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Jed Oppenheim

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Although his parents were activists, 29-year-old Jed Oppenheim says he first realized the inequalities of race and class systems during the 1992 riots in his hometown of Los Angeles. "When the riots broke out and only the white kids were in school I wasn't thinking of race and class," he says. "I was thinking, 'Where are my friends?'"

As a high school student, Oppenheim immersed himself in civil-rights studies, and was particularly interested in Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Panthers. He later studied racial relations and social-justice movements at five universities¬óincluding the University of Arizona and the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa¬óbefore he finished his undergraduate degree at the University of California in Santa Cruz in 2003.

After graduating, he began teaching English at Rapid Academy International School in Ghana and worked for Plumfield Academy in Sebastopol, Calif. Oppenheim then received a master's degree in international educational development with a focus on education in emergency in 2006 at Columbia University.

"(I wanted to address) how to get education to children and young people and how to do it in areas that do not have a structured system," he says of the program.

While in graduate school, Oppenheim taught in New York City schools, did humanitarian work in Rwanda and worked for Wilma Family and Child Health Care Assessment in Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. After receiving his master's, he returned to Rwanda where he was a lecturer, and in 2007, worked for the Indonesia-based humanitarian organization "Right to Play International."

Oppenheim moved to Jackson in September 2008 to work on the Obama For America campaign. He says his primary goal of working on a political campaign was more about establishing roots in the Jackson community rather then the politics.

"I knew I wanted to move to the South," Oppenheim says. "I didn't want to go back to New York, and I never really liked L.A."

While working on the campaign, he met people from the Mississippi Youth Justice Project, an organization that advocates child reform through education rather then punishment. The following year, the organization offered him a job as community advocate.

"About 75 percent of kids in (detention centers) are in for non-violent crimes and should have more rehabilitation than punishment," he says.

Although Oppenheim says he enjoys his work with MSYJP, he's just happy to be in Jackson. "I couldn't be more lucky to be doing what I am doing," he says. "Even if I didn't get the (community advocate) job, I would have stayed."

Previous Comments

ID
148972
Comment

Yay Jedo!! We are so glad to have you here in Jackson!

Author
andi
Date
2009-06-24T22:34:10-06:00
ID
149003
Comment

Wow, what a life story, and you're only 29! It is an honor to have you here in Jackson, and I'm glad you have embraced it and found it to be your home.

Author
chip
Date
2009-06-25T15:36:23-06:00
ID
149004
Comment

"When the riots broke out and only the white kids were in school I wasn't thinking of race and class," he says. "I was thinking, 'Where are my friends?'" Shouldn't you have been thinking why are the white kids acting like responsible people and why is everyone else acting like a bunch of idiots?

Author
BubbaT
Date
2009-06-25T15:44:28-06:00
ID
149116
Comment

Though violence was unnecessary, the was a very eye-opening experience that showed the true class and race segregation in LA. Jed was telling be about the obvious separation between the lower class citizens and further down tent cities to Beverly Hills, and how the city acted like it didn't exist.

Author
JonOKeefe
Date
2009-06-29T11:30:59-06:00

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