Reflections of an Oakland Unified School District teacher on strike – Day 7: The strike is not over until we vote!

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Some of the strikers’ picket signs piled at Frank Ogawa Plaza (activists call it Oscar Grant Plaza) are wrinkled from the rain. Strikers have braved some of the year’s coldest and rainiest weather since the strike began on Feb. 21. – Photo: Jeff Chiu, AP

by Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seitu

“So we’ll be back in school on Monday!” The parent speaking to me had a huge smile on her face. She was signing her daughter and son out of the solidarity school at the EOYDC (East Oakland Youth Development Center).

“What?” I did not know what she was talking about. I knew a tentative agreement had been reached between OUSD and the OEA, but I’d been so busy preparing some kids for pickup and transitioning others into the afterschool program that I had not heard any news or checked any emails.

“The strike is over, right? That’s what the news is saying.”

“I’m sorry. The news is saying what?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “The strike is not over until we vote. Teachers have to vote to accept the tentative agreement. If 51 percent of teachers don’t vote to accept it, we’re still on strike.”

The strike is not over until we vote. Teachers have to vote to accept the tentative agreement. If 51 percent of teachers don’t vote to accept it, we’re still on strike.

At that point, we didn’t even have information on where or how the vote would take place. All we knew was that we had to review a 118-page contract within the next 24 hours and then vote whether to accept or reject the proposed contract. That’s why the agreement is “tentative.”

BETRAYAL. CURSE YOU, OUSD!

The district deliberately side stepped the teacher vote and proclaimed the end of the strike, all while throwing teachers under the bus, AGAIN. Needing to see for myself how diabolical the district had been with this premature announcement, I checked my email.

The third paragraph of OUSD’s press release opened with, “This seven day long strike was difficult for the entire community as it threw much of the city into uncertain waters and disrupted many lives.” To quote Cher from “Clueless,” “As if!”

The seven day long strike disrupted many lives? Really OUSD? It couldn’t be that going on strike 23 years after the last major strike for some of the same reasons disrupted many lives. OR, that annual teacher flight from OUSD schools due to little support and low pay disrupted many lives. OR, that students don’t have access to the resources and supports they need that’s disrupting many lives.

OR, the refusal of the School Board to make decisions that are in the best interest of OUSD families (e.g., the decision to close 24 neighborhood schools) that has disrupted many lives. Nope, it’s all our fault. That teachers had the audacity to take a stand against a greedy, manipulative, incompetent district – that is what “threw the city into uncertain waters and disrupted many lives.” [Insert sad violin music here.] OUSD tried it.

According to OUSD, it’s all our fault. That teachers had the audacity to take a stand against a greedy, manipulative, incompetent district – that is what “threw the city into uncertain waters and disrupted many lives.”

The second sentence of the third paragraph then read, “But it also showed our teachers how appreciated they are by our students, families and all of Oakland.” This sentence, this sentence right here speaks volumes.

OUSD has been attempting to control the narrative of this strike since long before the strike began. What the district has not been able to do, however, is to get the public behind them.

Students, parents and families see through the district’s lies. This sentence tells me that OUSD recognizes that the power is in the people. Although they may never admit it, that is an undeniable truth that OUSD will be forced to honor. Whether now or in the near future, no matter how much OUSD attempts to manipulate the public, people power will always be stronger.

To quote my 13-year-old daughter Saije, “We’re not having any of their tomfoolery, their bob-foolery, or their jimmy-foolery, PERIOD!”

To quote my 13-year-old daughter Saije, “We’re not having any of their tomfoolery, their bob-foolery, or their jimmy-foolery, PERIOD!”

No matter how many mind games and manipulations the district attempts, the people of Oakland are awake and are watching. People in districts all over the state of California, all across the nation are awake and are watching.

So no matter the turnout of Sunday’s vote, whether we continue to strike or not, we as teachers, students, families and community members will continue to demand justice and quality education for public school students.

We stand as and with Oakland teachers, Los Angeles teachers, Arizona teachers, Colorado teachers, Georgia teachers, Kentucky teachers, North Carolina teachers, Oklahoma teachers, Virginia teachers, West Virginia teachers and teachers all over the country who insist on providing our students with access to quality education no matter where they come from or where they live. WE STAND with all teachers who stand for our students.

In the words of Ghana’s first prime minister and president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and in the spirit of Oakland’s own Black Panther Party for Self Defense:

“Forward ever, backward never! All power to the people!”

Contact Oakland-teacher-on-strike Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seitu at taiwoseitu@gmail.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. Some Americans may have felt uneasy 35 years ago when DUI laws, DWI checkpoints, seatbelt laws, and car liability insurance laws were started, but most people felt that the experts must be right.

    Pro-police state shows like “COPS” and “America’s Most Wanted” were then aired, neighborhood watch groups were formed, “get tough on crime” candidates were elected, and laws allowing mandatory minimums, IMBRA, 3 strikes laws, curfews, police militarization, teen boot camps, school metal detectors, private prisons, and chain gangs were enacted.

    Nanny state smoking laws then started appearing.

    When 9/11 happened, the Patriot Act was passed, NSA wiretapping, no knock raids, take down notices, no fly lists, terror watch lists, Constitution free zones, stop and frisk, kill switches, National Security Letters, DNA databases, kill lists, FBAR, FATCA, Operation Chokepoint, TSA groping, civil forfeiture, CIA torture, NDAA indefinite detention, secret FISA courts, FEMA camps, laws requiring passports for domestic travel, IRS laws denying passports for tax debts, gun and ammo stockpiles, laws outlawing protesting, Jade Helm, sneak and peek warrants, policing for profit, no refusal blood checkpoints, license plate readers, redlight cameras, speed cameras, FBI facial and voice recognition, tattoo databases, gun bans, the end to the right to silence, free speech bans, searches without warrants, CISPA, SOPA, private prison quotas, supermax prisons, FOSTA, sex offender registration laws, and sex offender restriction laws were allowed.

    Now that the USA is a total police state, Americans are finding out that changing anything is impossible and that freedom is lost forever.

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