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I didn’t know what to expect when we caught the Amtrak from Jack London up to the state capitol for the state assembly’s select committee to discuss the status of men and boys of color in California. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a diverse group of people from the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color.
I knew only a handful of things about the event:
1) I was going to the Capitol building to speak about issues in my community
2)…Actually, that’s all I really knew.
The two-day event was full of diversity, empowerment, and change. For the first time, I was in a ballroom with 250 boys and men of color, who were dressed and ready to make a difference.
I was overwhelmed at first by all the speeches, people, and the agenda for the next two days, but once we broke into our groups and started writing, I felt like I was in my element. We were given a worksheet that asked us to list the changes we wanted to see in our community. Amongst several topics that were brainstormed, education kept coming up. I shared my experience with public schools and how curriculum didn’t cater to my needs. I always aspired to go to a four-year University but my counselors weren’t supportive. In that moment, I noticed that my story resonated with the group. That’s when I realized I was becoming passionate about the issue. I looked around the ballroom and saw that everyone had the same drive to want to make a difference.
The next step was presenting at the Capitol building to assembly members from all over California. My job was to present the issues that my group raised with the education system. During my presentation I had an epiphany. I was really in a room with people dedicated to making a difference and presenting in front of someone with the power to change it. When I spoke in front of Assemblymember Rob Bonta, who oversees Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro, he listened to our issues, telling us what could be done and what plans were already set in place.
At the end of the presentation, it felt powerful to be in the Capitol building speaking on issues relevant to me and presenting them to people who have the power to change them. I know that I’m not going to put on a suit and run for mayor, but this experience has allowed me to be more aware of the social ills in my community.