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Marin Teachers, Educators Cautious About Plans to Reopen Schools

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Educators in Marin County are still very cautious about the reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also concerned about the recent school reopening guidelines issued by Marin County as well as the lack of two-way communication with the county superintendent, according to a press release from the American Federation of Teachers.

“If the goal is to open as safely as possible, listening to both classroom professionals and health officials should be the first steps. Collaboration with classroom professionals is key,” stated the educators, who have created the Marin Educators for Safe Schools (MESS), a coalition of local unions that are affiliated with the 310,000-member California Teachers Association (CTA) and the 120,000-member California Federation of Teachers (CFT).

On June 18, Mary Jane Burke, the Marin County superintendent of schools, laid out plans to fully reopen schools, with students attending five days per week in regular class sizes, while also allowing 4 feet of social distance, where practicable. Middle and high schools can combine into even larger cohort sizes, and staff would be permitted to interact with multiple student cohort groups in a day.

Burke said the guidelines are meant to serve as a rule of thumb, but still have enough flexibility for each district and school to adapt as needed if they can satisfy the state’s requirements, reported the Marin Independent Journal.

The teachers point out that these guidelines are not consistent with other guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and, if implemented, would prove impossible to follow with fidelity. Educators are also concerned that COVID-19 will still infect students, educators and their families.

On June 22, county administrators met with Marin County teacher leaders, but the CFT and CTA members were only given 30 minutes to make their case. The frustrated educators said that they were talked at, not listened to, and left with more questions than answers.

MESS says that the guidelines are too vague. “The guidelines fail to require all reasonable safety measures to prevent students and educators from being infected by COVID-19 with possible loss of life. The superintendent cannot convince us that it will be safe.”

The Marin County guidelines for reopening of schools during this pandemic do not create safe and healthy schools, teacher leaders say, because they are based on three assumptions that educators know are not true in the classroom.

• Children and teenagers always follow rules in order for these guidelines to function effectively.

     Yet children and teenagers may not always follow the rules. This assumption inherently puts students, educators and their families at greater risk of infection.

• Schools are able to implement these guidelines with fidelity at all times.

Yet schools are already underfunded, classified employees may be laid-off, and teachers are not trained or instructed on how to implement the guidelines as imagined by the county. Students and staff members can still get sick even with these guidelines.

• All schools must reopen five days per week for all students to learn.

But this one-size-fits-all approach can fail to provide safe and healthy schools and weaken the educational possibilities for students and educators. Educators and district administrators have been working on other models of providing education, such as using distance learning, while also ensuring equitable access for all students without schools having to be open for every student every day. They are also trying to provide meals for students five days per week.

Teacher leaders say they will offer solutions as part of the bargaining process and plan to engage parents so the community can work together for safe and healthy schools for students and their families. Parents who reached out to teachers say they are outraged and will stand with school employees.

“Administrators and the county superintendent need to address our real concerns through the bargaining process before unilaterally moving ahead with opening schools,” say educators.

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THE DISTINGUISHED JARENA LEE AWARD PRESENTED TO OAKLAND SENIOR PASTOR

Parks Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 476 34th Street Oakland, California is excited to announce that Rev. Dr. Rosalynn Brookins, senior pastor was awarded the auspicious Jarena Lee Award.

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Historic rendition of Jarena Lee, the first female preacher in the A.M.E. church

  Dr. Rosalyn Brookins. Courtesy of Parks Chapel A.M.E. Church.

Parks Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 476 34th Street Oakland, California is excited to announce that Rev. Dr. Rosalynn Brookins, senior pastor was awarded the auspicious Jarena Lee Award.

Jarena Lee (February 11, 1783 – February 3, 1864) was the first female authorized to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. History shows she was born into a free, Black family. Lee saw the immorality of slavery.  At a time period of segregation and inequity, A.M.E. Church founder Richard Allen gave her the opportunity for her voice to be heard despite the fact that there were no provisions for a female to preach. Rev. Lee showed determination to let her voice be heard and to share the holy word, despite racial and gender issues.  Further, Lee was the first African American woman to have an autobiography published in the United States.

During the 5th Episcopal District A.M.E. Founder’s Day Service, the Award was presented to Brookins by Rev. Carieta Grizzell, president of Women in Ministry and pastor of Murph-Emmanuel Church in Sacramento, Ca.  This esteemed award is the highest commendation that a female minister can receive in the A.M.E. Church.

There are many parallels between  Lee and  Brookins.  They both blazed a path forward through adverse circumstances and applied the lessons they learned to their spirituality.  Their similar experiences as female ministers reinforce their relationship with God.  They maintained a steadfast hope in and a strong love for his divine majesty.  

Brookins is the only Episcopal supervisor of the Women’s Mission Society for the A.M.E. Church to be given a pastoral appointment as senior pastor.

Brookins earned her doctoral degree from Payne Theological Seminary in 2018, making her the first inaugurated female to be conferred with the noted degree.  She was the commencement speaker during the graduation.  Her dissertation was entitled “The Rebirth of the Woman’s Prophetic Voice: Using Liberation Theology to Impact the Local Congregation.” 

In 2018, Brookins presented a pilot program in South Africa and subsequently launched the Global School of the Prophets.  While there are many prophetic schools, this is the only type of school that ministers to both clergy and lay women. Brookins exudes great enthusiasm and passion about teaching and she graciously shares her expertise regarding prophecy.  Her courses provide an overview and structure that encourage individuals to develop, explore and expand their prophetic knowledge and understanding.   

The highly organized and comprehensive curriculum includes coverage of the Introduction and  Origin of the Prophetic; Prophetic Call;  Prophetic Ministry;  Prophetic Terminology; Nine Prophetic Traits, and Prophetic Training and the Church.   Students currently participating in the second cohort of the Global School are from the United States, India, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Belize and Trinidad. 

Just as Lee showed a drive and commitment to serve,  Brookins has the same qualities.  She is an honorable, steadfast pastor who is obedient to all that God has called her to do.  She is a strong leader, and a visionary who genuinely loves preaching the word of God.  Rev. Brookins’ unconditional love and genuine personality has touched the hearts of many.  Her prophetic ministry, powerful sermons and prayers consistently instill hope and inspiration. 

Lee traveled extensively preaching the word of God.  Rev. Brookins has preached the gospel in multiple pulpits across the country, including Canada, Zambia, India and South Africa. 

Regarding his mother’s receipt of this prestigious award, Sir Wellington Hartford Brookins said “I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of my mother.  She is an example of perseverance and daring determination.  She inspires me to move forward every single day and that’s why this award means so much to her and to me.”

Brookins said she is “humbled that the men and women of God felt I deserved such an award. I am moved that God saw it fitting for me to receive such an honorable award.”

The Jerena Lee Award is an amazing recognition of the contributions of Rev. Brookins to the theological foundations of the church as a whole.

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Rush bowls

The perfect blend of all-natural fruits and veggies topped with delightfully crunchy, organic granola, a drizzle of honey, and your choice of fresh fruits and toppers.

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Rush bowls are the perfect blend of all-natural fruits and veggies topped with delightfully crunchy, organic granola, a drizzle of honey, and your choice of fresh fruits and toppers. Packed with nutrients and fully customizable, Rush bowls offer healthy, delicious alternatives to standard fast-casual fare. Rush bowls is open Mondays-Fridays from 10am-6pm at 350 17th Street, Oakland,CA 94619. Available for indoor dining, and delivery through GRUBHUBhttps://rushbowls.com/oakland

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Volunteer’s Green Thumb Brings a Community Garden in East Oakland Back to Life

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Satterell Singh in the Community Garden in Oakland’s Fairfax neighborhood. Photo by Wanda Ravernell.

Satterell Singh is looking forward to the day the water system he is creating at the Community Garden at Ygnacio and Congress in East Oakland is ready.

    Toting 5-gallon bottles from the back of his station wagon into the small lot across from Horace Mann Elementary School in the Fairfax neighborhood is wearing Singh out. “I’m invested in getting rid of this method,” quipped the son of an African American woman and a Punjabi immigrant who met in college in the 1970s.

   The 2005 graduate of Castlemont High School is a former linebacker who carries the bottles with ease. He explains that, so far, everything that comes into the garden is either by his hands or one of the two wheelbarrows in the center of the patch. 

   Besides his 4-year-old daughter Marlie, and wife, Ebony, also a former Knight, he can’t count on regular help with the tasks at hand, but he hoped to change that when he hosted a garden event the day before Easter. 

    On hand were seedlings of Tuscany melon, cucumber, strawberry and wildflowers to entice children to plant in the planter boxes that has been repaired by Singh with found wood.

  Children weren’t coming by themselves, Singh knew, and while the kids were busy, he believed he could persuade some strong parents to help with other strenuous tasks in order to carry out his three-part plan for the garden.

     The first part involves laying down sheet mulch — layers of wood and cardboard that should kill off any crabgrass and other ‘strays’ that the birds plant. Building up the soil for both the planters and the ground is next for Phase 1, followed by pruning and the removal of dead or dying grapefruit and other trees. “Cloning is in the future,” he said of a method to revive the space with healthier plants.

   The second part of Singh’s plan involves the permanent structures, like remodeling the chicken coop with found wood and donated coop wire and building a chicken run, and a 10-foot by 10-foot pergola for shade and a work/entertainment area for visitors. Those structures are key to his water collection, placing barrels in places to collect runoff and a tote that will eventually have a 500-gallon capacity.

    The third part is getting the community involved. He wants to teach people how to develop and take care of an outdoor place that serves both ornamentally and practically. It is important to Singh that Black people be part of the movement to grow their own food and that they see other Black people gaining and teaching those skills.

  Singh’s own eclectic knowledge comes from classes at Laney College, Merritt College and San Francisco State University where he studied Urban Planning, horticulture and landscape gardening. His grandmother, who moved West from Louisiana and raised seven children in the Brookfield neighborhood in Deep East Oakland, taught him the value of growing food of your own. 

    “You know what you put in, so you know what you’ll get out,” he said, a point driven home even more during the pandemic when there was not only food insecurity across the country but a lack of high quality fresh fruit and vegetables.

   (As a boy, Singh raided his neighbors’ yards for fruit so often that they began to gather the plums – his favorite – oranges, figs and avocados and leave them on front stoops for him to pick up.)

    He loved working the garden with his grandmother so much that he started his own landscaping business right after high school, but he couldn’t hold onto it. For a few years, he was part of what he called the ‘backdoor’ cannabis industry. He insisted, however, that his failures in attempting to grow cannabis indoors were both eye-opening and exhilarating, sending him down what he called a ‘rabbit hole’ of knowledge on permaculture, to what he really wants to create, a landscaping business where what is grown is eaten. 

   In the meantime, Singh now works up to 80 hours a week working security to support his family. “I had to put down what I loved, to take of who I love,” he said. But Ebony knew her husband missed working in gardens and she encouraged him to use his spare time in the community garden they discovered just driving by one day. 

    On a chilly morning, Singh has come to the garden after pulling a graveyard shift and a couple of hours overtime, yet he energetically cut back an out-of-control blackberry bush while R&B music wafts from his car radio. Ebony and Marlie bring him a snack. 

   While a neighbor collects oversized grapefruits that have fallen from a tree, Singh, now digging with a trowel around the roots of a lemon tree that had been hidden by the blackberries, gets back to the matter at hand. He will eat later. 

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