I have been an organizer in the Bay Area for over 20 years. As I reflect on the current state of affairs in the world, in our country and most definitely in Oakland, I realize how normalized social justice organizing has become in my life. I mean, here in the Bay, I know t someone will always show up and throw down some chants. I know that someone will stand in resistance to oppression whenever it appears, whatever shape or form it takes. However, something is happening that we seldom talk about in our community, something that is counter to all the protest, all the chants, all the ways we resist oppression. As a city and as a community we have normalized the segregation of schools and the idea that “some” kids are not worthy of success.
I learned from elders, who learned from elders, who learned from elders the amazing power of organizing. And my life experience has taught me that racism was and is indeed an evil disease of humankind created by white men and women to discredit all non-white people’s brilliance and right to dignity in this world. Personally, I do not debate this reality with anyone.
Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network is a social justice organization that seeks to be accountable for developing the leadership of parents in their fight against the racism that exists in their lives and the lives of their children and families. This racism exists in our schools. This racism exists in families’ access to resources to sustain their lives and, where possible, even to thrive in Oakland. This racism is evident in the value families place on themselves and their brilliance and right to dignity. And, this racism is the most important for us to join together to fight. We stand in solidarity with all organizers on all issues fighting against oppression. And, we need everyone in Oakland and the Bay–parents, families, students and PLAN supporters–to stand up and say no to the daily racism that permeates our schools.
Oakland Unified School District recently released findings from Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) and the school board, at its last meeting, discussed the district’s fiscal health. For over four years, PLAN leaders and staff have advocated for transparency in the OUSD budget and, in the board’s and superintendent’s work plans. And, we have joined Black Organizing Project, Oakland Community Organizations, Californians for Justice, Public Advocates and Public Counsel to call for funds that OUSD receives through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funds to be apparent in school-site budgets and for local school site councils to have maximum decision making power over the use of funds to serve their students.
Before FCMAT’s report, we advocated for the school board to wake up and fulfill its fiscal oversight responsibilities, and we put our best efforts into opposing school-site budget cuts. ll of these policies and more had to be in place, we argued, before OUSD should even begin to consider school closures or consolidations, given the district’s poor internal controls over its central departments and infrastructure management.
In light of all we have done, we the last school year disappointed in the Board of Directors and we feeling failed by district leaders. Though some may never say this, we feel we lost a major campaign to protect Oakland kids while working in the Justice for Oakland Students coalition to win the hiring of a local Superintendent who we hope will have the courage to change what needs to be changed.
PLAN values systemic change. We will continue to push Oakland and other Bay Area districts to accept that change must occur in their ideology and their relationships to the communities they serve, because we know that the daily racism our parents and students experience in seeking a quality education helps keep oppression alive. We know that the constant refusal to listen to communities keeps the racial achievement gap alive. We know that the blatant elitism that parents and students experience in schools and systems is the “quiet giant” threat to justice and student success.
Systemic change is not a buzzword for me, for PLAN’s staff, or for our community. It is a cry for justice on a long journey toward a vision of living beyond survival in Oakland and the Bay Area. When we advocate, organize, offer workshops, or train parents and families, we do so from a place of profound love of their vision of a better world.. We will continue to work to mobilize as many resources as are necessary to help them achieve that vision.
You can help PLAN execute our mission to support parents and families in Oakland and the Bay Area in five important ways.
- Spread the word! Our programs are getting started with workshops and trainings in September. [http://bayareaplan.nationbuilder.com/calendar]
- Support our campaigns: 100% Engaged and Budget Transparency with the Justice for Oakland Students Coalition.
- Become a trainer. Join our Know Your Rights Training of Trainers on Sept 9 and 10th.
- Volunteer to support our mission.
The fight against racism is a long journey. Today, you can take a concrete step toward support for parents and families who want to develop the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need to protect their children from the daily racism that can crush their spirits. Let us together and draw strength from one another to make a world without racism a reality
Pecolia Manigo, Bay Area PLAN Executive Director
Madison Park Business & Art Academy Primary Campus
First day of school August 21, 2017
By Monica Green
…It’s a family affair, it’s a family affair
It’s a family affair, it’s a family affair
One child grows up to be
somebody that just loves to learn…Sylvester Stewart
Most moving to me on this first day of school is that it was a “Family Affair.” Moms, dads, grandmas and papas many with babes in arms, and older siblings, escorted children to class. This phenomenon demonstrates the little recognized value and importance that families in East Oakland place on education.
The joy of a once-in-a-lifetime, eagerly anticipated event was in the air at Madison Park Business and Arts Academy—Primary Campus; on Monday August 21st. Administrators and teachers rolled out the Red Carpet and gave a rousing welcome to returning and new students.
From the street to the front door school staff, teachers, and community partners from the local fire station, PLAN, and Higher Ground lined the walkway and sang songs, called names and high-five and fist-bumped students. Inside families stepped onto a red carpet, bounced to the music, explored the free books, enjoyed the hospitality of coffee, waters, tea, breads and fresh fruit, and posed in the MPA photo booth.
Parents and children were thrilled with the table full of free books, new bulletin boards, and sparkling hallways. The library houses a new Maker Space for children, making real the school’s emphasis on engineering and design. This day represented what so many including Sly and the Family Stone, Sisters Sledge and others have sung “We Are Family”.
…Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of the world’s delights
High hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight…
Here’s what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do
You won’t go wrong.
Reach Academy Celebrates & Prepares
By Sasha Shane
During the first week of school at REACH Academy Principal Moore, the Community School Manager Camila Barbour, Lucy Espinoza, with support from PLAN, held a week-long orientation for REACH families. The purpose of these parent orientations was to help families understand the mission and vision of the school as well as that of Oakland Unified School District.
Parents learned about the core values on which the school will focus during the 2017-18 school year: Children First and Integrity. Parents also had a chance to share their own visions for this school year.
Juliet Lebrie described her vision as follows: “I want to help both of my kids graduate university. I will support them by being engaged in school activities and support them at home with their reading and math.”
Parents also had an opportunity to sign up to be volunteers throughout the year. We look forward to seeing parents in the classroom supporting students. Our mission is to create a sustainable volunteer system where parents can become partners in student outcomes.
UPCOMING TRAININGS & EVENTS