Kingmakers of Oakland dedicated to improving education system for young Black men

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Late last year the Golden State Warriors Community Foundation made a big announcement worth $1.85 million. That money is going to 51 Bay Area nonprofits. The team's former Oakland practice gym is also turning into a flagship facility for Generation Thrive, the team's nonprofit hub that supports other Bay Area nonprofits and schools through education and wellness.

"When we transitioned from Oracle Arena to Chase Center, this was in 2019, we often talked about how we're leaving a building and not a city," Brandon Schneider, president and COO of the Golden State Warriors, said.

ABC7 News saw the list of organizations benefitting from the move and noticed Kingmakers of Oakland. We connected with their co-founder and CEO, Chris Chatmon, to learn more.

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"Simply put, our goals are to improve educational life outcomes of Black boys from pre-school through 12th grade," Chatmon said. "Oakland has been a ground zero way before 2010."

In 2010, former OUSD Superintendent Dr. Anthony Smith introduced Chatmon as the new and first executive director of the African American Male Achievement Program, or AAMA.

AAMA is still thriving within Oakland schools today and has spread to campuses around the country. It has a proven track record of increasing equity and implementing practices that support Black male students by using a highly targeted approach.

District-wide, the Black male graduation rate has improved from 42% to 57% and grade point averages are now 25% higher for students who participated in AAMA's Manhood Development Program. Sakima "Kimo" Williams is one of the facilitators.

"I'm engaging my students on how to write an argumentative essay," Williams said. "I'm just doing it through their perspective and their lens. I'm choosing magazine articles and I'm choosing books that speak to them. That inspires them to show up and to perform."

Cultural competency has been a benefit of the program as well.

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"Our English teacher at Claremont asked me to come in and help introduce Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mockingbird,'" Williams continued. "The N-word is addressed many times throughout the book. As a white male teacher, he didn't really feel comfortable addressing it, so he wanted to work collaboratively with me."

AAMA is also responsible for recruiting and retaining the majority of OUSD's Black male teachers.

"I can't tell you how incredible it is to enter a room and every teacher in there -- are all brothers with the same goal, the same vision," Williams added.

While AAMA was born first, Kingmakers of Oakland is now the big brother. Chatmon co-created it in 2018 to accomplish a bigger vision. It provides training and resources for all facilitators, district partners and educators to shift six pillars to benefit Black boys. The pillars are curriculum and pedagogy, youth voice and leadership, Black teacher retention, community and family engagement, narrative change and policy.

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"We believe that many of our young kings and queens don't know they are royalty because they don't know who they are or who's they are," Chatmon said. "We work with school districts in the state of California and across the country to actually curate and offer African-centered curriculum where not only Black boys and girls thrive, but all children benefit from knowing the historical contributions throughout the diaspora that have impacted civilization."

In Chatmon's words, they are "healing the fish by treating the toxic ecosystem."

Because of the success of the African American Male Achievement program, OUSD's Office of Equity was created. It serves other marginalized students like Black girls, Latino and LGBTQ students.

To learn more about Kingmakers of Oakland, visit their website.

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