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Community Fights to Keep Parker Elementary Open as ‘Liberated’ Community School

Community Fights to Keep Parker Elementary Open as ‘Liberated’ Community School
Community Fights to Keep Parker Elementary Open as ‘Liberated’ Community School

NNPA Newswire/BlackPressUSA
By Ken Epstein, Oakland Post

Parents, teachers and community members are refusing to accept the decision of the Oakland school board, district administrators and state officials who are backing them up to permanently close Parker Elementary School in East Oakland after the school year ends this week.

The community plan is to “liberate” the school and reopen the school as Parker Community Schools. “We will have resources, programs and classes by and for the community,” according to a flier produced by Parker supporters.

“OUSD will call this an ‘illegal occupation,’ but we know this is an effort to decolonize our schools and return them to Black and Brown communities they belong to,” the flier said.

Despite public outrage, hunger strikes, student-led walkouts, community marches and a one-day Unfair Labor Practice strike by Oakland teachers, the Oakland Unified School District is moving ahead with its decision to close 11 schools this year and next year. Four schools, including Parker, are set to close or consolidate at the end of this school year.

Parker has a 100-year history and currently serves a population that is 51% Black, 36% Latino and 89% low income.

Since the state takeover of the district in 2003, the district has already permanently closed more than 20 schools, mostly in Black and Latinx flatland neighborhoods, acting under pressure from state Democrats and a state-funded agency, the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT).

After the district closes the school this week, “On (Saturday,) May 28 we’re going to reopen as Parker Community School. The idea is to continue this fight and to make sure that this property and this piece of land stays public and stays in the neighborhood for community members,” said Azalinah Tambu, a parent of two children who attend Parker, speaking May 12 at a meeting of Schools and Labor Against Privatization (S.L.A.P), a coalition formed recently by school communities and the longshore workers in ILWU Local 10.

Tambu explained that Parker is an area of East Oakland “that lacks a lot of public resources.”

“Most of our kids walk to school,” she said. “We don’t have any other K-8 schools in the area. We don’t have a lot of rec centers, we don’t have a lot of groceries, we don’t have a lot of anything over there. So, to take a loss — like a school — is a loss that we just can’t afford to take.”

Tambu continued, “A couple of months ago if someone had told me that we could show up to board meetings and run a board member out of here, Shanthi Gonzales (who resigned recently under pressure), I wouldn’t have believed it.”

“If someone told me we could make a districtwide strike with Port (workers), I wouldn’t have believed it.”

“I didn’t know it was possible. But you guys (people in S.L.A.P.) taught me about something called ‘people power,’” she said.

“We can’t do this alone. It’s going to take something that you guys showed me. It’s going to take people power,” Tambu said.

Parker parent Rochelle Jenkins added, “We have to do everything we can and use everything we know how to use to continue to stay in the fight against school closures, the fight against gentrification and the fight for our men, women and children in our community.”

Parker supporters and other public-school advocates are holding a re-opening celebration on Saturday, May 28 with food, performers and speakers. For more information go to Linktr.ee/ParkerForThePeople

The post Community Fights to Keep Parker Elementary Open as ‘Liberated’ Community School first appeared on Post News GroupThis article originally appeared in Post News Group.

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