On Monday, August 3, the Journey 4 Justice Alliance organized a National Day of Resistance against calls from the Federal government to prematurely reopen schools. Protests demanding “Ed Equity or Else” were held in over 30 cities nationwide.
Launched in 2012, Journey 4 Justice is a nationwide alliance of multigenerational, people of color-led grass-roots organizations fighting against the privatization of public education.
Locally, the Oakland Public Education Network (OPEN) held a socially-distanced rally in front of the historic Paul Robeson building, which used to house the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) headquarters. The protest then moved by car caravan into downtown where they briefly rallied in front of the commercial office building OUSD has leased office space for its central administration staff in recent years.
Oakland Voices chatted with four of the activists to see why they were protesting and what they hope to see.
Ben Tapscott, Retired Educator and Coach
“I’m here today because I’ve been asked by the community to come out of retirement and run for Oakland school board district 7. We’ve had eight years of school board members that are bought and paid for, and we want to return the school board back to the community, parents, and students. The inequities that exist in the city of Oakland need to be addressed, and we are fighting for equality and justice, and I’m used to getting into good trouble. We have a great opportunity to have a beautiful school system in Oakland if we put kids first, and also we need to focus on the correlation between reading scores and incarceration.”
Noura Khouri, Oakland resident and community organizer
“I am here because I care about a moral budget that reflects community needs, and I believe in the importance of public education as the basis for a healthy, functioning society. I became involved in education when I was working with the Green Party in 2016 and learned about Oakland’s move towards charters and privatization, along with OUSD’s gross mismanagement of public funds. Now, the pandemic and complete lack of a plan by the Oakland school board to keep children safe underscores the urgency and importance of community involvement.”
Donneva Reid, Service Employees International Union(SEIU) Local 1021
“We’re here in solidarity with OEA (Oakland Education Association) and with the other organizations regarding ‘equity or else.’ It’s important that our schools open safely, and it’s important that the classified [workers] and other unions have the PPE that they need to be able to do their jobs. We’re here to support this effort and to make it known that it’s going to require the district to work and come up with solutions as we get closer to the opening of schools.”
Mike Hutchinson, Oakland Public Education Network
“We’re here today demanding ‘ed equity or else.’ Today is a national day of resistance, and thousands of people in thirty cities across the country are marching, demanding the safe, healthy, and equitable reopening of our schools. Here in Oakland, we have a coalition of people or organizations: OPEN, OEA, SEIU, DSA (Democratic Socialists of America), and other groups who have come together to demand those things in Oakland. School is supposed to start in seven days, and we have no plan in place. Families have not been notified what they’re even supposed to do on August 10, so we’ve organized this rally and car caravan.