Here is the video from yesterdays student and teacher panel in the City of Brentwood held on Tuesday in City Park. The panel was approximately 2-hours and was streamed online.
Uplift and Amplify is a collective who described itself as a group of individuals in Brentwood, Oakley, and Antioch consisting of students with a mission to help uplift the voices of marginalized communities in the East Bay by hearing and understanding their experiences with racism, oppression and discrimination with a focus on restorative justice and community engagement they seek equitable solutions.
Imonikhe Braimah kicked off the session by providing data.
Suspension Rate – State of California
- White Students: 2.9%
- African American Students: 8.8%
Suspension Rate – Liberty Union High School District
- White Students: 2.8%
- African American Students: 10.5%
In 2017, over 13% (1 in every 8) African American students were suspended by LUHSD schools. In 2019, suspensions for white students decreased while suspensions for African American students increased. He continued by explaining the LUHSD continues to practice Willful Defiance” while others have banned it for all school levels.
Braimah shared “healthy kids” survey data through LCAP which showed students within LUSHD showing African American students reported a lower sense of connectiveness with schools: (9th Grade = 46%, 11th grade = 45%) than all students 57% and 52% respectively.
A video was shown providing testimony from students of what is going on in the schools along with hundreds others they have collected.
Ariel Ryan shared that they had testimony shared by teachers, however, some of the comments were pulled as they were scared for job security.
Antioch Unified School District Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White spoke sharing she witnessed the protests at the Liberty Union High School District highlighting an administrator who was demoted.
“I was really surprised that the teachers are ignoring the students emotional racial slurs that they are experiencing in the classroom,” stated Sawyer-White. “I have kids in the Antioch School District and its not much better. Its in the surrounding cities, its all over. It’s happening in Oakley, its happening in Brentwood, its happening in Antioch, Discovery Bay.”
Sawyer-White highlighted the need for a change in the hiring practices and hire teachers, principals, board members who look like the students. She also encouraged more of these types f forums.
A panel discussion then occurred at around the 1-hour mark which included students, 4th grade teachers Allison Popovich and Tyler Rust (a former teacher at Liberty Union High School District)
Dr. Lamont Francies, who last year served as the assistant principal at Liberty High School, spoke calling race one of the most important issues of our time and many people don’t know how it operates and how it works.
“Racism is seldom personal, its institutional and structural. Its power plus privilege,” said Francies. “When you have that kind of system, privilege plus power, you have institutional racism. Many people will say I am not racist because I have a black friend, or I talk to a black person or I coach black people, but I can be married to my wife and I can still be a sexist and we can sleep in the same bed every night. So just being closed to woman doesn’t mean I can’t be sexist and just because I am close to a black person or person of color doesn’t mean you cannot be a racist. The heartbeat of racism is denial.”
Francies went on to explain the “heartbeat of racism is denial” and one must first confess you have a little bit of racism in yourself—everyone needs to do self-reflection. He also challenged why the black man is devalued and life and deified in death.
“If we can come out here for a black man that is no longer out here, if you can do that for a black man that is dead, what will you do for the black man that is still living,” asked Francies.
Francies further highlighted how every system out there produces what it was designed to produce, which there is an education system out there designed to keep black and brown as a permanent underclass.
He encouraged people to begin to start voting, reading books that challenge who you are and looking at how racism operates and racial hierarchy and what they can do to fix it.
A Zoom meeting will be held on Saturday with more testimony and more conversations.
For those who would like more information: [email protected]