Practicing Diversity in Abandoned Buildings

On Saturday November 7, 2015, I photographed Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s 50th Birthday Gala at the Old West Oakland Train Station. Mayor Schaaf celebrated her birthday by having a fundraiser for the East Bay College Fund. The 50th Oakland mayor raised money for 50 scholarships.

See my slideshow of the 113 year old building and the birthday gala.

 (bryan farley)

Before I left my house, I read a Knute Rockne quote in Justine Gubar’s book Fanaticus.

One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than a hundred teaching it.

 (bryan farley)

 Knute Rockne, who was born in 1888, was a young man when the 16th Street Station opened in 1914. For Schaaf’s birthday, I thought that I might repackage Rockne’s quote and apply it to diversity.

One person practicing diversity is far better than one hundred people teaching it.

 (bryan farley)


Even though the event was about diversity and education, it was more about “practicing diversity” than teaching it. I did not hear anyone mention the shallow quote about closing the achievement gap. Instead, I could feel the ghosts of the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters. We connected with the past struggles; I could feel the energy from those who had advanced equity generations earlier.

 (bryan farley)There was also an optimism that comes with practicing diversity. While many of us have high expectations for youth of color, there were also discussions about increasing expectations for high-income students. Do we have enough faith in upper-class white students that we believe they could thrive in low-performing public schools? Do we believe in all students enough or must we continue to isolate high-income students?

 (bryan farley)

I really enjoyed most of the event, but there was one unforgettable moment. I had access to photograph the entire event, but I never received a photo pass identifying me as an official photographer. I walked behind the stage often with the VIP’s and staff. I was only stopped once… by a young woman of color. She was the only person who stopped me. She was firm too. I was actually pleased that she felt comfortable enough to challenge me, especially in a building with so much history, at a time when we must continue to practice diversity.

3 Responses to “Practicing Diversity in Abandoned Buildings”

  1. Alice says:

    Just checking in.
    Thanks for the view.

  2. bryan farley says:

    Hello Mom,

    I am glad that I can continue giving you something to stick on the refrigerator door… by the way, if you look through the 218 photo slideshow, there was a young musical group called “Sisters’ Keeper.” I selected 218 photos for 2/18.

    I love you,

  3. […] I have also photographed an event inside the 16th Street Station. On November 7, 2015, I photographed a fundraiser when Mayor Libby Schaaf celebrated her 50th birthday at the historic site.  […]