Condoleezza Rice, Valerie Jarrett, Steph Curry, Zaila Avant-Garde talk education on One Million Black Women Panel

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By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO

“Talent is ubiquitous, opportunity is not,” announced former President Obama’s Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett at a recent virtual listening session focused on education, part of Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women (OMBW) initiative.

The initiative launched March of 2021 to address structural inequities due to race and gender that negatively impact Black women’s lives. Jarrett, along with 16 other Black business and community leaders, form the program’s Advisory Council. Listening sessions are intended to ensure input from Black women is used in determining how to distribute resources.

Partnering with Black women-led organizations, OMBW aims to directly invest $10 billion dollars over 10 years, and provide $100 million in philanthropic support. It will, according to its website, focus on “key areas in Black women’s lives where investment could make all the difference,” such as healthcare, housing, business ownership and education.

OMBW is stewarded by Goldman Sachs’ Partner and Global Head of Sustainability Impact for its Asset Management business, Margaret Anandu, and its Global Head of Corporate Engagement and President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, Asahi Pompey.

One of the guests, Anandu, explained “We wanted to find tangible ways to drive meaningful impact for black women.” She outlined that anecdotal evidence and research “showed we needed to make a difference at every stage of Black women’s lives; from where they live, to where they go to work, where they go to the doctor and crucially, where and how they learn, and who they learn from. It’s a space we’re definitely going to lean into heavily.”

Jarrett explained, “There’s a body of research that shows when we invest in young people, zero to four, their outcomes are dramatically different. Every dollar that we invest in quality early childhood education saves $7 down the line, oftentimes in the criminal justice system.”

Jarret called for a national educational standard for universal Pre-K so that the playing field for all children would be equal. “We should not have many of our children going into kindergarten starting 10 steps behind.” There also, Jarrett explained, needs to be a commitment to investing in teachers. “We need to say as we are formulating our budgets at the state, local and federal level, this is a priority.”

Basketball superstar Stephen Curry, with his educator mom beside him, moderated the panel which included another OMBW Advisory Council member, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Spelling Bee champ Zaila Avant-garde and Oakland school teacher Tracy Gaithers. Curry is also on the advisory council for OMBW.

The evening was hosted by founder and CEO of social impact and political consulting firm Full Circle Strategies, Jo’taka Eaddy.

Curry’s mother Sonya, who founded and has run Christian Montessori School for over two decades, noted that resources need to be allocated so that teachers, many of whom of course are Black women, are given the needed time to train effectively in the curriculum.

Avant-garde, who is also a basketball whiz, repped the youth cohort. She offered her perspective on developing a love of learning early in life. “My parents had books all over the house so I became curious about what was inside.” Avant-garde said she gave herself a goal to read one thousand chapter books, which she hit when she was twelve. For any young person wanting to also become Spelling Bee champ she advised that they read a lot, study Latin and “just go for it.”

Gaithers reflected on how much it meant to her when she had teachers who looked like her growing up, and suggested intentional investment in Black graduates of education programs. “We need to invest in places like HBCUs,” she stated, “That produce teachers that can come back to our communities and serve those children.”

Partnering with organizations able to fill in gaps where parents don’t have the time or resources is another avenue to pursue to ensure a comprehensive education, offered Rice. “I’m very active with the Boys and Girls Clubs and what I hope Goldman will be able to do through One Million Black Women, is identify those black women who are successful, and where we can help those who struggle particularly with their kids.”

Rice added that investment needed to be made into the children who are “the neediest.” She also stressed the imperative of having high expectations of all students. “Sometimes when we talk about underserved kids we talk about them as though they can’t. Well, they can. If we show that we believe in them, they have a really good chance to succeed.”

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