San Francisco Chronicle
September 4, 2012
Written by Jill Tucker
In the first hour of the first day of school Tuesday, the sixth-grade Oakland boy was sure he was in trouble for goofing off.
His teacher, Peter Wilson, had stopped his lesson in mid-sentence and turned his attention to the African American preteen, who now wore an uh-oh expression as he braced for a rebuke.
"Did you eat breakfast this morning?" Wilson asked quietly as the confused boy shook his head no. "Your actions are telling me you're hungry."
The teacher, also African American, then promised to bring fruit and granola bars the next day and returned to teaching. The boy's behavior immediately improved.
That might not have been the result at other Oakland middle schools, where a third of black males were suspended at least once last year.
But at the 100 Black Men Community School, a new all-male public charter school, educators and organizers say they refuse to accept those odds - or any of the other statistics associated with black boys that include higher dropout rates, lower test scores and disproportionate placement in special education programs.
The school, started and financially supported by the Bay Area chapter of the 100 Black Men nonprofit organization, is open to all male students, but it was created specifically for issues facing black boys - including difficult family lives, street culture, community violence and lack of male role models outside professional sports and the music industry.
"We know our children can perform as well as any other children," said Dr. Mark Alexander, an epidemiologist and chairman of the board for the local 100 Black Men. "We're going to create a culture that hopefully will be stronger than the streets."