Raising issue of OUSD police murder of Raheim Brown leads to reinstatement of Urban Dreams website

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    Raheim Brown was murdered by Oakland Unified School District police officer Barhin Bhatt as he sat in a car outside a high school dance on Jan. 22, 2011.
    Raheim Brown was murdered by Oakland Unified School District police officer Barhin Bhatt as he sat in a car outside a high school dance on Jan. 22, 2011.

    Introduction

    “I am dismayed to learn that the Oakland school board has dismantled a website of social justice lesson plans because the police objected to it. The board has a duty to defend students’ right to learn against police interference,” wrote Alice Walker during months of heated debate over police-induced OUSD censorship of Urban Dreams, a compilation of lesson plans on the OUSD website.

    Last April, when Fox News criticized Urban Dreams, especially a lesson plan that drew parallels between mass media treatment of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Martin Luther King, Urban Dreams creator, Oakland teacher Craig Gordon, wrote: “Teachers around the country had been using The Urban Dreams lessons for more than a decade. Yet hours after the Fox News story was released, OUSD administrators shut down the entire Urban Dreams website without even consulting with teachers and students.” Here’s what caused it to be reposted.

    by Bob Mandel

    Three weeks after the initial public promise to repost Urban Dreams and stop police control of Oakland school curriculum, and 48 hours after The Express published Craig Gordon’s piece, Urban Dreams had still not been posted, ostensibly for aesthetic reasons. Two and a half hours after the following letter to Oakland Superintendent Antwan Wilson was sent – detailing OUSD’s official role in covering up the murder of Raheim Brown by school district police – Urban Dreams reappeared.

    OUSD Officer Barhin Bhatt, killer of Raheim Brown, locks protesters out of a meeting at Fremont High School on March 4, 2011. Shortly after the murder, Bhatt was appointed chief of the OUSD police force but quickly removed after public outcry. – Photo: KALW
    OUSD Officer Barhin Bhatt, killer of Raheim Brown, locks protesters out of a meeting at Fremont High School on March 4, 2011. Shortly after the murder, Bhatt was appointed chief of the OUSD police force but quickly removed after public outcry. – Photo: KALW

    Clearly the District wants this case of murder by its police – of a piece with Oscar Grant’s and Alan Blueford’s – buried and forgotten:

    “Superintendent Wilson,

    “Before the Thanksgiving break, you publicly announced to the School Board that the Urban Dreams website with all its materials intact would be restored. District spokesman Troy Flint said it would be up “within a week.” Well, it isn’t.

    “You have on your staff Officer Bhatt, who murdered ex-student Raheim Brown. The District recently settled with the other officer involved in the killing, Sgt. Jonathan Bellusa, paying him roughly $550,000 to drop further action stemming from his unwillingness to cover up that the killing shots were unnecessary. Mr. Brown had already been disabled.

    Countless marches, rallies and protests sought justice for Raheim Brown. Here, supporters carried his banner at the annual Oscar Grant Memorial March and Rally on Jan. 1, 2012. – Photo: Bradley Stuart, Indybay
    Countless marches, rallies and protests sought justice for Raheim Brown. Here, supporters carried his banner at the annual Oscar Grant Memorial March and Rally on Jan. 1, 2012. – Photo: Bradley Stuart, Indybay

    “You also continue to have on your staff as counsel, Jacqueline Minor. She was named – along with former Superintendent Tony Smith – as a defendant in Officer Bellusa’s lawsuit as having interfered with the investigation and acted against Officer Bellusa so as to cover up the real facts.

    “While you retain these two individuals, you have not reposted Urban Dreams.

    “You are intensely aware of the national uproar around the police murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and others. You are aware of the daily and nightly demonstrations in Oakland and the Bay Area.

    “If you fail to take action to repost Urban Dreams immediately, including the Martin Luther King-Mumia Abu-Jamal lesson, you will only confirm suspicions that whatever the rhetoric of the District about caring for its children and youth, the District leadership chooses to side with the police, including in allowing them to control and censor curriculum and deny young people the right to learn history as it really happened and develop analyses and solutions of their own.

    “Urban Dreams should be up this weekend.”

    Bob Mandel, an involuntarily retired OUSD Adult Education English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, currently teaching elsewhere, can be reached at communard2@juno.com.

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