POPS continues long-term mission for educational equity

Walking home from the Piedmont Protest for Black Lives on June 3, six PHS alums came together with the idea to create a central hub for Piedmont to show its support in a more tangible way. Two weeks later, the nonprofit organization Piedmont for Oakland Public Schools (POPS) held its first event, a kickoff fundraiser to benefit three organizations focused on educational equity in Oakland. 

“The march showed us that Piedmont does care about racial justice issues, but we didn’t really feel like there was a place for people to show their support as members of the community,” POPS cofounder Kate Broening said.

POPS raised over $62,000 during their first campaign, which they donated to the State of Black Education, Planting Justice, and the Black Organizing Project. However, part of their mission is to become a long-term community organization. 

“POPS is a long term, sustainable option as opposed to donations, which are like a bandage for an issue rather than this long term answer,” said POPS outreach team member and PHS senior Grace Davies.

Since their launch in June, POPS has hosted two separate campaigns, both targeting educational inequity in Oakland. 

“The first one was more about bringing light to this issue of education inequity in Oakland,” Davies said. “The donations in the first fundraiser were going to nonprofits working to improve education in Oakland in general.”

For their second fundraiser, the Back2School campaign, POPS decided to focus on a more specific goal, tackling the issue of distance learning and access to technology. 

“We realized these education inequities were just exacerbated by coronavirus, so for the second campaign, we are supporting two organizations, the Oakland REACH and The A to Z Fund,” Davies said.

The first organization, Oakland REACH, currently focuses on providing students with online resources and working to benefit students during distance learning. 

“In general, [Oakland REACH is] working to serve Black and brown families from Oakland that go to underprivileged schools,” Davies said.

POPS’s second organization in their Back2School Campaign is The A to Z Fund, which specifically focuses on providing teachers with extra training and distributing resources to educators to help make the transition to distance learning easier. 

“Our Back2School fundraiser is still happening,” Broening said. “We’re still accepting donations, and we’re still trying to raise more money and reach more people.”

POPS is working hard to continue raising awareness about the inequities between Piedmont and Oakland and prove to others that social justice is truly a movement, not just a moment.

“Educational inequity is a huge problem that can’t be solved in one event or by one organization,” Broening said.

For those who are unable to donate to the organization, POPS wants members of the community to educate themselves about educational inequity and social justice.

“More than money, we want to be a starting place for people to look when they want to get involved in this social justice movement,” Davies said.

MHS senior Harmonee Ross first got involved with POPS after she spoke at their kickoff event, and she joined the team before the second campaign. Ross believes that education is one of the most important ways for others to understand why POPS is so vital.

“We have a lot of different tools besides donate,” Ross said. “If you read a book, you’re educating yourself and that really helps you walk through the world differently, and I talked about that in my first speech. Money isn’t the only way to make change.”

Ross said that the POPS website can be used as a learning hub. Under the Resources tab, community members can find lists of books, movies, a video from the Black Student Union, and other resources to educate themselves, or to use as a jumping off point to get involved in other organizations.

As a result of widespread community interest, POPS has been extremely successful through both of their fundraisers, and Broening hopes that Piedmonters will continue to show their support.

“The money of one person is nothing in comparison to what an entire community can do,” Broening said. 

Learn more about the POPS project HERE.

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