Oakland School Board shuts out Black, Brown and Poor children


Tiny - Posted on 16 February 2022

OUSD - STOP THE CLOSURE OF OAKLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS

By Momii Palapaz/Elder Poverty Skola

 

 

It’s day 16 of Moses Omalade and Andre San-Chez's HUNGER STRIKE protesting the closure of over 20 middle schools. I went to visit them at Westlake Middle School and support their dedication to the students. Both are employees of Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). Camped out in front of the Westlake Middle School on Harrison Avenue in Oakland, both were experiencing the effects of hunger. According to Dr. Rupa Marya, (writer Annie Vainshtein of the SF Chronicle reported),” their bodies were starting to go through ketosis, where the body starts metabolizing its own fat and glucose stores.”

 

Times have surely changed in the 55 years since I’ve been in junior high. Back then, 95% of Benjamin Franklin Junior High population in San Francisco was Black 7th to 9th graders. The other 5% was Japanese, Chinese, a few whites and mixed nationalities. We had a photography club, a lot of school activities, and trips to other parts of San Francisco, like Chinatown, and North to Muir Woods. It was the best experience of a school I remember. I am saddened today at the loss and limitations of what has been taken from young people’s lives.  I do not envy what they have to go through. I know that many have given up and just couldn’t wait for graduation.

 

After the OUSD decided a few weeks ago to close up to 20 schools, children all over Oakland and their families have come out to protest the elimination of their school. Hundreds of 9-12 years olds are asking why the schools are closing. Friday afternoon, February 4, 2022, Oscar Grant Plaza was filled with children, their families, and supporters rallying against the fake excuse of economic losses of OUSD. Actually, schools that have already closed are left idle, becoming new properties to develop. More ways to steal mother earth.  

 

 

 

Andre San-Chez, Westlake Middle School Choir Director responding to my question about some parents and administrators wondering why a hunger strike. "It's teaching people - be compassionate, stand up for what is true and right.” Children and their families desperately need and deserve stability. The area of Westlake Middle School is experiencing an unprecedented invasion of mostly white middle and upper incom, real estate predators and tech adventurers. It is threatening the makeup of a quickly disappearing community of working class, low income Black and Brown people.

 

Throughout the 26 years I have been living in Oakland at the same apartment, rent control has always been a struggle to maintain and secure. In the past ten years, luxury condo developments have dominated the housing market. In a 50 block stretch on Broadway, there is not one building that is destined for low income families and long time residents. All this, plus rising rets, loss of rent control buildings, pandemic shut down shock, rising child care costs, food price increases, and more, compound the anxiety and stress, instability, and confusion.  The threat of middle school closures is a further assault and the Black and Brown communities are the target. This school will not fit into the plan of gentrification in Oakland.

 

 

“Look around Oakland”, said Andre, “too many people are out on the street because they’re in a lower income tax bracket…those less fortunate and oppressed, specifically by the upper middle class people, the wealthy.” We completed the interview with Andre recalling the thank yous from his students and an emotional rendition of his class singing, “We don’t talk about Bruno”, a song from the film Encanto. “It represents the underlying stigma, problem we don’t talk about,” said Andre.  

 

Children are being tossed around from home not knowing where they will go. We need schools like POOR Magazine’s DeeColonize Academy, where teaching encourages stability, genuine compassion, writing stories and relaying life experiences, and growing youth leaders and problem solvers.

 

On Tuesday, February 8, 2022, Board members of the OUSD voted 4-3 to close 15 schools.  Although Westlake Middle School is one of a few sites not destined for closure, Andre and Moses continue their fight for all the targeted students forced to move.  

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