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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.

 (bryan farley)

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.

 (bryan farley)

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

 

 (bryan farley)

and nurses

 

 (bryan farley)

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

Kamala Harris Presidential Campaign Launch Rally

You can’t be what you can’t see. – Marian Wright Edelman

 (bryan farley)

On Sunday, January 27, 2019, California Senator Kamala Harris officially launched her 2020 presidential campaign at Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf introduced Harris in front of City Hall. According to various reports, the Oakland Police Department estimated more than 20,000 people attended.

Photo Gallery Slideshow

 (bryan farley)

Harris established herself as a leading candidate, but it’s early. The evening that Harris launched her campaign, Howard Schultz (almost) announced that he was running as an Independent. A few days later, the federal government reopened. President Trump finally delivered the State of the Union address. By the time the first votes are cast next February in Iowa, Virginia might… I don’t know about Virginia.

 (bryan farley)

I attended the event with two student journalists. In the photo above, high school student Ivan Garcia is photographing Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. Libby introduced and endorsed Senator Harris. I talked with the Lt. Governor and her husband Markos Kounalakis, but I didn’t ask them who they were endorsing. Instead, I asked the Second Gentleman if his title changed when the Governor and the First Partner were out of the state.

 (bryan farley)

In 2011, California’s current First Partner Jennifer Seibel Newsom released a documentary Miss Representation. The Marian Wright Edelman quote at the top of this post appears in the film. It’s a main theme of the documentary. I wonder if it influences how I document events.

I often take different pictures of different people at different places doing different things. I try to help some people be seen.

 

 (bryan farley)

Having worked on campaigns many years ago, I know that campaign staff are hustling during a big event. Having grown up with a father in law enforcement, I know that police officers appear calm, even when working. Both groups are focused and working hard, even if they appear different.

 (bryan farley)

The people behind the camera are rarely seen, but I see them. Sometimes I forget that I am a photographer, and yet I wonder how photographers do it. Who are these people? Why do they arrive early, stand in one place and wait for hours?

I can’t stand still, so I need to keep moving. I also loaned my telephoto lens to the student photographer so that he could have some better shots and stand in the same place.

 (bryan farley)

While the crowd was walking into the seated area, a reporter asked me what I did. At first, I didn’t have an answer. I almost never have an answer. Then, State Senator Nancy Skinner walked up to the Lt. Governor. Soon, Libby Schaaf and the Lt. Governor visited, and I photographed both of them. I turned to the reporter and said something like, “There, that’s what I do. Some of the leading women politicians in California are talking to each other in front of us, and I photographed them and talked to them. I helped the student journalist meet another leader. That’s what I do.”

And I asked the Second Gentleman a question he had never been asked.

 

 (bryan farley)

I will remember the Marian Wright Edelman line in the future, because I need it to remind me that I am doing something useful. I am helping document future leaders and future storytellers. I have a purpose.

Sometimes I go crazy when I am at a large event like this, but not because I am in a crowd. I wonder why I am the only person talking to California’s first woman Lieutenant Governor. I start double checking the internet, even though I met her the previous week. (Is she really our Lieutenant Governor?) Are reporters uninterested? Are they unable to see that women can be leaders? Do I see something that others don’t?

 (bryan farley)

I often fear that I am missing something. At an event like this, I start searching for Jennifer Seibel Newsom and Jennifer Granholm (both Californian’s who have an acting history, if my internet searches are correct.) Are they in disguise? While I think that is possible, they could probably appear as themselves and be still be ignored.

 (bryan farley)

Change takes time AND effort. Political rallies are not often portrayed realistically. For many people, the rally was memorable; for some, it was boring. For many people, it was memorable and boring. That’s normal.

 (bryan farley)

It’s also normal that I keep documenting these stories, even if I am only writing for my mom and my children. It’s important that they know I can see what is possible, even if others don’t believe it yet. Anyway, if only for my daughter, that is enough. Today she turns 15. It’s important that she can see what she can be.