Seizing the Moment to Change: A Special Letter to BAEO Friends and Supporters

Dear BAEO Friends and Supporters:

Social change leaders are challenged to recognize when a movement or an organization conceived to change hearts, minds, and behaviors, has reached a critical tipping point-one that can become a powerful, perhaps even magical opportunity to introduce new thinking, energy and approaches to solving problems for those the movement or organization has sworn to uplift. Often, these rare moments are missed.

Well-meaning, committed people become tethered to legal and fiduciary structures, supporters' parameters, and constituent expectations, over time become mired in the details of reacting to what is expected of them. Stopping to assess changes in the larger landscape and the long view, given those changes, becomes harder to do, and a luxury of time leaders often feel they cannot spare. And so, that tipping point moment to change, to be relevant, to revolutionize is lost.

That tipping point, that magical moment for BAEO is NOW, and we have decided to boldly seize the moment to change.

The Case for Change

From its inception 17 years ago, when BAEO set out to increase access to high-quality educational options for Black children, the founders understood that what they set in motion then would have to continuously evolve to stay effective and impactful through time. The focus was always on, "who was to be served" 
the children of low-income and working-class Black families. The answer to "how" best to serve these children was one that would have to be asked and answered repeatedly over time to ensure BAEO's impact was hitting its marks.

In this spirit, BAEO's Board of Directors has analyzed the significant changes that have taken place in the advocacy arena of the education reform movement and in the Black community over the last 17 years:

  • Advocacy in the Education Reform Movement: There are many new organizations today that did not exist when BAEO was founded. While there is still work to be done, there are more Black people in key roles inside white-led organizations that are working in the same communities as BAEO. The leadership and focus of some of the funders who have supported BAEO over the years has changed. There is a new generation of leaders coming into the arena with different experiences and different ideas about the focus and the nature of the work. Several organizations in the space are reassessing their work because of funding issues and concerns about the proper way to carry out the work.

  • The Black Community: Because BAEO is an organization that strives to represent the Black community as it carries out its work, we are mindful of a palpable drumbeat and energy for radical change being spurred by injustices such as the killing of Black people by the police, the harsh realities of impoverished communities as the so-called "safety nets" are being ripped apart, and battles against racist practices on some college campuses. The call today in our community is for more than just words, but actions that will lead to justice and equity; this struggle is showing up in the streets, in the halls of power, the market place and in the voting booths. Young people are not buying into actions that are not aligned with their values and their aspirations to rid themselves of "second-class citizenship" status in our country. These young people are at the vanguard of a new call for social justice. The assertion that Black Lives Matter; the calls for an increase in the minimum wage; the demands to make college campuses hospitable to all of its students are examples of a renewed energy and spirit for real change for our people.

A New Path Forward

Given these two realities, and the fact that BAEO is a purpose-driven organization, the BAEO Board of Directors has decided to follow a course of action aimed at discovering a new way forward that will fulfill the mission, vision and value proposition of BAEO beyond 2016:

  • Continuity of Purpose: BAEO will work with its partners and supporters to fulfill its commitments to the Black children and families it serves during this transition period. Further, BAEO will continue to fully engage in the education reform space representing the voices of low-income and working-class Black families and support our community initiatives in Tennessee, New Jersey and Louisiana. BAEO will continue to be led by Jacqueline Cooper as President, and by state directors: Stacy Martin, in Louisiana, Mendell Grinter, in Tennessee, and LaVar Young, in New Jersey.

  • New Architects for Change: The BAEO Board of Directors is excited to announce that BAEO will launch a national social innovation competition to discover who the new architects for change will be to empower low-income and working-class Black families to fight for the best educational options for their children. We expect the social innovation competition to lead to the creation of the next iteration of BAEO or an entirely new Black-led organization that will carry on the mission to increase access to high-quality educational options for Black children by actively supporting transformational education reform initiatives and parental choice policies that empower low-income and working-class Black families. Details about the national social innovation competition will be announced in May 2016.

A final thought. Bold change requires courage, creativity and commitment. We have the courage to begin. We have the creativity to imagine anew. And, we have the commitment to work through the challenges that will arise along the path to education equity and justice for our children. BAEO leaders are seizing this moment to take this bold step because we know an exciting, dynamic opportunity to better serve Black children - our children - is on the horizon. Together, we will ensure our children inherit a future worthy of their gifts and dreams.

The Struggle Continues,

Howard Fuller, PhD
Chair Emeritus
Black Alliance for Educational Options ">