It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of Art Shanks, Executive Director of the Cypress Mandela Training Center.  Art was a giant.  While many people talk about impacting the lives of underserved people, Art actually did.  Through his outstanding work with Cypress Mandela, he made it possible for thousands of young men and women to change their lives through life-style training, job training and personal discipline development. 


When I visited Cypress Mandela’s headquarters a few years ago I was immediately impressed that every young person I encountered looked me in the eye, gave me a firm handshake and stood with a straight back and wore clean clothes.  Most of these young people came from very desperate backgrounds, including a significant number that had drug or alcohol abuse issues, and reentry people who had a history of criminal behavior, but who were now committed to changing their lives. 


What Art did with these young men and women not only helped them but created generational change in families.  I was very honored to be asked to speak at a graduation ceremony.  There, I looked out at the audience and it struck me that when the graduates came to Cypress Mandela, they had little hope.  When they left, they were strong individuals with life and job skills.  And as important as that was, it was also true that they were now in a position to take care of their families and build lives for their children which would allow them and generations that followed to avoid poverty, drugs, prison and despair.


Art was the real deal in every way.  He was demanding of those he met, be they young recruits or business people like me.  He inspired confidence in every individual who crossed his path.    Art was one of the most inspirational and effective men that I have met.  In his quiet corner of the world he changed lives, just as Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barak Obama did on the world stage.


The Oakland Jobs Foundation pledges to support the operations of the Cypress Mandela Training Center, by creating an ongoing fundraising campaign to ensure that the center can continue to serve  the men and women whose lives it touches.  Art’s legacy must live on. 


Please contact with a generous pledge that we will earmark for the Art Shanks Cypress Mandela Memorial Fund.


Greg McConnell





The Oakland Jobs Foundation (OJF) works to ensure all Oaklanders have a chance to participate in Oakland’s growth, by supporting life skills and job training programs for residents.


​OJF identifies and supports training and hiring programs that work, and monitors outcomes. 


“We support local training and hiring programs that teach job skills and expand employment opportunities.” 

Oakland is booming!  However, too many Oaklanders do not benefit from Oakland’s job growth.  For many, the problem is inadequate training and skills development.  Some have the additional burden of having served time in prison.  These men and women want to take care of themselves and their families, but they are left out.

When developers and employers promote local hiring as a true community benefit, they find that they are limited in delivering on their promise because too many people who need jobs do not have adequate skills to do the work.


OJF was borne out of the mutual frustration of business and community leaders.  Business wants to hire, and people want jobs.  OJF’s goal is to help bridge the gap.  We support local training and hiring programs that teach job skills and expand employment opportunities.


OJF was created by members of the Jobs and Housing Coalition as a vehicle to make the goal of local hiring a reality.  We are open to all who want to help.

OAKLAND unemployment  by zipcode

Source: ESRI Mapping and Spatial Analytics Company (2017)

“Every man wants people to look up to him. They want to be admired and respected.  They feel good when they can buy their sweetheart a new blouse or dress.  If when the dinner bill comes, they can say, I got this. They can treat their friends to a cup of coffee.  That’s what men want. A job lets them do that.” 

Jerald Simpkins, Executive Director, Men of Valor 

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