On Tuesday evening, September 13, Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith did not tell a packed student center how to "talk with their kids about race," delivering a brilliant head-fake instead. She opened with a survey of research supporting the eixstence of Implicit Biases, and the impact those biases have on everyone. Then she presented a case for counteracting the pervasive negative imagery and narratives associated with people of color. (So pervasive, in fact, that even the nation's first black president blithely contributes to the narrative with false incarceration statistics -- yikes!) As she wrapped up her prepared remarks, highlighting some successful initiatives that actively change these negative perceptions, we come to realize that her own presentation has been doing precisely that: most if not all of the research she presented was by people of color -- nice.
But wait, what about talking to kids about all of this? To which she replied something like, "I don't know your kids. But you do, so you tell me how to talk to them." Which was a great segue to the Q&A, easily the most powerful segment of the evening, with so many poignant questions. Just to cite a couple:
And Dr. Briscoe-Smith's response to questions like these is profoundly empowering: Start by reminding yourselves of your family values -- "we are kind," or "we treat people with dignity" -- and proceed with empathy, honesty, and genuine curiosity. She also modeled some great responses of course, but was careful to point out that, like many acquired skills, talking comfortably to kids about race would take practice, and suggested parents try it out on like-minded friends and colleagues to build confidence.
Her insight on this subject is truly remarkable, and we have received overwhemingly positive feedback from people who were fortunate enough to attend the event. We're also hearing requests more resources. Fortunately, Dr. Briscoe-Smith has provided us with a rich trove of links, many from her website, some of which we're sharing below.
One of PADCs key strategic objectives is to bring the discussion of Implicit Bias out into the Piedmont Community. We can't think of a better way to start the year than this! Onward.
On Monday, January 18th, a few minutes before the OSA Chamber Choir filed onto stage to blow the roof off the Veterans Memorial Building, Cava Menzies suffered a shocking verbal assault from two audience members. She and her 32 students were packed into the catering galley area off to stage right. This area would normally have been reserved for staging, but had become makeshift overflow seating to accommodate the turnout.
First, one middle-aged white woman walked up to her to say that her students "were an embarrassment and need to learn some respect." Then a second woman jumped in saying, "you know, I'm a teacher too. You need to learn to control them. It's not that hard. Make them go outside." All this with her students and their parents watching. In Cava's own words, "It was unbelievable to experience that kind of condescension and entitlement only five minutes prior to us going on stage. I was shocked by the lack of compassion and respect for myself or my students from those particular guests."
Needless to say, this is a horrifying blight on our community. Such condescension and entitlement on a day of celebrating tolerance and humanity — the irony here is grimly poetic. And, of course, this was not just an assault on Cava, but also on the 32 students who had dedicated their day to serve our community by sharing music with us. Let us remember that these students commuted to us from East and West Oakland to participate in our event whose purpose was to promote and celebrate diversity. Is this the message we want to give our young people of color that come as visitors?
You may be tempted to downplay the racial overtones of this incident. Please don’t. What is not communicated in the summary of the encounter is tone of voice, body language, and overall demeanor of both women while speaking to Cava. Clearly, beyond just the language that was spoken, the way in which she was spoken to in front of her students was unacceptable. The specter of two privileged white women vying to put a successful black woman in her place, and to shame a talented group of student performers, most of whom are black, is blatant. The message, "You folks don’t belong inside here” is inescapable. We don’t know if these two women are racist or even if they are Piedmont residents. But the impact of their actions is undeniable. And, unfortunately, this behavior is not completely atypical in our community.
PADC is committed to spurring our community as a whole to discuss and reflect upon these questions. Will you join the conversation?
Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a forceful and progressive voice in Congress, dedicated to social and economic justice, international peace, and civil and human rights. First elected in 1998 to represent California’s then-9th Congressional District (now the 13th), the Democratic lawmaker has established a reputation for principled and independent stands, unafraid to take on the tough issues and speak her mind for her constituents, for a more just America, and for a safer world. As a social worker by profession, she has prioritized advocating for people dealing with the federal bureaucracy.
Assemblyman Tony Thurmond was elected to represent California’s 15th Assembly District in November 2014.
Cava Menzies, founding faculty member at the Oakland School of Arts, will direct The OSA Chamber Choir at our 2016 MLK Day Celebration. The group will perform a selection of powerful songs, opening with Glory from the movie Selma, by Common and John Legend.
Alex Bennett • Lauren Blakely • Jazz Broughton • Isabella Calderon • Genesis Chambers • Isaiah Chambers • Charlotte Cohen • Tatianna Cordoba • Daniel Fine-Salan • Sara Fitting • Satya Hawley • Julianne Horenstein • Anais Leal • Cerica Liam • Chelsea Loftus • Mia Matsuno • Florence Faith Matteson • Arianna Mittelbuscher • Shavon Moore • Michael Mueller • Lyla Neely • Brian Nervis II • Julissa Otenbriet • Divine Pongtorn • Ella Raffael • Caretha Richardson • Nava Rosenthal • Cataleya Sazo • Amy Schaffer • Lily Stevenson • Juliana Tucciarone • Zearah Tyson • Hedda Wikstrom • Asher Witkin • Cicoia Zelie
The Westlake Jazz Band, led by Piedmont resident Randy Porter, will be performing at our 2016 MLK Day Celebration. Members of Westlake's jazz ensemble and orchestra are working together to create music around this most relevant theme of social justice. The selections being played were performed last spring at Yoshi's, and we continually are able to reinforce the message that music is an obvious vehicle to learn about and to effect social change.
Leon Jones: voice, violin • Vernejah Walker: voice • Muwazu Maelianashantipuja Chisum-Misquitta: voice, tenor sax, clarinet • Daniel Martinez: trombone • Ariam Semere: guitar, viola • Peter Bawi: guitar • Jalen Chang: piano • Demi Oliva-Pacheco: bass, violin • Kennice Chen: viola • Miles Turk: drums
We are thrilled to welcome Together We Slam back to our MLK Day Celebration lineup. According to Head Coach John White, "These teens have something to say and they want to talk to you ..."
2 FREE Screenings
The Appreciating Diversity Film Series offers two free screenings of At the River I Stand, produced and directed by David Appleby, Alison Graham and Steven Ross. This poignant documentary set in Memphis, Tennessee during the 1960s, is a narrative about mobilization, determination and tragedy during the civil rights movement. It covers two very eventful months in 1968 that culminate with the success of the unionization of sanitation workers and the tragic death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis.
Many turned out on Friday October 2, 2015 at Downtown Wine Merchants in Oakland to meet PADC members and hear more about the work we do in the community and schools. It was a great evening at this fun uptown spot to socialize with friends and neighbors. We hope you plan on joining us next year, or for our next event!
Camera work by Alena Shure, edited by Piedmont High School students Quinn Porter and Lorenzo Rael.
To promote and practice inclusiveness, foster an appreciation of differences, and raise global awareness within Piedmont and surrounding communities.