Freedom Riders give wisdom on replicating their success

SAN FRANCISCO — A posse of black science, engineering and medicine pioneers came riding into Marcus Books last night with a silver bullet to turn around the Western Addition and other impacted communities–making success a norm. Drs. Frank Greene and Henry Lucas with Roy Clay Sr. motivated a packed audience of educators, parents and entrepreneurs to begin an impromptu movement to change the way African-American students are educated in San Francisco. Although the agenda for the evening was a documentary showing their contributions to cutting edge industries, they turned the discussion to the future generations–a cause they have pursued with equal passion to their own iconic careers. Clay described his work through the Virginia Clay Foundation with Eastside High School in East Palo Alto where college admission has risen from 3 percent to 90 percent. Greene and Lucas laid out the VRE (Vision, Relationships, Execution) Leadership Model which they have honed through the Go-Positive Foundation with groups such as 100 Black Men and locally with the college preparation program PACT Inc., which Lucas founded with Everett Brandon and Louie Barnett in 1963. The interactive salon brought in other educational exemplars such as Michael “Chappie” Grice, past president of the National Action Council for Educating Black Children; Gail Meadows, founder of the 30-year-old Meadows-Livingston School; Rev. Regnaldo Woods of the Western Addition Job Readiness Program, Christine Harris of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University and Christian Einfeldt of the Digital Tipping Point. Greg Johnson, a co-owner of Marcus Books, committed the Carlton B. Goodlett Foundation to continuing the dialogue begun Monday night. His wife Karen Johnson told of how one of their children went from not reading at age 5 to a third grade reader two weeks later while at Meadows-Livingston, which has had a 99 percent college attendance rate for 30 years with a practically-all-black student body. She later became a valedictorian at UC-Berkeley. Lucas committed PACT Inc., also represented by program director Christina Castaneda and her retired predecessor Charlene Folsom, to host a follow-up gathering in May. PACT, which stands for Plan of Action for Challenging Times, has prepared and sent thousands of black youth to college since 1963, but has been ignored by the local school district in the discussion of the use of new flows of educational stimulus funding. Karen Johnson noted that San Francisco Unified, which has the lowest average achievement for black students of any major urban district in the state, is planning to close two more elementary schools serving black neighborhoods, William Cobb Elementary and Malcolm X Elementary, following up on the closure of six schools in black communities several years ago. The three are models of the results they champion. Clay was first black student at St. Louis University in 1947 before receiving a degree in mathematics. After being told “there were no jobs for professional Negroes,” in 1951, he became a computer programmer for McDonnell Aircraft in 1956, moving to San Francisco as programmer for Lawrence Radiation Labs in 1958. By 1965, he was first director of computer research and development for Hewlett Packard. Greene’s father earned degrees in economics from Howard University in the 1930s as a student of Dr. Ralph Bunche. His grandfather had been a blacksmith in Georgia, but was “really a metallurgist.” Greene got his degrees in electrical engineering from Washington University, Purdue University and Santa Clara University before becoming a researcher for Fairchild Semiconductors where he created the fastest memory at the time for the Illiac 4 supercomputer. Lucas was an Air Force officer and surgeon who settled in San Francisco after serving during the Vietnam War and has operated a dental surgery practice for more than 40 years. The producer of the documentary, Freedom Riders of the Cutting Edge, John William Templeton, encouraged participants to follow up with the movement to transform education in the online community The documentary, which features Clay, Greene, and the 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology, is on sale online Templeton shows the documentary at San Francisco State University Thursday and on Saturday, May 16 in the Clayton Museum and Library in Culver City. His four-volume anthology Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California, Vols. 1-4, with Black Heritage as Gap Closer and Come to the Water: Sharing the Rich Black Experience in San Francisco can also be ordered from Marcus Books.


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