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MLA Song and Dance

On Thursday March 5th, Melrose Leadership Academy held the first TK-5th Grade Choral Concert in Oakland, California. (You can view a photo gallery of The Choral Concert here.) Earlier this school year, MLA held its annual Dance-a-thon. (I have included dance-a-thon images at the bottom and a gallery here.) Since today is International Women’s Day and yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I thought that I would revisit a quote painted on one of the murals where my two children attend school… the quote is about dancing across bridges.

Si no puedo bailar tu revolución no me interesa – Emma Goldman

 (bryan farley)

Melrose Leadership Academy is a dual immersion public school in Oakland. (It is not a charter school.) The kids at MLA are smarter than I am. I can only speak English, and I often forget how to speak and write in my first (and only) language. When my daughter translated the Goldman quote into English for me, I understood that Goldman was advising advocates that social movements needed charisma. If you can’t dance at the revolution, why bother?

 (bryan farley)

We bother. We dance and sing at Melrose Leadership Academy. We enjoy ourselves, but we also work hard. The kids work hard too. When we have events (and we have many), students prepare. When events finish, students clean up. It takes a village to cross bridges.

 (bryan farley)

Oakland has been called “The New Brooklyn.” I don’t know what this means. When I hear the reference, I think that someone is fixing to sell me a bridge. No offense to Brooklyn, but it isn’t even Harlem (or Selma). On my other blog, I have been contemplating whether Oakland is becoming the New Topeka. Some decent New Oaklanders learned how to maintain a segregated school system by any means necessary, either by crossing a bridge to another district or by building a bridge that would separate their children from lives that matter less than their own children.

 (bryan farley)

Would I have been brave enough to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years ago? I doubt it. Is public education the Pettus Bridge of today? I am less certain of this question, but it feels like a bridge to cross. In the East Bay, we have built another segregated school system. We might call our New Topeka “school choice” or “neighborhood school” or another term that does not pass the smell test, but we know that our grandchildren will ask us in 50 years where we stood.

 (bryan farley)

Life Magazine covered Bloody Sunday. You can almost hear the clubs striking the bones. You can feel the attitudes changing when the images became public. The news reports yesterday were overwhelmingly positive. The marchers inspired everyone, or nearly everyone, from Fox News to MSNBC.

 (bryan farley)

The time changed during the night. We lost an hour (or we gained an hour.) Time changes that way. We lose an hour and we gain an hour… and then we seem to give it back again. We lose and gain. As children grow up, they watch adults. Children learn from our actions and benefit from our sacrifices. There have been many Bloody Sunday’s. The band U2 wrote a song about a different Bloody Sunday that includes the line,

“We eat and drink so tomorrow they die….”

It’s tomorrow.

With Love From Me to OUSD

The last time I attended an Oakland Unified School Board meeting, I taught at an OUSD elementary school. I was an active Oakland Education Association (OEA) union member. People read newspapers. Nobody had a Facebook profile. Board meetings were held in the old district office, but everything else felt oddly familiar.

 (bryan farley)

If anyone is interested, they could probably find an old Oakland Tribune article titled “The Classroom Shuffle.” A reporter learned about classroom consolidation and how it disrupts entire schools six weeks into the school year. Consolidation almost always occurred at low-income/ low-performing schools. It was like a Twilight Zone episode. I could not continue teaching for a district that allowed consolidation to continue. One night I was called by someone who I believe tried to warn me. He told me that if I kept exposing the situation I would lose my job. I kept exposing. I lost my job. Was it related? I will probably never know. I know that it was worth it. I ask a great deal of my students and children. Besides, I found photography again.

 (bryan farley)

I also stayed in Oakland and had two children. We found an innovative OUSD school that is often mistaken for a charter. Our kids have learned Spanish. Our kids have learned art. Our kids have learned how to dance and build a community. Our kids have learned that diversity is a dynamic power that changes lives. Diversity breathes and builds bridges.

 (bryan farley)

When our teachers decided to “work to rule” recently, the teachers informed families how this would impact the community. We met after school. On the Saturday “work day,” families created signs showing support.

 (bryan farley)

When I was a teacher, I realized that parents held more power than teachers. Now that I am a parent, I question my wisdom. Who holds the power? Is it the mayor? Is it the Board? Is it the union or the parents? What about the children?

 (bryan farley)We all seem too busy to listen to everyone. Honestly, I do not want to listen to everyone, but I pretend that I am a good listener. I just want to wait until I am ready to speak… and I am not ready yet. I have waited for thirteen years, so I can wait a little longer.

 (bryan farley)

My favorite poster illustrates the disconnect between the children’s optimism and the district’s lack of confidence. While OUSD prepared evidence to support their future failure, a young MLA student created a poster that read, “Save The Ocean.” I suspect that some people ignored her sign or dismissed her message as something a little child might create. I thought of it differently.

 (bryan farley)Even a child could sense that those in charge were unmotivated and she knew that Oakland could do better, so she asked for more. We went to the meeting asking to save our teachers, but it was not enough, so she turned up the volume. So, 14% and two languages is not enough for you? How about we save the dolphins too?

But it’s gonna take a lot of love…And love is a whole lot of work.

 (bryan farley)

If you want to see more photos, you can view the photo gallery here.

If I write more about this post, I will add a new “Notes on a Post” at www.morethankids.com

 

 

 

 

Mayors Lives Matter

 (Bryan Farley)

One month ago today, Libby Schaaf became Oakland’s 50th mayor. The Inauguration Ceremony was pure Oakland. She rode into office in a Burning Man snail car; she was met at the Paramount Theater by sharp dressed protesters and journalists. (I would like to think that I was both a sharp dressed protester and a journalist, but those days have probably passed me by.)

 (Bryan Farley)

When I photographed the Inauguration Ceremony, I felt “cautiously ambivalent.” There was an odd tension between the protesters and the newly elected officials. The elected officials were probably more optimistic. They invited their children and parents onstage during their speeches. Inauguration day is full of hope. (Did the new board members realize that they had become part of The Establishment?)

 (Bryan Farley)

I could have photographed the protesters all day. The heightened tension combined with intense visual imagery. The bright colorful walls and stoicism emphasized contradictions. (Additionally, one recently re-elected city council member appeared to protest her own inauguration.)

 (Bryan Farley)

Desley Brooks is now my Oakland City Council person after recent redistricting. She was re-elected to a fourth term in November.

 (Bryan Farley)

Annie Campbell-Washington was my OUSD School Board Member before the recent redistricting. She was elected to the City Council in November.

 (Bryan Farley)

Libby Shaaf’s introduction lasted for an entire week with “Made in Oakland” events. Governor Jerry Brown, a former Oakland Mayor, attended Libby’s Inaugural Festival at American Steel Studios and saw the snail car.

 (Bryan Farley)

As I have been preparing this post, I remembered when I moved to Oakland and when I first met the current Governor. He was gracious at a time when I was more concerned about just trying to make it in Oakland. I wonder how future generations will remember this period in our city’s history. We have strong companies in the background. Oakland is the home of the University of California. We have stylish activists and experienced politicians.

Will this be the time “When Oakland was in Vogue?”

Note 2/22/15: I had more to write about this post and the following post, so I published a Messages to a Message blog post that explores how much Black Lives Matter to white people living in Oakland. The post will be available at www.morethankids.com. I also edited this post tonight, because it was a little sloppy.