The Black Baccalaureate is an event to honor local African American students’ academic success.
A group of local organizations revived the Black Baccalaureate program this year after a six-year hiatus. It was hosted at Portland Bible College on June 14.
Noni Causey, executive director at Black Educational Achievement Movement Educational Village, was one of the many community members who helped organize the event.
“It was wonderful to be able to celebrate young African American students who are achieving academic success,” Causey said. “So often we look at the news and we see gang shootings. We see all the stereotypical things that young people do.”
The Black Baccalaureate was last hosted in 2009 when Kevin Fuller from Portland Bridge Builders, a program for African American boys, organized it.
CJ Robbins, coordinator of the Black Male Achievement program, says he values the interactions he had with students during the event.
“I felt that it was an opportunity to really connect with young people and really provide some of that protection that they are going to need against adversity in their lives,” Robbins said.
Causey says the Black Baccalaureate is important because of the achievement gap that persists in Oregon. In the 2013-2014 school year, 60.21 percent of African-American students in Oregon graduated in four years, compared to 71.98 percent of all students.
“They want to be recognized,” Causey said. “Young people want to be seen. They want us to care about them and acknowledge them. And so often, I believe we are taught to fear them.”
Robbins worked closely with the Oregon Youth Authority, connecting youth who are in the juvenile justice system and recognizing those who completed high school or their GED.
“Our pie in the sky was to transport young people [from OYA] to be able to take part in the event,” Robbins said.
Due to privacy issues, they were not able to do so this year. Robbins said it still remains a goal for future events.
The local organizations are already working toward next year’s Black Baccalaureate. Causey and Robbins said they hope the event becomes more statewide and involves more communites.
“I think it is really, really important as a community, particularly as a black community, to celebrate,” Robbins said.
“We tend to focus on the negatives a lot. We see a lot of negative headlines. One of the major protective factors for young people is how connected they feel to the community.”