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‘Empathy and Curiosity:’ How queen jaks is Helping Haas Make Teaching More Inclusive

Over the past year, queen has been helping Haas faculty navigate the minefield of changing mores and heightened awareness around a range of topics often referred to as diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging (DEIJB).

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DEI instructional support consultant Dr. queen jaks chats with Professor Steve Tadelis in his office. Photos by Brittany Hosea-Small.
DEI instructional support consultant Dr. queen jaks chats with Professor Steve Tadelis in his office. Photos by Brittany Hosea-Small.

By Laura Counts
UC Berkeley News

When Dr. queen jaks walks into a Berkeley Haas classroom and sits in the back scribbling notes, students wonder what’s going on.

“They think the professor is in trouble and I’m there to get the dirt,” says queen, who writes her name with lowercase letters.

But as the school’s first diversity instructional support consultant, queen is not an enforcer. She’s there as an invited guest of faculty members who want help in making their teaching more inclusive.

“It’s so important to make it clear that I’m not there to tell people they’re doing something wrong. I’m not there to hear both sides,” she says. “I’m there because the instructor wants support.”

Unique role

Over the past year, queen has been helping Haas faculty navigate the minefield of changing mores and heightened awareness around a range of topics often referred to as diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging (DEIJB). Her role is unique: Rather being called in to mediate when things heat up, she coaches instructors individually—by observing classes, offering suggestions on course content, or consulting on issues that come up in class. She also teaches best practices through brief workshops and exercises.

Holding both an MBA and a PhD in organizational behavior, queen is fluent in the language of academia, while also drawing on her own experiences of feeling like an outsider who broke into that world as a first-generation student from an impoverished community. She grew up in San Diego and earned a BS in business administration from UC Riverside, going on for her MBA from the University of Redlands and her doctorate from Case Western Reserve University.

She approaches the job with empathy, curiosity, and a natural sense of humor.

“We’re all learning, we’re all going to make mistakes, and that’s okay,” says queen, whose own research focuses on the contributions of marginalized communities. “Society is evolving, and people want change really badly, so everything that comes out of your mouth in the classroom is going to be scrutinized. I’m here to say ‘I feel you. Now let’s turn it around and see how that might be perceived.’”

Haas Chief DEI Officer Élida Bautista dreamed up the new role in response to growing demand from students for more diversity in course content and on the faculty. In addition to the work Haas is doing to hire more diverse faculty members and an effort led by the Center for Equity, Gender and Leadership to compile a library of business cases featuring diverse protagonists, Bautista wanted to find a way to directly support current faculty. Dean Ann Harrison greenlighted the pilot position.

“When I looked around for consultants and talked to my counterparts at other business schools and universities, no one was doing this—so we didn’t really have a model,” Bautista says. As a clinical psychologist, she designed the role so that all services would be confidential and voluntary.

“Anytime you force people to do something, there’s an inherent resistance and that decreases the efficacy,” she said. “Some people think that when you make something voluntary, you end up preaching to the choir. But even the choir needs tuning: People who are bought into these ideas still need skills to carry them out, and they’ll end up bringing others along.”

Sensitive content

That’s what has happened. Associate Professor Juliana Schroeder—who championed the new role along with associate deans Jennifer Chatman and Don Moore and served on the hiring committee—offered to be a guinea pig for queen to observe her leadership class.

Schroeder is a social psychologist who has thought carefully about diversity and psychological safety in her teaching and materials. Still, on the day of the observation, when she was referencing the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle explosion to shed light on decision-making pitfalls for a case study about car racing, a student had a “PTSD-like” incident in her classroom.

“He was an Army veteran, and this was directly relevant to his experience,” Schroeder says. “I was so glad queen was there that day, and I was blown away by how great her feedback was. It really illustrated what a benefit it was to have someone well-trained in these topics right there in my classroom.”

After the session, queen gave Schroeder a detailed report with suggestions on adjusting her script and offering both a written and verbal alert for sensitive topics. It also included a list of things she was doing well, and some practices to add—such as repeating back answers that were lower in volume, acknowledging students who were waiting to speak, and using contrasting colors on slides—as well as including photos in her slides that would show diversity beyond race and gender.

Word of mouth

Schroeder thought it was so helpful she asked to share it with other faculty members, and soon queen had a full calendar.

“Every single person I’ve worked with has been so receptive,” queen says. “I’ve spent a lot of time at business schools, and it’s been jaw-dropping how much Haas has embraced this.”

Associate Professor Mathijs De Vaan invited her to sit in on a session focused on DEIJB in his MBA course Leading People. De Vaan, who grew up in The Netherlands, is mindful that his class includes international students who may be new to American culture, as well as students with backgrounds that have been marginalized in the U.S.

“It’s a challenge. There’s always a group of students who are very knowledgeable and very vocal, and others who know these are sensitive subjects and are afraid to speak at all,” says De Vaan. “I wanted students to be on the same page in understanding the scope of the problem that racism and discrimination represent in the U.S., so I gave them a number of examples of where companies fell short.”

That’s important, queen told him, but it can also be stressful for some students. “For minority students in the room, it might reinforce the idea that their group is marginalized,” he says. To address this, in the next iteration of the class he focused less on examples of problematic situations, and more on possible solutions to societal challenges.

Activism

Lend A Hand Foundation Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Lend A Hand Foundation Celebrates 25th Anniversary at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland. On stage: KTVU Fox 2 Broadcasters Roberta Gonzales and Dave ClarkDance-A-Vision Founder, Carla Service, Vice Mayor Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch, California State Assemblymember Mia Bonta and Lend A Hand Foundation Executive Director Dee Johnson with the Dance-A-Vision Dancers. Photo By Carla Thomas

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Lend A Hand Foundation Celebrates 25th Anniversary at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland. On stage: KTVU Fox 2 Broadcasters Roberta Gonzales and Dave ClarkDance-A-Vision Founder, Carla Service, Vice Mayor Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch, California State Assemblymember Mia Bonta and Lend A Hand Foundation Executive Director Dee Johnson with the Dance-A-Vision Dancers. Photo By Carla Thomas
Lend A Hand Foundation Celebrates 25th Anniversary at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland. On stage: KTVU Fox 2 Broadcasters Roberta Gonzales and Dave ClarkDance-A-Vision Founder, Carla Service, Vice Mayor Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch, California State Assemlbymember Mia Bonta and Lend A Hand Foundation Executive Director Dee Johnson with the Dance-A-Vision Dancers. Photo By Carla Thomas

By Carla Thomas

The Lend A Hand Foundation (LAHF) celebrated the 25th anniversary of the organization’s Stay In School Program on May 9 at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland.

Themed “Together We Can Empower Our Youth to Stay in School,” the event featured a pre-event reception featuring Oakland’s Kev Choice Ensemble.

The ensemble featured Oakland School for the Arts student, Ayo Brame, a 16-year-old, up-and-coming tenor saxophone jazz musician. The master and mistress of ceremonies were local broadcasters Dave Clark and Roberta Gonzales of KTVU Fox 2. Clark’s wife, Lucretia also supported the program.

A special appearance featured Dwayne Wiggins of Tony! Toni! Toné! on guitar, performing the group’s hit song “Anniversary” as guests dined on salmon, chicken, beef and vegetarian entrees prepared by the Food Network “Chopped” Champion, Chef Rashad Armstead of Oakland. California State Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) provided the keynote address and the Carla Service Dance-A-Vision youth dancers energetically performed a hip hop routine throughout the audience in white leotards as attendees clapped along. An auction led by Auctioneer Franco Finn assisted in raising funds for the organization with prizes that included a luxury resort vacation and other items.

LAHF presented District 5 Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and District 4 Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley with Lifetime Supporter Awards. LAHF presented the Trailblazer Award to Guy Richardson of Ernst and Young; Dante Green of Kaiser Permanente; Antioch Attorney Gordon Greenwood of the Kazan McClain Partner’s Foundation; and Sarah Yoell of PG&E.

Oakland Unified School District Superintendent, Dr. Kyla Trammel Johnson acknowledged LAHF’s impact.

“Each year, LAHF gives backpacks and school supplies to thousands of students across Oakland,” said Johnson. “In 2022 the effort topped 25,000 students. No matter the need, big or small, involving lots of students or just one, Lend A Hand is always there ready to make a difference in the lives of our young people.”

Founder and executive director of LAHF Dee Johnson took the stage as the DJ played the Sledge Sisters’ “We Are Family.”

Guests gave Johnson a standing ovation as she thanked supporters and presented many of them with gifts.

“It’s heartbreaking to know some children don’t have clothes or supplies for school,” said Johnson. “The babies really need our support and when we deliver supplies to them, it makes them really happy.”

Since the LAHF Annual Stay in School Program began in 1999, it has provided over 150,000 educational school supply kits to students throughout Alameda County, including Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, and San Leandro, among other cities.

“This past August, we provided for over 12,000 students with supplies, with the help and support of our very generous donors,” said Johnson. “This year, we aim to do all we can to match that amount or provide even more.”

For more information visit: www.LendaHandFoundation.org

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Chef Cleaz and Mistah F.A.B. Host “You Still Have A Son” Mother’s Day Dinner

Oakland Chef Cleaz and Bay Area rapper, author Stanley Cox, aka Mistah F.A.B., hosted a Mother’s Day dinner on Monday, May 13, at Pierre Pierre, a restaurant in the Tribune building in downtown Oakland. The restaurant was decorated with balloons and flowers for the event, and each mother received a bouquet of red roses.

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Chef Cleaz, owner of Pierre Pierre Restaurant, and rapper and author Mistah F.A.B. announce special event "You Still Have Son" Mother's Day dinner. Photo Courtesy KTVU Channel 2.
Chef Cleaz, owner of Pierre Pierre Restaurant, and rapper and author Mistah F.A.B. announce special event "You Still Have Son" Mother's Day dinner. Photo Courtesy KTVU Channel 2.

By Carla Thomas

Oakland Chef Cleaz and Bay Area rapper, author Stanley Cox, aka Mistah F.A.B., hosted a Mother’s Day dinner on Monday, May 13, at Pierre Pierre, a restaurant in the Tribune building in downtown Oakland.

The restaurant was decorated with balloons and flowers for the event, and each mother received a bouquet of red roses.

Organized for mothers who have lost their children, for mothers in need of extra love on Mother’s Day, the event gave the hosts an opportunity to remember their own mothers while doing something special for over 100 mothers in the community.

Both men recounted the deep sense of grief they faced in the loss of their mothers and recognized the many mothers who have outlived their children.

“We were in my restaurant, and F.A.B. was having dinner and said he wanted to do something special but wasn’t sure what it would look like,” said Chef Cleaz. “We continued to brainstorm, and at first F.A.B. wanted to come up with ways to bring more business to my new restaurant and serve the community. But days later, F.A.B. came up with the idea for mothers.”

“In these tough times. we know life can get you down'” explained F.A.B. “And expect to lose a parent, but a parent should not lose their child, and with Mother’s Day around the corner, we decided to show moms in need of something special and extra love.”

F.A.B. also knew that Chef Cleaz had recently lost his mother, which made the idea even more appropriate to them.

So, the day after Mother’s Day, F.A.B. and Cleaz hosted “You Still Have A Son, Momma” at Pierre Pierre.

“We wanted moms to still feel appreciated under the covenant of family and love,” said F.A.B.

“I remember my mother being my rock,” said Cleaz. “My mom played a very important part in my life, and not having her anymore gave me the impetus to do something in her honor. She gave me a lot in her lifetime. F.A.B. offered to pay for the entire event, but I said, let’s collaborate.”

“My mom was my best friend, and on Mother’s Day I cry and listen to music so I can get the tears out. But I’m happy because I’m living my purpose, continuing to evolve as a man and father to Liberty and Legacy and continue making my mom proud.”

Initially, Cleaz and F.A.B. planned for 50 to 75 guests, but after they advertised the event via social media posts, the RSVP’s kept rolling in. At last count,120 mothers responded.

F.A.B. said he did not plan on turning anybody away if there were more guests. “If they’re coming, there is a void of love that they are coming for,” he said. Chef Cleaz’s staff donated their time, and entertainer Dyson the Voice brought his band and sang all night.

“We wanted to see all the beautiful women out there,” said F.A.B. “We wanted to see lots of beautiful smiles, faces, and we want the mothers to feel appreciated.”

F.A.B. said his sister Theresa lost her son and that he knows at a very personal level how deep the loss of a child is through her. “You never really get over the loss, you deal with it. You try to make life better for those around you.”

Pierre Pierre is located at 401 13th St. Owner Chef Cleaz is a renowned celebrity chef from the vibrant culinary scene of San Francisco. Born from humble beginnings, he has forged an extraordinary path to culinary stardom, exemplifying Black excellence with each delectable dish he creates.

A dedicated father and loving husband, his commitment to family values extends far beyond his home, as he tirelessly helps anyone he sees in need.

Chef Cleaz has built an empire rooted in his passion for food and a deep respect for cultural heritage. His vision is to establish a sanctuary of culinary artistry, where creole and soul food recipes take center stage. He aims to create a space that the community can proudly call its own, a place where shared meals become moments of togetherness and cultural celebration.

Through his culinary creations, he invites visitors to savor not just his delectable dishes but also the history, traditions, and stories that infuse every plate.

F.A.B. is an American songwriter, entrepreneur, community organizer, and activist whose music career began in the late 1990s when he was discovered by Jazzy Jim and Gary Archer. He was featured on a number of Mac Dre’s Thizz Nation mixtape compilations and quickly gained prominence in the San Francisco Bay Area Hyphy Movement.

F.A.B. is the owner of D.O.P.E. clothing store and other businesses. He is known for hosting community block parties, school supply giveaways, and holiday parties for the underserved. He also created Thug Therapy, a movement for men to receive mental health support, which inspired the work of another community organizer, the late Shantell Herndon, creator of FLY Girl Therapy and Healing Circles.

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Oakland Post: Week of May 15 – 21, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of May May 15 – 21, 2024

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