Distance Learning, Halfway Across the World: Photo Essay By Cadence Patrick

Editor’s Note: A year ago, schools physically closed and a form of distance learning ensued. To mark this past year, we are sharing photo essays by Oakland students. We partnered with Oakland School for the Arts’ Digital Media Department and teachers Ryan Sin, Lauren Scully, and Liam O’Connor. OSA is a public charter school in Oakland focusing on the arts. We invited photojournalist and East Bay Times staff photographer Ray Chavez to present workshops to students. The students took many photos this past year, documenting an aspect of life during the pandemic while schools were physically closed.

Below, Oakland School for the Arts senior Cadence Patrick’s photo essay demonstrates a cross-global move during the pandemic, a 14-day quarantine in Australia, and looking at the world through the eyes of her younger sister.

In September of 2020, I left California with my dad, stepmom, brother, and sister. In June 2020, the political unrest and racial violence in the U.S. led my parents to make the difficult decision to relocate me and my siblings. As a Black teenage boy, my brother was constantly at risk living in the U.S., and the threat of anti-Black violence was something that my family wanted to protect him from in any way they could. The ability to move halfway across the world, although done out of necessity, is a privilege—one that I am so grateful for. My stepmom is an Australian citizen, and her immediate family has been living there for years, so that’s where we went. It has been a difficult shift for me and my siblings, but we’re figuring it out as we go. I’ve been able to see the bright sides through the eyes of my sister.

a young girl with curly hair smiles at the camera
a young girl walks down the steps from an apartment

Saying goodbye to our home of five years on September 6th, 2020. My sister, Dejanah — four years old at the time — loves being in my photos.

a white and black mask hang on a wall together

The masks that my dad and sister had been using hang on the wall next to the door. My sister’s was given to her by her friend back in California. We spent the mandatory two-week quarantine adjusting to the time difference.

a black and white photo of young girl playing on the floor with a doll
a black and white photo of girl in curly pigtails in front of big hotel window

After the two weeks were up, we were able to move out of the hotel. 

a black and white photo of girl with curly pigtails wearing oversized jacket

We arrived at the house we were staying in until we found a more permanent place. Dejanah is always excited to see new places. Dejanah was cold, so I gave her my jacket. (It wasn’t really that cold.) 

Sticking together as a family is what’s helped us get through the past few months. 

a soft image of five year old laying her head on the kitchen table while her stepmom is in the background

During the move, my stepmom has been my sister’s #1 supporter. My sister says the kitchen reminds her of the one we had back in Alameda, only bigger and brighter.

a woman wearing tank top is smiling at a small child, who is smiling back

Right now, I’m trying to see the world through my sister’s eyes — she is observant and analytical, but she makes everything so much more fun. Capturing her energy and positivity over the past few months makes me smile, and I love her for that. My sister now attends in-person school in Sydney. She started second grade in January, and she loves it — being able to interact with her classmates and kids her age is an opportunity that she might not have had otherwise. 

a sunset, a young girl wearing a pink shirt and blue leggings runs and smiles

Spending my senior year distance learning has been an unexpected experience, to say the least. There is so much I miss about in-person school and California in general, but I’m thankful for the work my teachers and classmates have done to keep our spirits up as much as we can.

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