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How to Help Black Organizing Project’s Fight to Remove Police from OUSD



BOP Director of Organizing, Jessica Black (front), and BOP member leader Desiree Mims (back) at a protest outside of school board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge's home in West Oakland on Fri., June 5. Photo by Ryan Sin, courtesy of BOP.

Black Organizing Project (BOP) could reach a goal on June 24 that they have worked toward since 2011: eliminating school police in Oakland’s Unified School District (OUSD), the only district in Alameda County with its own police force.

They are calling on Oakland residents to help them in their final push.

“What is it going to take for this school district to realize the murders [by police] that we are witnessing of our people in the streets are the same police who are in the schools?” asked BOP Director of organizing, Jessica Black, speaking to uproarious cheers from a crowd of around 8,000 at an Oakland protest against policing and a city and county imposed a curfew on June 3.

Black then said just three months earlier, on March 3, Oakland’s school board rejected a measure by one vote that would have drastically cut Oakland Schools Police Department’s (OSPD) budget.

Board members Amy Eng, Shanti Gonzales, and Roseann Torres voted to approve the measure, but Gary Yee, James Harris, Jody London and Jumoke Hinton Hodge voted against it.

Since police officer Derek Chauvin’s killing of George Floyd sparked protests, riots, and rebellions in Minneapolis which brought defunding and even dismantling police forces into the mainstream national conversation, BOP’s mission has found much wider, louder support.

The Oakland Education Association, Asians for Black Lives, Oakland Not for Sale, the Anti-Police Terror Project, Gender and Sexualities Alliance Network, Critical Resistance, Oakland Public Education Network and many Oakland residents, especially teachers, counselors and social workers, have been vocal in their support of BOP’s mission lately.

BOP is now calling on Oaklanders to call, e-mail, and write letters to school board members, especially the four who voted against the previous measure and OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell, before the final school board meeting on June 24 to demand that they approve a new, more radical measure submitted by Torres and Gonzales called George Floyd Resolution to Eliminate OSPD.

“We can’t let off pressure,” said BOP Executive Director Jackie Byers. “We need those votes. And then on the 24th…[we need people] to get on the Zoom meeting, make public comments or speak to the agenda item.”

Readers can also submit comments during the school board meeting today, June 10.

Torres, who co-wrote the resolution, suggests people should sign up at 5:30 p.m. for public comment and then can watch the meeting or log off till 7:30 p.m. when comments can be heard.

Courtesy of Oakland Education Association.

She says readers can sign up again at 5:30 p.m. on June 24 to speak at 7:30 p.m. for public comment, but they will also have the ability to speak directly to the agenda item that night.

It is unclear at this point when that agenda item will come up, but readers can link with BOP’s FacebookTwitter or Instagram accounts for the latest info on how to help.

The bill would eliminate OSPD, removing police officers entirely from Oakland schools. It would be the culmination of a nearly decade-long battle that was sparked by the killing of Raheim Brown, Jr. on Jan 22, 2011, by OSPD Sgt. Barhim Bhatt outside of a school dance at Skyline High School. Bhatt claimed he shot Brown five times because Brown attacked another sergeant at the scene, Johnathan Bellusa, with a screwdriver. But Bellusa later claimed Bhatt may have fired unnecessarily and that OUSD prevented a proper investigation.

OSPD’s website lists that it has around 20 police officers and around 120 school security officers (SSO) but BOP says due to cuts in recent years, that number is now around 10 police officers and 60 SSOs.

All of these employees serve under Police Chief Jeff Godown, an officer who served in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots.

SSOs have some documented history of use-of-force on minors.

In 2014, there were two separate incidents caught on camera. At Oakland High School an SSO punched a student four times who uses a wheelchair and has cerebral palsy after an altercation over the student possibly skipping class. The SSO was later convicted on one felony count of assault.

SSO officers in Fremont High School put another 15-year-old student in a chokehold, dragged him, and exchanged punches with him.

But BOP says overt acts of violence are not the only threat to students that police systems in schools pose.

Black students, especially, experience more subtle forms of damage from the punitive system that police-based models foster. While suspension rates for Black students have fallen in recent years, they still get suspended at a rate about three times higher than non-Black students.

“Black students aren’t seen in the way that white children are,”  said Byers. “They’re seen as a threat from a very early age.”

Byers said the very presence of police brings trauma to Black students.

“Our students don’t feel safe when they’re around law enforcement in the way white students might feel safe,’ she said. “[They’re] constantly barraged with a reality and imagery of law enforcement murdering Black people, including young people…those images are in the psyche of Black students.”

Byers also said many Black students who live in public housing and use public transportation more often than white students are forced to interact with law enforcement constantly, as both BART and the public housing authority have their own police force.

When police are in schools as well, it becomes yet another site of trauma.

Jasmine Williams, BOP’s communications manager, said eliminating OSPD would mean eliminating all police officers and the school police chief. Funding from those cuts could be used “for hiring additional school-based counseling/mental/behavior health staff,” according to BOP’s People’s Plan for Police Free Schools.

“Counselors and therapists won’t have to rely on security to react to adolescent behavior,” said Williams.

SSOs would be retrained and transformed into peacekeepers, or school climate specialists. They would no longer wear uniforms. They have never been armed and they would continue not to be armed.

Williams said she’s heard reports from principals, teachers and students that some current SSOs have positive relationships with students and act as mentions. But the structure is not in place to encourage those relationships in a widespread way.

“If you say these people can act as mentors let’s support that and not create a punitive model,” said Williams.

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Big Picture Living Day

Through their global network of nearly 300 schools, Big Picture Learning activates their core initiatives by encouraging 6 healthy habits of proper nutrition, movement, healthy relationships, managing stress, adequate sleep and avoiding substances of risks. 



By Carla Thomas

On Friday, June 2 Big Picture Lving Day will be celebrated with a series of virtual events designed to improve the life of participants. Through a virtual network of schools and organizations the event will feature speakers on health, wellness, mindfulness, exercise, and overcoming challenges.

Participants will practice Yoga & Mindfulness with Dawn M. Rivers.

Dr. Marsha-Gail Davis will discuss lifestyle medicine and healthy practices, and BPL alumni former advisor Chef Bree reunites with former principal Danique “Dr. DD” Dolly and a few of their former students will discuss health and lifestyle changes.

Big Picture Learning Day was created by

Big Picture Learning, an organization of progressive learning concepts centered around the belief that all students can and should live lives of their own design, supported by caring mentors and equitable opportunities to achieve their greatest potential.

Through their global network of nearly 300 schools, Big Picture Learning activates their core initiatives by encouraging 6 healthy habits of proper nutrition, movement, healthy relationships, managing stress, adequate sleep and avoiding substances of risks.

Co-founded by Elliott Washor a veteran educational leader in Rhode Island, BPL grew out of a passion for students and improving the concept of learning.

“We just had this fierce desire to evolve our educational system to one that puts students at the center of their own learning with mentors, time immersed in the community and not evaluated solely on standardized tests,” said Washor.

“The entire Big Picture Learning experience is personalized to each student’s interests, talents and needs beyond mere academic work and involves looking at each student holistically.​”

Former BPL principal, Danique Dolly says, “There are youth and adults in schools and organizations throughout the nation practicing the 6 healthy habits and speaking up on it. People have created rooms and spaces that focus on relaxation and meditation. Many adults and youth are taking steps towards wellness, a total lifestyle change and health and wellness are a part of students learning goals just as English and math are.”

“With BPLiving Day we invite all to get up, get out and get living and to do something around health and wellness,” said Dolly.

For students Jasmine Poirier and Angel Feliz and educator Andrew Coburn BPL has been life changing.

“Through collaborative physical movement, nutrition education and eating healthy together and various group activities for relaxation and mental health support, many are finding ways to live healthier and happier,” said Colburn. “For Big Picture Living Day we’re celebrating lifelong healthy habits for teens and the communities around them. BPL Day is a celebration of all the progress we have made.”

“Whether it is in my school campus or through a zoom call with people all across the world, BPLiving has an ability to bring people together to share wellness habits with each other,” said Feliz.

“Through spreading the principles of BPLiving into the everyday academic learning of my peers, I have seen them improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally and emotionally,” said Poirier. “By reestablishing sports culture with school-wide volleyball and capture the flag tournaments, students have been able to connect with each other across different grade levels, become more physically active and take a break from our everyday learning.”

In Oakland at MetWest, a BPL school in Oakland, the garden is run by parents and students. The garden serves as the foundation for nutritional learning and generational collaboration.

Today, Big Picture Learning network schools can be found in over 80 schools in 28 states, and hundreds more around the world.

For more information visit

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Oakland Post: Week of May 31 = June 6, 2023

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of May 31 = June 6, 2023



The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of May 31 = June 6, 2023

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Community Opposes High Rise Development That Threatens Geoffrey’s Inner Circle

City Council chambers were full for the May 17 Planning Commission hearing, and almost all the 40 speakers who had signed up to make presentations talked about the importance of the Inner Circle as part of Oakland and Geoffrey Pete as a stalwart community and business leader who has served the city for decades.



Geoffrey Pete went to City Hall to appeal the city Planning Commission’s approval of the high-rise development that threatens the closure of his 44-year historic cultural mecca. Photo by Jonathan ‘Fitness’ Jones.
Geoffrey Pete went to City Hall to appeal the city Planning Commission’s approval of the high-rise development that threatens the closure of his 44-year historic cultural mecca. Photo by Jonathan ‘Fitness’ Jones.

By Ken Epstein

An outpouring of community supporters – young, old, jazz lovers, environmentalists and committed Oakland partisans – spoke out at a recent Planning Commission hearing to support Geoffrey Pete and his cultural center – The Inner Circle – an historic Oakland landmark whose future is threatened by a proposed skyscraper that out-of-town-developer Tidewater Capital wants to build in the midst of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District (BAMBD).

City Council chambers were full for the May 17 Planning Commission hearing, and almost all the 40 speakers who had signed up to make presentations talked about the importance of the Inner Circle as part of Oakland and Geoffrey Pete as a stalwart community and business leader who has served the city for decades.

The speakers argued passionately and persuasively, winning the sympathy of the commissioners, but were ultimately unsuccessful as the Commission unanimously approved the high-rise to be built either as a residential building or office tower on Franklin Street directly behind Geoffrey’s building.

Mr. Pete has said he would appeal the decision to the City Council. He has 10 days after the hearing to file an appeal on the office building. His appeal on the residential tower has already been submitted.

Mr. Pete said the Planning Department still has not published the boundaries of the BAMBD. “Tidewater’s applications and subsequent applications should not be approved until the Planning Department fully acknowledges the existence of the BAMBD,” he said.

“This (proposed) building poses a grave danger to the historic (Inner Circle) building next to it, arguably Oakland’s most meaningful historic building,” Pete said.

“We’re here to advocate for what’s best for the African American district and community that has gotten no representation, no advocacy, as of yet,” he said. “The (commission) is guilty, the City of Oakland is guilty, and Tidewater is guilty.”

One of the first speakers was Gwendolyn Traylor, known as Lady SunRise, who directly addressed the developers.

“With all due to respect to your business, it’s not a need of this community. I would like to ask you to reconsider the location …What is being (promised) here does not add to the healing of this community,” she said.

Naomi Schiff of the Oakland Heritage Alliance emphasized that Geoffrey’s Inner Circle is a treasure of Oakland’s history.

“Our first concern is the integrity of the historic district, in particular the former Athenian-Nile Club, now Mr. Pete’s equally historic venue, which has been the location of a great number of important community events,” she said. “It would not be OK with us if the integrity of the building were damaged in any way, no matter how much insurance (the developer bought) because it is very difficult to repair a historic building once it’s damaged.”

The Inner Circle was previously owned and operated by the Athenian-Nile Club, one of the Bay Area’s largest all-white-male exclusive private membership club, where politicians and power brokers closed back-room deals over handshakes and three martini lunches.

Cephus “Uncle Bobby X” Johnson pointed out that commissioners and the city’s Planning Department have “acknowledged that you went through the entire design review process without even knowing that the Black Arts Movement and Business District existed.”

The district was created in 2016 by City Council resolution. “At the heart of the opposition to this building is the desire to further the legacy of local Black entertainment and entrepreneurship exemplified by businesses like Mr. Pete’s … a historical landmark and venue (that serves) thousands of people who listen to jazz and other entertainment and hold weddings, receptions, and memorial services,” said Uncle Bobby.

This development is taking place within a context in which the “Black population in Oakland has decreased rapidly … because of the city’s concentration on building houses that are not affordable for people who currently live in Oakland,” he said.

John Dalrymple of East Bay Residents for Responsible Development said, “This project will result in significant air quality, public health, noise, and traffic impacts. He said the city has not adequately studied the (unmitigated) impacts of this project on the Black Arts Movement and Business District.

“This project is an example of what developers are being allowed to do when they don’t have to follow the law, and they don’t have to be sensitive to our city’s culture and values,” he said. The commission should “send a signal today that we will no longer be a feeding ground for the rich.”

Prominent Oakland businessman Ray Bobbitt told commissioners, “Any decision that you make is a contribution to the systemic process that creates a disproportionate impact on Black people. Please do yourself a favor, (and) rethink this scenario. Give Mr. Pete, who is a leader in our community, an opportunity to set the framework before you make any decision.”

Though the City Council created the BAMBD, the 2016 resolution was never implemented. The district was created to “highlight, celebrate, preserve and support the contributions of Oakland’s Black artists and business owners and the corridor as a place central historically and currently to Oakland’s Black artists and Black-owned businesses.”

The district was intended to promote Black arts, political movements, enterprises, and culture in the area, and to bring in resources through grants and other funding.

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