On Saturday November 7, 2015, I photographed Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s 50th Birthday Gala at the Old West Oakland Train Station. Mayor Schaaf celebrated her birthday by having a fundraiser for the East Bay College Fund. The 50th Oakland mayor raised money for 50 scholarships.
One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than a hundred teaching it.
One person practicing diversity is far better than one hundred people teaching it.
Even though the event was about diversity and education, it was more about “practicing diversity” than teaching it. I did not hear anyone mention the shallow quote about closing the achievement gap. Instead, I could feel the ghosts of the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters. We connected with the past struggles; I could feel the energy from those who had advanced equity generations earlier.
There was also an optimism that comes with practicing diversity. While many of us have high expectations for youth of color, there were also discussions about increasing expectations for high-income students. Do we have enough faith in upper-class white students that we believe they could thrive in low-performing public schools? Do we believe in all students enough or must we continue to isolate high-income students?
I really enjoyed most of the event, but there was one unforgettable moment. I had access to photograph the entire event, but I never received a photo pass identifying me as an official photographer. I walked behind the stage often with the VIP’s and staff. I was only stopped once… by a young woman of color. She was the only person who stopped me. She was firm too. I was actually pleased that she felt comfortable enough to challenge me, especially in a building with so much history, at a time when we must continue to practice diversity.