This April 2018, 16 Black women from across North St. Louis City, of all ages and backgrounds convened to embark upon a journey of self-exploration and community change. None of them exactly knew what they were getting themselves into when they signed up for WEPOWER’s Power-Building Academy. They began as strangers, new classmates. Eight months later—sooner than ever imagined or planned—the group sparked a movement to improve education.
By July, I witnessed these 16 women-Power-Builders become family and declare three demands with courage, hope, and strength so bold one would be a fool to block them along their journey. Their initial curiosity and concern about issues in our schools had evolved into a vision and strategy to achieve policy changes of equity and fairness across St. Louis Public Schools.
That is what WEPOWER is about—activating community power to redesign systems to be just and equitable for all. We are a vessel for communities to take action as advocates and leaders of policy change and entrepreneurs of tech-ventures, scaling to disrupt systems and challenging conventions across the nation. Our partnerships with communities have begun with a focus on education. Over time, we also will work to push and shift health, economic, and justice systems because they all currently do more harm than good to Black and brown folks.
Power-Builders have taught me that we all have a right and obligation to unite and relentlessly and continuously demand a better future for every kid in every school and every community across every zip code. Our children and the neighborhoods they call home deserve advocates whose courage to demand better outweighs the viciousness of complacency and commitment to the status quo.
The North City Power-Builders have activated a tremendous network around their vision for change.
Can you imagine what’s possible a year from now when we activate hundreds more community members and work to change more systems beyond education? With the launch of our second Academy in East St. Louis and applications open for our third Academy and new Fellowship, we are on our way to doing just that!
Join us. Your investment will fuel our efforts to get organized in service of a new reality where educational equity is not just an idea but a practice sustained by policies.
Together, WE can build the power to boldly demand a better St. Louis.
Charli A. Cooksey
Founder & CEO