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TheGrio’s 100: Omo Moses, equating things for next generation

By Myranda Stephens

5:00 AM on 02/01/2010

Omo Moses could be called a product of activism. His parents were both civil rights leaders in Mississippi during the 1960s, then relocated to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War draft. From there, they moved to Tanzania where Moses was born. His full name, Omowale, is the same name the people of Nigeria gave to Malcolm X when the civil rights leader journeyed there. This is a fact Moses would later learn on his own.

“I said [to my parents], ‘Why didn’t ya’ll tell me this?'” Moses said, laughing. “I might’ve felt a lot better about it.”

Moses’ parents eventually moved back to the U.S., where his dad Bob Moses, received the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award.” His father started the Algebra Project, a program that helps low-income and minority students attain mathematical skills needed for college. Omo Moses and his siblings automatically became a part of the project, too.

“As early as eighth grade, we were tutoring kids,” the 37-year-old said.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Moses helped create a similar program in 1996 called the Young People’s Project, where students empower other students through math. Each year, the organization trains and employs 500 high school and college students (through a small stipend) to teach math to 5,000 elementary- and middle-school students and community members from Mississippi to California.

“What we exemplify is the type of work that young people can do to accelerate themselves and support other young people to accelerate themselves,” says Moses, the program’s executive director.

Moses and his team are also involved in other educational initiatives, including a group called Quality Education as a Constitutional Right. This initiative aims to create a national conversation about a proposed constitutional amendment that could guarantee that all children have the right to a quality education.

“Whether you get an amendment or you don’t, the goal is about shifting education,” Moses said. “No matter how many kids we help improve test scores, as an organization, we still have to help kids who the system is failing.”

Moses speaks like a true activist, following in the path of the great men who share his name.


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