June 05, 2020

Oregon Black Student Success Community Network Addresses Educational Inequity

By: S. Renee Mitchell
• Creative Revolutionist, 2019 Spirit of Portland Award winner

In an era of uncertainty, fear and economic disparity because of COVID-19, the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) is spearheading a groundbreaking initiative focused on raising hope and possibilities for Black students.

Twenty culturally led organizations around the state have been chosen to pilot an advisory think tank, called the Oregon Black Student Success Community Network (OBSSCN). This network is intended to bring grassroots educational leaders together to provide direction to funders on the best practices that will advance Black children toward success from early childhood through post-secondary education. This new initiative is separate from the state-directed Black Student Success Plan.

Each of the 20 nonprofits invited to be a part of OBSSCN received $20,000 from a targeted OCF fund created with contributions from numerous Oregon-based philanthropic foundations, including OCF, Meyer Memorial Trust and the Collins Foundation.

“The challenges that marginalize Black children in Oregon’s education system are far too great for individual organizations to address alone," noted Marcy Bradley, OBSSCN’s program officer. “This network will utilize strategic collaboration, create meaningful partnerships and spearhead coalitions designed to attack root causes of educational inequity in Oregon.”

Some of the network partners, such as Beaverton Black Parent Union, #BooksNotBarsOR and I Am M.O.R.E. (Making Ourselves Resilient Everyday) are relatively new community-based initiatives. Other more-established organizations invited to join the network include NAACP Lane County, based in Eugene, and KairosPDX and Black Parent Initiative, two established, Portland-based organizations. Eventually, more community-based voices will be invited to the network that will represent all eight regions of the state.

“The illumination of disparities for underrepresented, and especially Black, students during this COVID experience is even more reason to redistribute resources to allow Black students the same opportunities to successfully attend and complete school,” noted Ericka Warren, board president of University of Oregon Black Alumni Network, a member of the new Black Student Success think tank. Her organization helps Black students prepare for, transition to and complete college, as well as advocates to diversify UO faculty.

 “When we have a healthy view of ourselves and self-love, it propels us to love and care for our own,” Warren added. “If we don’t, no one else will.”


Here is an alphabetical list of OBSSCN members with links, where available, to websites:

Africa House/IRCO: Offers state's only culturally and linguistically specific one stop center for more than 5,000 African immigrants and refugees.

African Youth & Community Organization: Offers mentorship to African youth, sports and leadership training.

Albina Head Start: Provides child development services and parent education to strengthen and enhance children and families.

BEAM Village: Delivers culturally responsive educational experiences to Black youth and adults in Portland area.

Black Parent Initiative: Educates and mobilizes the parents and caregivers of Black and multi-ethnic children in Portland area.

Beaverton Black Parent Union: Advocates for culturally relevant resources and supports wellbeing of Black students and their families  *no website available.

Black United Fund of Oregon: Assists in social and economic development of Oregon's low-income communities.

#BooksNotBarsOR: Provide resources and trainings to raise awareness of the school to prison pipeline on child welfare.

Bridges: Helps repair historic divisions between the African and African American communities in Portland  *no website available.

Elevate Oregon: Builds relationships with urban youth to promote education, self-reliance and leadership.

Holla Mentors: Provides culturally responsive relationships for and with youth by first-generation college students and committed professionals

I Am M.O.R.E.: Creates opportunities to build resiliency and sense of purpose within traumatized youth and then trains them as program evaluators.

Inner City Basketball: Develops and trains student athletes to succeed on and off of the basketball court.

KairosPDX: Provides culturally competent consulting and direct services to current in-home providers and families and neighbors who serve youth of color.

Medford School District: Fosters talents and interests of Black students to reach their unlimited potential.

NAACP Lane County: Pursues political, educational, social and economic equality of all persons and the elimination of race-based discrimination.

POIC-Rosemary Anderson: Reconnects alienated at-risk youth with an education.

REAP Inc.: Offers leadership training to at-risk students in grades 3-12civic engagement, entrepreneurship and cooperative management (conflict resolution).

Self Enhancement Inc.: Supports and guides students and provide opportunities for them to achieve personal success.

UofO Black Alumni: Empowers, mentors and provides academic and emotional support for Black University of Oregon students *no website available.

Former Oregonian columnist S. Renee Mitchell gives voice to those who nourish the roots of Black students as a way to feature new ideas and learning models. She is a self-proclaimed Creative Revolutionist, is an award-winning writer, community advocate, multimedia artist, and founder of the nationally award-winning youth resiliency movement I Am M.O.R.E. (Making Other Resiliency Experiences). Her deepest desire is to help people use their innate creativity to find their unique voice and then use it to let go, gather up and move on. Learn more about Renee at