The vital work Kingmakers is doing today would not be possible without the groundwork laid by the Black changemakers that came before us. This month, we want to share the story of one transformational Oakland hero who’s near and dear to the KOO family.
Oscar Wright is one of the most prolific, consistent, and committed advocates of equity for Black students and Black Families here in Oakland for the past six decades. He’s been a mentor of CEO Chris Chatmon’s for over 20 years, inspiring him to lead by example.
Oscar was born in 1923, one of 11 children of Mississippi sharecroppers. His educational journey wasn’t easy — the only school in the county for Black students didn’t teach algebra, geometry, chemistry or biology. Still, he graduated at the top of his class and went on to serve in World War II. Thanks to the GI Bill, he enrolled and graduated from Alcorn State University when he came home, where Medgar Evans was his first college roommate.
In the late ‘50s, Oscar and his family moved to the Bay Area where he worked as a contractor and civil engineer, and became active with the NAACP. As his children grew up, Oscar became an advocate for their education and noticed parallels between their school experiences and his — namely, Black students were not getting the quality education and support they deserved.
So, he got involved. He became a regular at school board meetings, holding local leaders’ feet to the fire to bring equality to education for Black students in OUSD. In 1994, Oscar and the African-American Education Task Force sued OUSD for violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Years later, in 2000, the school board put an action plan in place to address the inequity, but it was never implemented.
Oscar launched the African American Honor Roll Celebration at Acts Full Gospel Church, an award that recognizes Black students with a GPA of 3.0 or better. Each year, more than 1,000 students are awarded in the ceremony.
It’s hard to quantify just how much Oscar has impacted Black youth in Oakland in his decades of advocacy. He’s been steadfast in his commitment to creating opportunities for Black children, agitating through love, light and conviction to generate change.
Video below produced by the Oakland Unified School District and Kingmakers of Oakland