All in for Oakland. Together, the groups seek to create “an ecosystem of movement organizations that are mobilizing and organizing directly impacted people to win police-free schools, fix school discipline, close youth prisons, and realize other critical outcomes to transform youth justice in Oakland,” the foundation said in a news release.

“Our job as funders is to support the movement leaders who have the courage and vision to radically imagine what safety looks like for our young people,” said foundation President Lateefah Simon, in a statement. “This movement is vibrant and ready. We must invest for the long haul in the leaders and organizations that are making Oakland a racially just city where Black youth and youth of color can live healthy, free, and full lives.”

Lateefah Simon, president of Akonadi Foundation: “This movement is vibrant and ready.” Photo courtesy of the foundation

The 11 grant partners are: Black Organizing Project, Urban Peace Movement, Young Women’s Freedom Center, East Bay Community Law Center, Youth Law Center, Dignity in Schools Campaign California, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, Justice Reinvestment Coalition, Flourish Agenda, Burns Institute and Forward Change.

The money is intended to help these grantees, led by people of color, keep working to cultivate the power of youth and families who have been “criminalized by the education and juvenile justice systems” — and to hold public officials to account.

They will use it to organize in the community, build up their bases, conduct research, advocate for policy changes, promote culture and healing, plot legal strategies and enhance communications. 

The All in for Oakland grantees have already made a name for themselves in politically active Oakland. Black Organizing Project, for example, led the successful push to eliminate the Oakland Unified School District’s Police Department last month in partnership with other grant partners and Black youth and families in Oakland. A coalition is also lobbying decision-makers to defund youth incarceration and instead invest in community alternatives.

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