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Overnight Walk San Francisco

I have been thinking about this post for weeks, and I have wanted to write something organized and transformative about suicide, but sometimes life and stories don’t work that way.

 (bryan farley)

Earlier this month I attended the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in San Francisco. I volunteered to photograph the event this time. Three years ago I walked with my two children.

 (bryan farley)

I don’t know if the camera helps me connect or if it keeps me isolated.

 (bryan farley)

There are two national walks each year. This year the walks were in San Francisco and Boston. Father’s Day was on the weekend between the two walks. I lost my father to suicide the year I became a father. The last several weeks, I thought about him often, and I thought about what it means to be a father..

 (bryan farley)

I was surprised this year that I struggled. I struggled to write. I struggled to be grateful on Father’s Day. I probably started struggling in May. Because I did not know why I struggled, I struggled more… but I am not sure if that is the real reason.

 (bryan farley)

I have met many friends through this journey. I can often connect quickly with people who have experienced this type of loss. I am more comfortable when I am in the company of fellow travelers, even though it reminds me that I often live in a culture that does not deal well with all of the stages of grief.

 (bryan farley)

I took some good photos, but the connections were more important… as much for me for the other people.

 (bryan farley)

Ten years after my father died, I spent the day mindful of the anniversary. When I wrote about the experience, I became grateful. I wanted to write something similar this time.

 (bryan farley)

On May 10th, I wanted to attend a concert in San Francisco, but I was afraid. I was afraid to walk the same streets that I walked when I wrote this post in 2013. I wasn’t afraid of the streets. More recently, I became afraid to express myself. I thought that I would be reminded of being too vulnerable.

 (bryan farley)

A few years ago, I had been more brave, but I also had more to say.

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One of these days, I will have more to say again. Maybe it will be something profound. Until then, I will keep showing up. I will find safe people and be a safe person for others.

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… and leave some things unfinished.

 (bryan farley)

and here is the photo gallery from the overnight.

 (bryan farley)

NOTE: I edited this post in July. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, but it wasn’t that good either.

2019 MLA Kindergarten Portraits

I photographed the Melrose Leadership Academy kindergarten classes again. This year, I asked principal Moyra Contreras to join our portrait session. This is Moyra’s last year as the MLA principal.

 (bryan farley)

If not for Ms. Contreras, I would not have had access the last ten years to document the school’s growth. As a photographer, I am continually grateful to Ms. Contreras and the rest of the school community for allowing me to work on this project. I would probably thank everyone more, but I don’t want to draw too much attention to my good fortune.

 (bryan farley)

If not for Ms. Contreras, the dual immersion district school may not have become a reality. Navigating OUSD and the community requires emotional intelligence that I will never develop.

 (bryan farley)

The first class of kindergarteners that I photographed are now in high school. This year’s kindergarten students have just begun their journey. In education, we don’t measure much of what is learned in school… we don’t measure what I can see in the photos, and how the young students have learned to represent themselves.

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For more photos from this year, see the 2019 gallery

For more photos from previous years, type kindergarten in the search box

For a bonus photo of Moyra during the 2012 kinder project

Oakland Strike Zone

Oh District, my District.

It’s been said that if the people lead, the leaders will follow… but what happens if they don’t. What happens if the young people pick up a megaphone and the district does not answer the call?

 (bryan farley)

During the seven day Oakland Education Association strike, students often led protests and rallies. The students were inspiring. They reminded many of us why we teach. On Monday, March 4th, the Oakland Unified Board of Education reminded many of us why we lose confidence in our educational leaders.

See links to galleries at the end of this post.

 (bryan farley)

Day 3 – Marching on Broadway

If not for the support of the students and community members, the Oakland Unified School District would not have agreed to the pay raises for the teachers. If not for the teacher pay raises, the district would not have cut programs… at least that was the argument when the school board voted to cut popular programs earlier this week.

 (bryan farley)

Day 3 in front of Melrose Leadership Academy

In the twenty years living in the Bay Area, I have never seen this much support for educators, so I was surprised when the tentative agreement was announced last Friday afternoon. I was even more surprised that many of the most vocal community members seemed to be forgotten.

 (bryan farley)

Day 3

I was not the only person surprised. The OEA membership was split as well. Only 58 percent of those voting approved the new contract. If I were still an OEA Union Rep and member, I don’t know what I would have done. I remember nearly twenty years ago when Oakland’s elected officials wanted to work with the teachers to demand more money for Oakland’s schools. We were asked to wait.

 (bryan farley)

Day 3 – Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich

I might have reminded the membership of our crowds and Robert Reich’s arguments. I might have showed pictures of the crowds. I might have urged local politicians to stop waiting and join the effort.

 (bryan farley)

Day 3 – Outside the State Building

On the third day, we marched to the Elihu M. Harris State Office Building. Inside the building, OEA and OUSD were negotiating. They could hear the crowd. On the sixth day, the crowd returned and entered the lobby.

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Day 3 – OEA Negotiating Team Breaks to Join Crowd

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond was inside, but the voices could be heard throughout the country. This was not a small movement.

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Day 4 Verdese Carter Park

And yet, when it was time to play big, the big names played small (or disappeared completely).

 (bryan farley)

Day 4 – 98th Avenue

I didn’t notice one elected official demonstrate the leadership and bravery worthy of the Oakland students. I heard many elected officials willing to “stand with teachers.” That phrase sounds too much like “thoughts and prayers” when coming from an elected representative.

 (bryan farley)

Day 4 – Boots Riley at Roots International

We need politicians who are willing to be bothered. We need politicians who are willing to bother their constituents to create a more equal public school system. (When Boots Riley attended the rally outside Roots International, I thought that #BootsAtRoots would catch on. It hasn’t yet.)

 (bryan farley)

Day 5

When children “stand with teachers” or carry signs in the rain, we are inspired. When school board members or mayors “stand with teachers,” it feels like a Dead Poets Society sequel instead of Stand and Deliver.

 (bryan farley)

Day 5

 

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Day 5 Birthday Celebration

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Day 5 Press Conference

 

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Day 6 California Teachers Association President Eric Heins

On the sixth day, there was sun. It would be the only day of the strike that we would go inside.

 (bryan farley)

There were teachers

 

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and nurses

 

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and famous people (W. Kamau Bell)

 (bryan farley)

Somehow, we marched into the state building. Would we have made it without the students? Would it have been worth it without the students?

 (bryan farley)

Day 7

On the day of the tentative agreement, the school board meeting was shut down a second time. The board had been scheduled to eliminate programs and positions that were important to students.

 (bryan farley)

Day 7

Even after the TA was announced, the protest continued Friday evening.

 (bryan farley)

Day 7

The Board Meeting would be rescheduled for Monday morning. Teachers and students would not be able to protest the next meeting, if OEA ratified the new contract.

 (bryan farley)

On Sunday, the new contract was ratified. OEA leaders probably received a better deal than expected when the strike began. However, the union probably did not expect the OUSD School Board to blame the new contract for the need to cut programs the next day.

 (bryan farley)

Student Protest

When the School Board finally met Monday, members argued that cuts were essential. As I understood the argument, Alameda County and representatives from the state told the district to cut programs if OUSD wanted to approve the new teacher contract.

 (bryan farley)

Students protested.

Students reminded the district that this is the home of the Black Panther Party. We organize here, and students help each other. Students suggested alternatives; the students explained the impact of the board decisions. Students fought for their community.

At a time when Oakland youth needed policies with vision, the school board seemed blind of the times. Unfazed. Unmotivated. They were reasonable when the times called for something more.

 (bryan farley)

I have been disappointed by this district often since 2001, but Monday was different. I thought that the board members heard the voices from the street and the podium, but I was wrong.

I hope that the students do not lose hope. Just as I feel depressed by the old leadership, the students may feel as though their leaders have fallen cold and dead, but I also see the emergence of new leaders. The students have each other… and I am willing to follow these new leaders.

 

Day 1 Photo Gallery

Day 3 Photo Gallery

Day 4 Photo Gallery

Day 5 Photo Gallery

Day 6 Photo Gallery

Day 7 Photo Gallery

Note: I edited this post on 3/11/19