I Got “Woke” – An Uncomfortable Truth I Will Not Dismiss
By Jim Wambach
Perspectives article by Jim Wambach, Executive Director
Getting to know the precious children – many of whom are already two years behind in reading and math – helps to personally relate to how wonderful and full of promise they truly are.
Ring ring the bells
Wake the town
Everyone is sleeping
Shout at the crowd
Wake them up
This anger’s deeper than sleep
– James (band)
A few months into my time at Children Rising, as I began to personally get to know the individual children and youth in our programs, I began to develop both a deeper compassion and anger toward the problems – and solutions – facing the vulnerable children we serve.
There are times when truly engaging with life’s realities can, and should, jolt us awake from our sense of comfort. A comfort that is derived from believing that we have figured out our personal place in the world and how it all is supposed to “work”. We know it when it happens – we feel a bit disturbed and uncomfortable by the sudden change in our perspective. We should hold onto that disturbance and not dismiss it.
What disturbed me is a combination of factors.
- A better awareness of the systematic, well developed structure and order in our society that leads to social, economic and educational inequity in our communities.
- Getting to know some of the countless children – sometimes as young as eight years old – who are already so far behind in school or living in severely challenged neighborhoods that they are effectively “written off”.
- I had lived a comfortable life, thinking I “got it”, only to realize I hadn’t been able to clearly see, and personally relate to, how so many wonderful children growing up in poverty and surrounded by violence were trapped by life’s circumstances and society’s somewhat intentional structure of social injustice.
How many more like me were there?
As I awakened to a much deeper realization of the problem, I had many conversations with people inside and outside of our wonderful organization. I shared my feelings of deep anger for what we, in our society today, are doing to the kids. But the reality of it was: I, like so many others had been asleep to the problem. Now that the scales had fallen from my eyes, I wanted to share this concern with everyone that would listen to me!
I got “Woke”!
Awake from slumber, eyes wide open, we go forward, helping one child at a time rise above the challenges they face, to soar to their God-given potential.
At the risk of co-opting a term which has become heartfelt and real, I became far more aware of the systemic issues impacting social and racial justice in our community. The roots of the issues were far deeper than I had ever known. Their long-term impact reached far wider than I had ever imagined.
I wanted other people of good will to wake up with me!
That, at its core, is why I am so passionate about the work we are all so privileged to do every day at Children Rising. Awake from slumber, eyes wide open, we go forward, helping one child at a time rise above the challenges they face, to soar to their God-given potential.
That is also why the “I Want To Soar” Project is so important. Our goal is to help 200 more children learn basic reading and math skills so they can succeed in elementary school, middle school, high school and beyond.
Wake them up, this anger’s deeper than sleep!
We are doing this by ringing the alarm bells. This problem is indeed deeper than sleep. We can – and will – make a generational difference in our Oakland communities. But we need to be awake to the problem.
YES, I CAN help a struggling child reach their God-given potential.