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





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 I also edited this post tonight, because it was a little sloppy.

Hot Couture 2015 The Crucible Oakland

Before I continue writing about Hot Couture 2015, I should include a disclaimer. I wore a beanie both nights to the annual fashion show at The Crucible in Oakland.

The Crucible's Hot Couture 2015 fashion show is held on January 9 and 10, 2015 in Oakland, California. The avante garde fashion show features local artists and celebrates the four elements: air, earth, fire and water. (bryan farley)I do not know a lot about fashion, but I know that I was not fashionable. This year’s theme was “Air/ Earth/ Fire/ Water.”

The Crucible's Hot Couture 2015 fashion show is held on January 9 and 10, 2015 in Oakland, California. The avante garde fashion show features local artists and celebrates the four elements: air, earth, fire and water. (bryan farley)I did not remember seeing any of the models wearing beanies, but there were many hats and headpieces.

The Crucible's Hot Couture 2015 fashion show is held on January 9 and 10, 2015 in Oakland, California. The avante garde fashion show features local artists and celebrates the four elements: air, earth, fire and water. (bryan farley)I know enough about photography that I thought about “The Fashionable Gordon Parks” and his fashion photography while I shot and edited. Parks photographed runways without flash photography. He used movement to his advantage. His New York fashion pictures captures something real and artistic. Perhaps that is the nature of fashion. It is art and reality.

 (bryan farley)Last year when I photographed the fashion show, I was inspired by designers. Occasionally I return to my three posts from last year when I need motivation. My third post, “Fire and Flight,” discusses how artists are their own muse. If you look closely at the link, you will see “A Whisper from a Muse.” I like how that sounded, but I since it was a whisper, I left the line quiet.


There are two galleries this year.

Day 1 is here.

Day 2 is here.

When I find more time, I will probably add a blog notes section on I may also write more about Gordon Parks and his fashion photography and his images that resemble Air/ Earth/ Fire/ Water.