By Nick Musni, Community Organizer
As February enters our rear-view mirror and we move forward to March, we reflect on this timely truth: To honor Black History, we must invest in Black futures.
On Tuesday, February 8, Oakland Unified School District’s Board of Education voted to close or merge 11 different schools. Four of the schools originally listed for closure have a student enrollment that is more than 50% Black. Two of the schools slated to merge—New Highland Academy and Rise Community Elementary—are ACCFB food distribution partners. New Highland alone has provided more than 24,000 meals worth of food since becoming a food bank partner just two years ago.
These planned school closures and mergers continue a legacy of systemic divestment in Black & Brown futures and will disproportionately harm communities of color which are experiencing some of the highest rates of food insecurity in our county. In addition to potentially limiting ACCFB’s ability to distribute food in the surrounding community, the closures will create an added financial burden in the form of transportation costs for families whose budgets are already stretched, as well as an emotional burden for students losing their school communities. Furthermore, the longer commute across neighborhoods poses an increased threat to student safety as Oakland’s roadways remain treacherous and the city mourns one of its most violent years since 2006—yet another manifestation of systemic divestment.
Last March, the OUSD Board of Education passed the Reparations for Black Students Resolution, which recognized the generational impact of structural racism on Black families and created a task force to address these issues in OUSD schools. However—less than a year after its passing—the school board has directly violated this landmark Resolution’s very intent by deciding to close schools that serve majority Black students.
Protecting democracy is one of ACCFB’s top advocacy priorities for 2022. Ensuring community voices are uplifted in the democratic process is integral to a just, equitable, and hunger-free society. The promises in the resolution must be honored. Students and families most affected by the financial issues the district faces should be the ones driving the solutions, yet the school board has failed to include them in any meaningful way.
Furthermore, these “solutions” should never have come at the expense of community in the first place.
As California enjoys a $40 billion budget surplus, we urge all levels of government to center and collaborate with those most impacted to address district challenges in transparent and equitable ways.
School closures and divestment in communities of color are not new. OUSD closed 16 schools in the past 20 years; most had majority Black student enrollment. For generations, communities of color have been impacted by redlining and other racist policies that erode public infrastructure and create hunger. A necessary step to reverse this is comprehensive tax reform—another of our 2022 priorities—that will create and reallocate revenue streams to build up these communities.
The fight is not over. Education, like food, is a basic human right—and directly intersects with our mission. Stand with us as we stand with students, families, and school workers in opposing school closures and demanding safe and racially just schools.
We encourage you to follow @hungerstrike4oaklandschools and @rep4blackstudents and explore the links in their bios to support their efforts and calls to action. Also, be sure to send letters to city, county and state elected officials like Gavin Newsom using the links below:
Protect Majority Black Schools From Closure!
Letter of Support for Convocation Hunger Strikers