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Back at Mack to Pay it Back

McClymonds High School (Oakland, California) defeated Salesian High 33-22 on Friday September 12, 2014 in Oakland. McClymonds moves to 3-0 on the season. (bryan farley)

Have you heard the expression Pay it Forward? In the right context, it is actually a nice idea. People deposit acts of kindness into a karma bank, and somehow the universe knows when we need a return favor. Sometimes I “Pay it Forward,” but I did not visit McClymonds High School on September 12, 2014 to Pay it Forward. I am a sports fan who loves history. I will never be able to pay back the McClymonds community for their contributions to sports, art, and civil rights.

McClymonds High School (Oakland, California) defeated Salesian High 33-22 on Friday September 12, 2014 in Oakland. McClymonds moves to 3-0 on the season. (bryan farley)

When I arrived at McClymonds High School in Oakland to photograph the game between the McClymonds High Warriors and the Selesian High Pride from Richmond, I found my friend Coach Joe. Joe was one of the coaches when my daughter ran track. We visited the locker room and started taking pictures. Here are my photographs.

McClymonds High School (Oakland, California) defeated Salesian High 33-22 on Friday September 12, 2014 in Oakland. McClymonds moves to 3-0 on the season. (bryan farley)

I have been inside McClymonds several times and each time I am intimidated, and not because of the location, but by the history. In the 1950’s, Bill Russell, Frank Robinson, Curt Flood and Vida Pinson attended McClymonds. Vida Pinson is merely a four time all-star and Golden Glove outfielder, while the other three revolutionized their sports. Pinson was a Major League All-Star and he is a distant fourth on this list.

McClymonds High School (Oakland, California) defeated Salesian High 33-22 on Friday September 12, 2014 in Oakland. McClymonds moves to 3-0 on the season. (bryan farley)

Curt Flood changed professional TEAM sports. (He challenged the reserve clause that kept players with one team.) Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, arguably the greatest winner in all of team sports. He was the first African-American NBA basketball coach and he was a professional commentator. He won two championships as a college player and 11 as a pro. Frank Robinson won MLB Rookie of the Year, MVP in both leagues, the Triple Crown, and he was the first African-American major league manager (in both leagues.)

McClymonds High School (Oakland, California) defeated Salesian High 33-22 on Friday September 12, 2014 in Oakland. McClymonds moves to 3-0 on the season. (bryan farley)

I find the McClymonds students from the 1950’s especially relevant since you may have heard that “Oakland is the New Brooklyn.” No offense to the people of Brooklyn, but I am a lifelong Dodger fan. I know how this story ends. Star athlete changes the world. The team moves and the city loses its identity and cultural heroes.

McClymonds High School (Oakland, California) defeated Salesian High 33-22 on Friday September 12, 2014 in Oakland. McClymonds moves to 3-0 on the season. (bryan farley)

McClymonds and Oakland have not moved. Why have we forgotten our heroes? How do we pay back Mack?

2014 Sonoma County College Fair

Before I became a father, I started working for a photography college as an admissions officer.  I thought that I would work for Brooks Institute for a year and then return to teaching. My life changed and I remained at Brooks for nearly five school years. Now I have a ten year old daughter and an eight year old son. I returned to teaching (a few times), but I never completely left college admissions. Earlier this month, I took my two children to the Sonoma County College and Career Readiness Fair that I helped start. I wanted my kids to learn about “my college fair,” and begin learning about the different college options. You can see more photos from the 2014 Sonoma County College and Career Ready Fair here.

 (bryan farley)

Of course, I do not own the college fair. It is not really mine. Chris Vetrano, one of the Windsor High School assistant principals, calls me the founder of the Sonoma County College Fair. (see photo #43) Even the term founder distorts my role in the creation of the college fair. Chris and the current Sonoma County Superintendent Steven Herrington deserve more credit for starting the fair and much more credit for its continuation.)

 (bryan farley)

On the drive from Oakland to Windsor, California, I tried to explain to my children what I do (or did) as a founder. Basically, I was the middleman. Other people did all the work before and after. I took several ends of electrical chords and tried to connect them. I try to do this often. This time it worked.

 (bryan farley)

When I was a college admissions officer, I was ambivalent about college fairs. I loved meeting students and family members. I enjoyed answering questions that would help people prepare for their future. However, I also remember being frustrated that I was often asked many unimportant questions. Educators, myself included, were not preparing students to succeed in college. We were teaching them how to do well on tests, but not how to think once students arrived at a university.

 (bryan farley)

I gave my son my second camera and let him walk around both gyms. Even though he is only 8, I was impressed by what he saw. (I posted some of his photos on my other blog.) He noticed the marketing. He saw the colors and candy. What does this tell us?

 (bryan farley)

In the last month, I have returned to teaching photography again. I am at a new school and my students have returned to their old school. I have attended two different Back to School nights, one as a teacher and one as a parent. While I still wonder if we could prepare our students better, I am impressed by how many people care for our children… people we will never meet care deeply about our children.

Oakland Pride Parade and Labor Day

This recent Labor Day weekend, I took my kids and my camera to the Oakland Pride Parade. We walked with our Episcopal Church and several other religious groups. Many mayoral candidates, including Mayor Jean Quan, attended the parade. I took pictures. (HERE is my photo gallery!) While I was walking around before the parade, somebody asked my affiliation. Perhaps the person wanted to know if I worked for a publication or politician. I interpreted their question differently, “How did I become a member of a church group at a pride parade?”

Here is the oversimplified version:

I joined a political campaign, because a politician offended me by something she said in a church.

I joined a church because of something my candidate said while campaigning for Congress.

  (bryan farley)

Yesterday was Labor Day. Besides being an official holiday, Labor Day Weekend is the unofficial last weekend of Summer. When I was a kid, Labor Day was the last day before school. In 1994, when I worked in political campaigns briefly, Labor Day was the unofficial start of the campaign season. So much has changed since I was a kid. So much has changed since I worked for Walter Capps‘ first Congressional campaign.

Please read more in my Notes on a Blog section on my old blog.

 (bryan farley)

I lucked into working for Walter. Everyone called him by his first name, even though he was a UC Santa Barbara professor whose popular course on Vietnam had been featured three times by 60 Minutes. I met the Capps’ family through my friend Reza Garajedaghi. Reza, who fled Iran as a child, spoke at Walter’s Voices of a Stranger course. I did not trust politicians, but since Reza trusted the Capps family, I kept giving them another chance. The Capps family was so gracious, they allowed me to stay around despite my continual lack of trust.

 (bryan farley)

You know how most Congressional seats are uncontested? This was one of the Congressional races that decided which party would control the House of Representatives. Supposedly, our campaign had the most volunteers of any campaign in the country. It was electric.

 (bryan farley)

Still, I hesitated to quit my full-time job to join the campaign until I heard the tape. Someone played the tape for me before it went public. At first I thought it was a joke. Andrea Seastrand was already a state representative when she spoke to the church about all of the evil that existed in California. Seastrand said, “I think California has been given so many signs” and referenced the recent Northridge earthquake as an example. Twenty years later, I struggle with her comments. Her explanation might be worse than her initial speech.

“God is not punishing us, he is just not blessing us.”

Did Seastrand just say that God is not blessing California?  Look, if you are not religious and you are not from California, this is not an issue, but … as the shirt says, What?

 (bryan farley)

High pressure political campaigns are strange. West Wing actually is close to reality, except that there are not that many close Congressional Campaigns. In 1994, PAC’s, or Political Action Committees would send candidates questionnaires. Someone on the staff would research the questions and discuss them with the candidate and campaign manager. I remember there was one from a beer political action committee. It might have been called 6 PAC.

 (bryan farley)

When our campaign received a questionnaire that asked our position on gay marriage, some of the staff wanted to avoid answering. We even hoped to have a party line response that said something about respecting rights but not marriage. In 1994, a candidate could pass with this answer, especially when the other candidate was Andrea Seastrand. Since I had been hired to coordinate more liberal constituencies, including the LBGT community, I asked that we take the question to Walter.

 (bryan farley)

Walter attended church regularly. He was a religious studies professor. He knew theology better than most Congressional candidates in 1994. He also understood the political risks. I believe that he made his decision about gay marriage based on his belief that “Democracy is born in conversation.” Lois Capps, his wife and the current US Representive, refers to his philosophy during her remarks in the Coming Home video.

 (bryan farley)

Walter talked to people. He was not necessarily a great public speaker, but he was an excellent public listener.  He encouraged conversation and he actually listened, so that when he chose to speak, he knew what to he wanted to say. At one campaign event, he spoke to a group of mostly gay men. When he was asked about gay marriage, instead of equivocating about civil rights, he used the civil rights question to emphasize his support for gay rights.  Walter said that gay and lesbian Americans should have equal rights under the 14th Amendment. Gay and Lesbians should have the same rights that straight people have. When someone asked if he meant civil unions instead of marriage, he said no. Why should it be different?

 (bryan farley)

 

I do not remember the phrasing exactly, but I remember it changed Central Coast politics. Some people might say it caused the earth to shake. Walter’s support changed the way many people saw politicians. It changed how I saw politicians and how I saw church people. Soon after the election, I found a church that welcomed me by supporting my friends right to marry… and twenty years later on Labor Day weekend I think about the work that Walter has done and the work left undone and I think about the long shadow Walter Capps cast on my life. When life gets difficult, as it often does, I try to remember to Keep Calm and March On.