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2017 Winter Performance Expo

I wanted to publish positive images today… reminders about the beauty of my children’s world.

 (bryan farley)

On Wednesday January 18, 2017, Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland held their Winter Performance Expo. Here is my photo gallery slideshow of 121 images.

 (bryan farley)

On Wednesday night, Oakland Unified held another board meeting to discuss budget shortfalls. Today, our new President said in his Inaugural Address that America had “an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge.”

 (bryan farley)

It has not been my experience, first as a teacher in OUSD, and now as a parent in OUSD, that we are either “flush with cash” nor depriving students. We have not deprived students the 8 years that I have had a child at MLA.

 (bryan farley)

We have often struggled in our neighborhood and in our school… we have often struggled at the neighborhood school, but there has always been something to celebrate.

This is the 8th year I have photographed students at MLA. They also have photographed me. It probably doesn’t seem like much to most people. It probably seems like a waste of time.

One of these students took the photo of me posted above.

The all participated in creating their image at a time when students are defined by outsiders.

And they will continue to need more encouragement, even in the best of times.

 (bryan farley)

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State Champion Parade

 (bryan farley)

The McClymonds High School Warriors won their first state football championship on December 17, 2016. On Friday January 6, 2017, Oakland celebrated at City Hall and West Oakland.

 (bryan farley)

I attended their last playoff game with my son and his friend. (McClymonds lost to Sacred Heart Prep in the Northern California final on 12/12/15.) I also photographed one of their home games the previous year. (My post with photos was called, “Back at Mack to Pay it Back.”)

 (bryan farley)

Even though I did not attend any games this year, I have been to Mack many times. I brought my daughter to the parade. When she was younger, her track team competed at Mack. My friends have worked at the school. If my life had turned out differently, I would have taught at Mack during this year’s state championship season.

 (bryan farley)

McClymonds is called “The School of Champions.” Coincidentally, I attended a high school in Fresno that was also “The School of Champions.” Fresno High are also Warriors.

 (bryan farley)

Both schools have similar histories with similar success stories… and many forgotten heroes.

 (bryan farley)

The celebration and parade will help the community remember this team. This team might provide the next Mack trailblazer who changes the world.

For more photos from the rally at City Hall, see the photo gallery.

Echo Brown Black Virgins

Two weeks ago, I photographed Echo Brown and “Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters “at Oakland Tribe. I included this 34 image PHOTO GALLERY; the photos in the post are also in the gallery.

 (bryan farley)

Originally, the November 27, 2016 performance was scheduled as Echo’s final 2016 show; however, she has scheduled three more Oakland performances for December. Echo will also appear on KQED’s Forum tomorrow with Michael Krasny at 10:00 am.

 (bryan farley)

After I met Echo at an art education event a couple years ago, I have wanted to attend her one-person show. Our schedules never aligned until late last month. Even though she claims that she doesn’t “have a background in theater,” she intuitively understands performance. She is creative, energetic, funny and smart. She is engaging.

 (bryan farley)

Echo may not have had formal theater training before she wrote her current play, but her journey prepared her for the stage. Echo has been code-switching since she was a young person. Code-switching requires that a person be able to read an audience and understand place and time. Perhaps even more fundamental, when a person is forced to code-switch, a person understands that humans perform their societal roles. We perform gender roles too. Echo has been performing since she was a smart high school student. She continued performing when she attended an Ivy League university. She probably does not stop performing when she leaves the stage.

I realize that some people will misunderstand my compliment. My comments were written as a person who has “performed” for much of my life. I have hidden to survive.

 (bryan farley)

Throughout “Black Virgins,” Echo addresses many sensitive topics. Some audience members might become uncomfortable, but Echo creates an arc that allows for feelings to build and release. (There is also a discussion period after the performance which I highly recommend.) Perhaps because I am recently divorced, I was touched by some of the lighter moments. Echo’s character expresses a lonely vulnerability that feels universal.

 (bryan farley)

I would probably write much of this remaining section in my “Notes on a Blog” over at www.morethankids.com, but it seems appropriate to continue writing below considering recent events.

 (bryan farley)

I saw Black Virgins the Sunday before the Ghost Ship Fire and the same month as the 2016 election. After the performance, Echo led a discussion. Audience members, many of whom are women of color, shared concerns about living in the Bay Area. They shared the experience of living in a so-called liberal part of the country, yet feeling left out. The Bay Area is not the safe place for women of color as many people think.

The greater Bay Area community can learn a great deal from Echo Brown and her audience members. In the post-election/post-Ghost Ship Fire Bay Area, it is too simplistic to claim that Donald Trump’s campaign “provided a platform for white supremacists.” How do Bay Area Liberals provide a platform for racism to continue? How did Oakland provide a platform for the Ghost Ship Fire?

Black Girls Are Not For Virgins forced me to ask basic questions that many white folks are afraid to ask publicly. I think that white folks would rather discuss vague definitions of diversity, equity and policy. We don’t want to ask real tough questions about our Time, Treasure and Talent.

Who do we love? Who do we love romantically? Where do we love and where do we live?

Where do we send our kids to school? Why do we send our kids to THAT school? Is it because we don’t want OUR kids to go to school with THOSE people? Do we really love THOSE people?

Where do we work? How does our business recruit new staff? How does the HR Department help talented people code-switch so they don’t get stuck behind the latest automated HR software? When we do not challenge our employers, what platform do we think we are providing?

I think we need to question our priorities. In Oakland, we have passed a soda tax to increase safety. Our city council passed a gun measure (for safety). Did those actions become our priorities? Did those actions improve health and safety or were they merely safe actions?

Echo acknowledges that when people ask difficult questions, it comes with a cost. I am grateful that Echo Brown presents these issues so forcefully. It provides space for the rest of us to ask the difficult questions, even if asking those questions might come at a cost.

NOTE: I edited the post on 12/12 (and again on the 14th). I might still add a notes section on my older blog and if I do, I will include this source about performing roles.