Dominion of New York

Social Justice

July 12, 2012

Oakland Parochial School Accused of Making Kids Panhandle

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Written by: Kelly Virella


fter watching this video, I can’t shake the feeling that poor children asking for money — or anyone panhandling — annoys CNN reporter Gary Tuchman and Anderson Cooper. And that disturbs me. Poverty is real and for many people, the quickest fix to hunger is to stand on a sidewalk or in a subway station and jingle a can, asking for coins. Yet something is terribly wrong when the act of panhandling becomes a mandatory school assignment, as parents and students at one predominantly — if not entirely — black Oakland, California parochial school say it is there. WTH is going on at St. Andrew Missionary Baptist Church?

Of course it’s not ipso facto wrong for any school to have a VOLUNTARY fundraiser. In fact, student led fundraising efforts can teach students valuable leadership and sales skills and build their confidence. So I can see kinda see how the pastor might have rationalized this. But it’s the school’s backstory that makes this panhandling homework especially shady.  California Watch, a Bay Area-based investigative reporting organization, found evidence that the school cooks its enrollment books, inflating its student body to get more federal funding. So maybe the panhandling is another way the pastor lines his pockets?

I would love to know how much cash he’s already taking in through church tithes and what he’s doing with it and whether this school actually does any teaching. The school’s allegedly punitive culture and cash-rules-every-thing-around-me ethos make it sound like a nightmare. No wonder that kid jumped out the second story window to get away. I would have too.


About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.