“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography

The Surge Institute has officially welcomed the 2020 Oakland Surge Fellowship cohort, The Takeover, into the national Surge Alumni network!

On July 10th, 2020, Surge hosted a virtual ceremony to honor and celebrate the work and accomplishments of the fierce, spirited education leaders who are the 2020 Oakland Fellows. Their journey began last year in September, and though the experience had some shifts along the way due to the global pandemic, this community progressed forward and became a truly tight-knit family of movement-makers. Program Director for the Oakland Surge Fellowship, Yvonne Rodriguez, opened up the ceremony with the following:

“When we started this journey back in September, who could’ve known that 2020 was going to happen the way it has? But I do have some hope because something else that happened this year is that The Takeover came together. These are courageous and loving leaders who care deeply about equity, who never step out as lone heroes but instead take great lengths to include others and to share their power.”

Attendees also had the opportunity to hear some wisdom from a fellow Surge Oakland Alum, Ty-Licia Hooker, who shared reflections on her experience in the Surge Fellowship, and the importance of having a collective, such as her 2019 cohort, The Radical Collective, be there when needed and to have your back. While also thinking about what the past few months have brought the world, Ty-Licia shared that Surge is something that you’ll continue to learn and receive from, and The Takeover has provided that for her and the rest of the Surge community. “I’m really here today to say that I’m proud of you,” she stated.

Afterward, The Takeover opened up space for each to reflect and share on the Surge Fellowship experience as well as provide affirmations on their personal and collective mission to continue realizing a liberated future for the youth of the Bay Area. It has been a mantra of the Surge community that if one’s dream can be accomplished by oneself, then that dream is too small, and the stage that each fellow opened up for one another to share their own multigenerational wisdom with the group highlighted this impeccably.

Also providing the charge to the graduates were Surge Founder and President, Carmita Semaan, and Surge Oakland Executive Director, Michelle Seijas who shared that this journey doesn’t conclude with the end of the Surge Fellowship; in fact, it is the next beginning of the collective’s leadership journey. Each of their words were connected by a similar belief, and that is that Surge will always provide the space, tools, and support each fellow, alum and family member needs as they continue to navigate a system inherently designed to work against communities of color. Seijas closed out the ceremony by leaving the graduates with the following message:

“I know we’ve referenced often today the difficulties of 2020, but I have to tell you I haven’t been thinking about that because I’ve been wrapped up in what is happening here in this moment. So, may our memories of 2020 overwhelmingly be this moment – the love, joy, learning and community of the cohort experience. As you move forward in your leadership, may you move forward in this ambiguity with clarity knowing that you are not doing this alone.” 

We are living in a time where it has become more critical for students and families of color to have leaders who have been in their shoes sharing their experiences and leading to create equitable and justice-based change for those communities. We are excited to know that The Takeover will continue to do this work and unapologetically build this movement!

See the full list of the 2020 Oakland Surge Fellowship Graduates below, and click HERE to view more photos from their journey: