- Title: MZ000368
- Length: 7:22 minutes (10.13 MB)
- Format: MP3 Stereo 44kHz 192Kbps (CBR)
March 1, 2012. OccupyEducation actions take place across the country, from Philadelphia, to Boulder, Houston, New York City, to Brooklyn, where high school students stage a die-in, to the University of Southern Florida and SDS-Tampa Bay, and to Washington DC, there are teach-ins on school budget cuts and tuition hikes. California is organizing local marches and actions today and reconvening for an Occupy the Capital in Sacramento on March 5. I am biking from Berkeley to downtown Oakland for a rally. Two blocks from LeConte Elementary School in Berkeley I see what first appears to be a field trip. Kids all proceeding in single file led by an adult gesturing dynamically (always a good strategy when venturing en mass out past the school gates, speaking as a teacher of young children myself). I can’t quite hear what they are chanting but what is catching my eye is that the kids keep on coming. Rounding the corner, they come, getting taller and taller, and periodically interspersed with an adult. Now I hear what they are chanting because I am closer and they don’t stop. “We are the 99%” A continuous rhythm. The kids keep emerging from around the corner. Hundreds of them all chanting: “We are the 99%” over and over.
It is tricky to include young kids in organized political actions. For one, they don’t necessarily have the nuanced big picture about what is going on. And they expect immediate results. I saw this in 2003 during the heaviest protests against the Iraq War. A meaningful family weekend of protest with 70,000 others left some children in my classroom despondent when our then President Bush did not hear. It left lots of adults despondent too, but the kids’ despair felt especially bleak to me. I think about this today as I watch the hundreds of children marching the same blocks they probably march for their Halloween costume parade. I decide that education has become so bleak anyway that kids probably should be aware that school could not only have enough Kleenex, but be a place where they learn by exploring, playing, experimenting, and wondering instead of being tied solely to test scores that measure a fraction of a child’s learning experience. This is why today is OccupyEducation. The racial and economic disparity in quality of educational experience is daunting and the remedies are in the hands of foundations run by the wealthy elite who have limited experience and understanding of public eduction but think they know exactly what public schools need [http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/sep/29/school-reform-failing-grade/?pagination=false ].
Students, instructors and staff from nearby Laney College and students from UC Berkeley’s CalOccupy have both marched to Oakland’s City Hall plaza. I arrive to a crowd of about 500. I see lots of signs: “Our Dreams Can’t Wait,” “We are Oakland Invest in Us,” “Occupy the Right to be Educated,” “Education is a Right Not a Privilege,” and “Do the Right Thing Save Our Schools.” About seventy five are standing in front of us for The 99 Mile March for Education and Social Justice. They will be walking to our State capital in Sacramento for the March 5 OccupyEducation protest. The 99milers lead us out of the plaza and north on San Pablo Avenue (Sacramento is North of Oakland). At an intersection several blocks away, we bid farewell to the 99milers, who continue up San Pablo Avenue while the one hundred remaining of us turn East back downtown to Morgan Stanley.
Before the 2008 economic meltdown, Morgan Stanley offered Peralta Community College District an interest rate swap. At the time, this appeared to be helpful though risky, as the District could trade an adjustable rate for a more reasonable and budgetable fixed rate. After our economy tanked, interest rates dropped dramatically. Despite bailout funds to Morgan Stanley, Peralta Community College District is left holding the much higher contracted interest rate with Morgan Stanley, amounting to between 1.4 and 1.6 million dollars annually. Morgan Stanley has so far refused to negotiate an adjustment. With State budget cuts to education, the money Peralta has to pay to Morgan Stanley for the higher interest is money they have had to cut for classes, instructors, and support services for the disabled. OccupyEducation says a renegotiation would restore 360 classes.
We pass a Wells Fargo and the chanting becomes loud and unified: “Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.” In front of me is a Laney College student getting pushed in a wheelchair. On his lap is what looks like a ten inch stack of manila folders filled with petitions, all tided in a wide red ribbon. These are just some of what organizers say is 3000 signatures from Peralta Community College District students asking Morgan Stanley to do right by their image as an education supporter for the underprivileged and renegotiate an adjustment of interest for the District.
Morgan Stanley has closed early for the day in anticipation of this action. The doors are locked. People hold the signs up to the windows. Someone with a bullhorn reassures those inside that “all we want is a rep. We are a peaceful group.” Three security guards stare back, then approach the windows to one side of the doors holding up palm-sized video cameras positioned to film faces, not signs. Two protesters block the lens sight with a large banner and stand behind it to avoid identification. The crowd behind them laughs, which makes the two protesters laugh. We hear a report that someone has called the San Francisco Regional offices of Morgan Stanley to explain the intentions to deliver petitions. They are hung up on. Vowing to return, the protesters leave to head over to the downtown Office of the President of the University of California.
This action shows Occupy as a training ground in community activism and empowerment. Audio from this event has organizers speaking politely to fellow protesters, thinking on their feet about the victory gained in exposing the position of banks in the education of working class students, and the imperative now for everyone to be teachers in this story.