‘Education, COVID 19 and Communities of Color Sanctuaries Virtual Town Hall’ Wednesday, July 15, 6-8 p.m.

Nelsy Batista

by JR Valrey, Black New World Journalists Society

COVID-19 did not create the racial disparities that exist between ethnic groups in the Bay Area, but it did a lot to crystallize and expose the horrendous gaps that exist. The silver lining of the view that 2020 is giving to us of our world is that there is a mass awakening taking place just as well as there is an openly fascist takeover of the government.

Nelsey Batista is one of the Bay’s frontline electoral political organizers, and she is a part of organizing the “Education, COVID-19 and Communities of Color Sanctuaries Virtual Town Hall.” This is an extremely important political topic for those of us who have children growing up in the school districts of the Bay Area and are worried about how a post-COVID educational system will look.

Our babies are our most precious community possession, so it is essential that we participate in these kinds of building sessions with movers and shakers within the local education ecosystem. This is the place where we ask questions and get a better understanding of what we are up against in this new era.

Our babies are our most precious community possession, so it is essential that we participate in these kinds of building sessions with movers and shakers within the local education ecosystem.

Please read the words of Nelsey Batista and tune into the Education, COVID-19 and Communities of Color Sanctuaries Virtual Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, July 15, from 6 to 8 p.m.

JR Valrey: What is the Education, COVID-19 and Communities of Color Sanctuaries Virtual Town Hall about? Why is it important to have this discussion in today’s times?

Nelsy Batista: The Education, COVID-19 and Communities of Color Sanctuaries Virtual Town Hall is a call to action, addressing the parents’ and education advocates’ concerns around several issues: First, the need for a solid reopening plan that will address the health and safety of our children and their teachers when the schools reopen in two months from now; secondly, to address the educational resources that would be available to our children and teachers if parents choose to homeschool their children; and thirdly, to address the racial disparity and lack of public health and educational resources that are going to the Black, Brown and Indigenous communities that are hit the hardest during COVID-19.

We as parents and educational advocates are concerned that there are no proper reopening plans that will address the lack of laptops, lack of teachers’ assistants, lack of resources for children with special needs, and lack of proper public health measures to ensure the health and safety of our children. We understand that now is the time for us to implement absolute transparency, accountability and restoration of allocated funds to serve the full needs of our OUSD students in addressing the foundational issues of recidivism, racial justice, graduation rates, public health in education, and educational resources in the school districts that have the largest Black, Brown and Indigenous student populations.

This is a call to action, addressing the parents’ and education advocates’ concerns around several issues: First, the need for a solid reopening plan that will address the health and safety of our children and their teachers when the schools reopen in two months from now; secondly, to address the educational resources that would be available to our children and teachers if parents choose to homeschool their children; and thirdly, to address the racial disparity and lack of public health and educational resources that are going to the Black, Brown and Indigenous communities that are hit the hardest during COVID-19.

JR Valrey: Who are your panelists? And what qualifies them to speak on such an important topic?

Nelsey Batista: The town hall is being put on for the community, by the community and welcomes as much public input as possible. The speakers include:

Siri Brown, PhD, is vice chancellor of academic affairs for the Peralta Colleges, who will be speaking on the history of educational equity through the lens of racial justice before, during and post-COVID-19.

Walter Riley is an attorney and activist who will be speaking on the recent struggles for Oakland Unified School District funding and how the fight for police-free schools is a part of the fight for funding educational resources.

Clarissa Doutherd is executive director of Parent Voices Oakland who will be speaking on the fight for universal child care and the current fight to save Alameda County Measure C.

Kristina Molina is an activist, mother and Oakland School Board District 7 candidate, who will be speaking on her fight for police-free schools and environmental, educational and racial Justice for East Oakland families through an educational perspective.

JR Valrey: Can you talk about some of the laws that are relevant to education that are on the ballot this November?

Nelsy Batista: There are several policies that will directly have a positive impact on our families, children and schools. We are hoping that the federal HEROES Act will pass, which is a second stimulus payment that will hopefully open up more funds for the state of California to support our TK-14 educational system. Aside from us supporting the HEROES Act, we are also supporting the Schools and Communities First Initiative that will provide an additional $12 billion into California’s TK-14 system by closing commercial property tax loopholes that the wealthiest investors have used to not have to pay their fair share in taxes.

It’s important to educate the community on the history of the fight for quality child care and public education equity and how each election cycle, our educational and housing initiatives are consistently being attacked by opposition campaigns led by wealthy developers and investors, mostly from out of state, who work with our California business and taxpayers associations to dismantle every progressive educational, child care and housing tax measure, saying that they do not want any more taxes to pay for education – leaving public education on the backs of the foundations, middle and poor class residents to have to cover all of the costs, which has led to many public school closures on top of housing foreclosures, and a growing homeless population.

Their argument is that our current Proposition 13 is enough and that most businesses are already paying property taxes, why add another tax? The bottom line is that the Schools and Communities First Initiative would tax the commercial properties that have not paid taxes, ever, or have not paid their fair share in taxes that the smaller businesses are paying each year, depending on their zip code.

The bottom line is that the Schools and Communities First Initiative would tax the commercial properties that have not paid taxes, ever, or have not paid their fair share in taxes that the smaller businesses are paying each year, depending on their zip code.

JR Valrey: Does Alameda County, San Francisco County or any of the surrounding Bay Area counties have an undisclosed plan on how COVID-19 conscious schools would operate upon reopening?

Nelsey Batista: Hence the reason why we as concerned parents and educational and child care advocates are demanding more transparency and accountability for a solid public health and educational reopening plan for our schools that will address all concerns for our children and schools during and post-COVID-19.

JR Valrey: Why was this panel curated for Black and Brown parents specifically?

Nelsy Batista: We needed this panel to be from the perspective of Black, Brown and Indigenous parents, educators and advocates who are at the forefront of fighting for our children’s education in the Black, Brown and Indigenous school districts that have been hit the hardest by this global pandemic and who are consistently being left with a burden of educational resource inequity.

We want this discussion to be led by the people directly from the communities affected the most and get as much public input as possible from the communities of color affected heavily prior and during COVID-19.

JR Valrey: What do you want people to get from the panel?

Nelsy Batista: We hope that this virtual town hall would encourage people to take action in signing a petition, encouraging our federal government to pass the HEROES ACT now and to call their local county supervisors and city councilmembers, urging them to give us a solid answer on whether or not we will be reopening in two months from now and if we do, will there be guaranteed educational resources for our children with special needs?

Will there be enough laptops, teachers’ aides, training for teachers to teach online, sanitization supplies, and public health and safety measures implemented, on-site nurses, training and supplemental income for parents who cannot find employment and are forced to have to homeschool and additional school space available for social distancing? We have yet to have these questions answered.

We hope that this virtual town hall would encourage people to take action in signing a petition, encouraging our federal government to pass the HEROES ACT now and to call their local county supervisors and city councilmembers, urging them to give us a solid answer on whether or not we will be reopening in two months from now and if we do, will there be guaranteed educational resources for our children with special needs?

JR Valrey: How can people watch the panel? And when?

Nelsy Batista: The Education, COVID-19 and Communities of Color Sanctuaries Virtual Town Hall will be on Zoom on Wednesday, July 15, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Everyone, especially from the East Oakland community, is encouraged to join. You may RSVP by calling 510-712-2855 or emailing Kristina.Molina4Education@gmail.com.

JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of the Black New World Journalists Society, can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. Visit www.youtube.com/blockreporttv. All stories written about COVID-19 were partially made possible by the Akonadi Fund #SoLoveCanWin.