This online-only content supplements the article "Decolonizing School Systems: Racial Justice, Radical Healing, and Educational Equity inside Oakland Unified School District" by Christopher P. Chatmon and Vajra M. Watson in VUE 48.
AAMA’s Guiding Metaphor: Cleaning Up the Pond
We liken the school system to a pond that is polluted. To date, AAMA has focused on four key conditions: harsh discipline, unequipped teachers, biased curriculum, and the media’s negative portrayal of African American males. Building on the pond metaphor, African American students cannot thrive in toxic school environments.
We are determined to clean up the pond. Since cleaning the pond involves multiple approaches over long periods of time, AAMA strives to detoxify the water while simultaneously safeguarding the students. To put it another way, AAMA’s strategy is to inoculate the fish so that they have a chance to survive and grow while the system as a whole is slowly improving.
The Office of Equity and Its Initiatives
The Office of Equity energizes, inspires, and empowers students and staff at all levels of the district to actively disrupt inequities, examine biases, and create inclusive and just conditions. Towards this end, the Office of Equity:
1. Ensures improved (and continuously improving) outcomes for AA, LA, API students;
2. Develops new initiatives that address systemic inequities associated with race, gender, and class;
3. Supports improved outcomes for groups of students that have historically been underserved by the school system.
The African American Female Excellence initiative is being led by Nzingha Dugas, and began with a 100-day listening campaign and a community report out of findings. Similarly, Lailan Huen now serves as the inaugural director for the Asian Pacific Islander Student Achievement (APISA) initiative. She graduated from OUSD and is a long-time educator and an active member of the API community. Raquel Jimenez has taken the helm as the Director of Latino/a Student Achievement. As she wrote in her first newsletter, “In full appreciation of those who have stepped up to preserve, defend, and lovingly teach our cultures, histories, knowledge and ways of life, it is my honor to serve as the inaugural Oakland Unified School District, Office of Equity, Director of Latino/a Student Achievement (LSA).”
These new directors of their respective units are joining a ferocious and fearless community of equity warriors, such as Jerome Gourdine (who was promoted and now serves as the Director of AAMA), Jahi Torman (Program Manager), Baayan Bakari (Curriculum Specialist), Lamar Hancock (Literacy Specialist) and others.
Inputs and Expected Outcomes: Key Strategies of the Office of Equity
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