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A class of Otis students at their oratorical
February was Black History Month, and AUSD and its schools across the district acknowledged and celebrated the month with a wide variety of events.
AUSD’s Department of Equity held a Black History Month Celebration that featured a host of noteworthy speakers and performances.
The theme of the event was “Lift Your Voice,” and the headliners included author Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond (author of the highly acclaimed picture book “Blue”); rapper MC Kai; author Vielka Lisa Montout; spoken word artist Jaylondon; poet and educator Kayatta Patton; activist, author, and educator Tyson Amir; and the breakdancing group The Oakland Originalz. Video and photos of this very celebratory event are available on the Office of Equity web page
AUSD elementary schools celebrated the month with: classroom door decorating contests; lessons about famous Black musicians, inventors, artists, authors, political leaders, athletes, and engineers; and dramatic productions. Otis and Ruby Bridges held oratorical fests, in which students read poems aloud to their classes.
Paden poetry slam winners pose with Principal Nguyen

Paden brought its Black History Month celebration to what Principal Tri Nguyen calls “a splendid close” with a poetry slam. During the event, twenty-eight students in grades 1-5 recited poems by Black and African-American writers. You can watch a sample of the performances below.

Middle and high school events, meanwhile, included community gatherings; assemblies (including a visit by the group School Yard Rap at Wood); and library book displays.
We also want to be sure that the community knows of the ongoing series of Board of Education presentations on school initiatives supporting African-American student achievement. At its May 31meeting, the Board heard presentations from Encinal Jr. & Sr. High School, Wood Middle School, and Ruby Bridges Elementary School. So far, this year Alameda High School and Lincoln Middle School have given presentations (on October 24 and February 13, respectively).
Initiatives discussed by school staff have included academic and social-emotional supports, student focus groups, and family engagement, all with an eye toward disrupting opportunity gaps and biases that have long led to lower achievement among Black and African-American students.
Finally, as noted in our Community Voices submission this week, we are aware of reports at several campuses of incidences of hate speech and other bias behaviors particularly aimed at our African-American students.
We want to make it very clear that AUSD will not tolerate such incidents of bias. We want our schools to be inclusive and safe for all, and we are taking multiple steps to address the reports we are hearing. Those steps include:
  • Principals’ Community of Practice meeting held on February 27 so that school site leaders could consider bias-related scenarios and practice best responses.
  • A similar community of practice meeting with assistant principals later this month.
  • Reinvigorating the Bias Tracker that AUSD launched in 2017 so that site leaders could record and track bias-related incidents at their schools.
  • Researching options for professional development for teachers and staff so that they better understand how to intervene when hate speech or actions occur in their presence.
  • Researching training for students so that they better understand the impact of hate speech and what to do when they witness it.
We will have more information about these steps in later this spring. In the meantime, we want to reiterate that we are deeply committed to providing safe and inclusive learning spaces for all staff and students, that we will not tolerate hate speech, and that we are now exploring what additional steps need to be taken to support staff and students in responding to hate incidents when they occur.