Episode 20: Jakada Imani, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights


“I grew up as one of those kids who came from an ‘at risk’ background. And what made a difference for me was that I had a youth program that wasn’t just about providing me services, but that was about investing in me as a leader.” – Jakada Imani

I’m happy to announce that this is the twentieth episode of Please Speak Freely! This is a special episode to me personally because I interviewed my best friend since seventh grade, Jakada Imani. Jakada is the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Through organizing, leadership development and advocacy, the Ella Baker Center unlocks the power of low-income people, people of color, and their allies to transform California and inspire the world.

We had a great talk about what it will take to move our culture from one that treats young people as problems or potential problems, to one that sees that they are potentially the solutions. Jay talked about his own experience growing up in Oakland, CA and the work he does now to empower the voices of people who are often ignored. I’m proud to say that I would definitely have interviewed Jay about his work even if he wasn’t my best friend. But he is, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

This episode is sponsored by the School’s Out Washington Bridge Conference, in Seattle, WA on October 8-9, 2012. Jakada Imani will be presenting the closing plenary session of the conference, alongside Tony Smith, the Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, who will be featured in a future podcast episode.

There’s no guest blog for this episode, mostly because organizing the blog is a lot of work, so I’ve decided to put it on hiatus for now. If you’d like to write a blog piece for the podcast, let me know!

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Please Speak Freely

On Please Speak Freely, Eric Gurna, founder of Development Without Limits interviews leading thinkers, artists and others to shed light on key issues and explore different perspectives about youth development and education. The idea is to get past the platitudes and institutional positions, and have honest, nuanced conversations about things that really matter to young people and communities. Please Speak Freely guests include:

  • Raffi, Children’s Troubadour and Founder of the Centre for Child Honouring
  • Alfie Kohn, Author of several books including Punished By Rewards and The Schools Our Children Deserve
  • Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education at New York University
  • Karen Pittman, President & CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment
  • Tony Smith, Former Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District
  • Lenore Skenazy, “America’s Worst Mom” and Author of Free-Range Kids

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