To our Oakland School for the Arts community,
As a new leader stepping into Oakland School for the Arts, I feel compelled to send a heartfelt message of gratitude to our community. This is a challenging time. Many of us feel that we are living in a triple pandemic: COVID -19, especially its disproportionate impact on Black and LatinX communities, the economic crisis, and the ongoing acts of racism and brutality toward Black people.
We must acknowledge that incidents like this have been happening for hundreds of years. Our city, state and country are in a state of mourning and many members of our community are calling out for support and for change.
This past spring our community came together. Families, OSA staff, and students attended rallies and in solidarity marched together for a common cause – Black Lives Matter. We are proud of our teachers and students who expressed themselves through the painting of striking murals on our building and in the Uptown neighborhood. During this time, many of our students had questions and needed guidance and support. It was provided by loving teachers, staff and administration. I am thankful to be a part of a community that cares so deeply and wants to support our young people in every way we can.
It is important that we take a stand as a school community to say that we will not tolerate racism. In support of our youth, staff, faculty and families of color we stand in solidarity against the social injustice tragedies that our community has witnessed locally and nationally. As Desmond Tutu said,
‘My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.’
Over the summer, I spoke with OSA community members including board members, faculty, staff and parents to ask for recommendations of seasoned facilitators who could provide ongoing training for the OSA administration, faculty and staff which focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion. After speaking with many reputable consultants, and consulting with OSA faculty to get their valuable input on finalists, Candice Wicks- Davis, an artist, a public speaker and a seasoned trained facilitator was selected for a year-long residency. This year-long training is just the start; dismantling systemic racism is our ongoing and longterm work.
On our first day of school this past week, we brought our students together by grade level to have a community conversation that focused on the world we are currently living in and the different experiences our community is going through. The students were shown pictures of their school and the incredible murals surrounding the school that are painted by OSA students, staff and community members. One 8th grader shared that he saw history speaking through art in one of the murals. He read the names of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many others. This opened the door for other students to engage in a conversation about how they were feeling and how from their young lens they are impacted.
It has always been the OSA way to support our young people and take a stand against the injustices that surround us. From 2015, when Vocal Rush finished their set at the ICHSA finals by turning to show ‘Black Lives Matter’ hand-lettered on their shirts, to our alumna Brianna Noble riding her horse in May to a Black Lives Matter protest, we are proud of our young artists who are brave and speak truth to power.
I encourage you to reach out to me or a member of the OSA administrative team if you have any questions and/or comments. When we receive an individual email from a community member, we are able to have a conversation where questions and comments can be clarified and solutions can be reached.
I appreciate the OSA community and look forward to our work together in the coming year.