by The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, SF Bay View Oakland Bureau
Azlinah Tambu is one of the lead organizers who led the community in taking back Parker Elementary School in East Oakland, which was slated by the Oakland Unified School District to be closed in the ‘22–‘23 school year. The community of Oakland has been fighting valiantly over the last few months to prevent the Oakland Unified School District from closing close to a dozen schools in mostly low income Black and Brown neighborhoods in Oakland.
As the repression from the school district and city government has increased, so has the courage and daring of the community to defend the rights of our children to go to school in their neighborhood. Azlinah Tambu and the rest of the organizers and community have been holding down the occupation since May 25, and they don’t have any plans to quit.
As the community, we need to support these community members who are fighting on the front lines of this modern day battle for educational resources. Check out Azlinah Tambu in her own words.
JR Valrey: What is the backstory on why the community decided to occupy Parker Elementary in East Oakland? What decisions were made at the Oakland School Board that prompted this response?
Azlinah Tambu: On Feb. 9, us parents got a message saying that Parker would be closed on May 25, graduation day . We really did try to fight, protest, and go to board meetings and everything to tell the district how much damage it has caused by doing this, but they weren’t trying to listen to us. So on graduation day we never left, and we planned to reopen the school on our own.
JR Valrey: How long has Parker Elementary been occupied? And why was this tactic chosen?
Azlinah Tambu: Graduation was May 25 and we never left, so we have been here since May 25. This tactic was chosen because we had no other choice. We had to take the school and take control over the situation to make it right because the Oakland Unified School District would not listen.
Azlinah Tambu: It looks like a lot of planning. It’s like moving into a new place but from scratch, with nothing, and trying to make things work. It’s like trying to turn nothing into something. Plus the added part of being worried about police – so we need security at all times. We have to make and provide meals and snacks and keep things clean etc.
JR Valrey: How have the police and government responded to the occupation so far?
Azlinah Tambu: They don’t like it. The police have been scoping it out but not pushing a hard line. OUSD is pushing a hard line, by sending Josh Daniels up here to harass us and try to lock us out. He chained the fences and put new locks. Locked us out of the kitchen, where all of our food is located to feed the kids. He constantly threatens us with papers.
JR Valrey: How has the community responded so far?
Azlinah Tambu: The community is coming out and showing support. Former Parker students who are adults now are running a good program, helping with teaching and helping any way they can. Everybody on this block went to Parker and has children at Parker now.
JR Valrey: Where does the campaign to keep the schools open go after this occupation?
Azlinah Tambu: If they keep trying to close schools, then we’re going to keep taking schools back and reopening them.
JR Valrey: What can the community do to aid the occupation?
Azlinah Tambu: They can show up to board meetings and protest at the district office.
JR Valrey: How has the local media responded?
Azlinah Tambu: Independent media has been really good at telling the story right. Big media has been twisting it at times, and they edit too much. But we have so much media showing up.
JR Valrey: Where can people get more information about the occupation of Parker elementary, as well as the campaign to halt the school closures ?
Azlinah Tambu: They can come down to 7929 Ney Ave. and talk to us.
JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, heads the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau and is founder of his latest project, the Ministry of Information Podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook and on Instagram @ministryof411podcast. Visit www.BlackNewWorldMedia.com to read more.