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Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ta-Nehisi Coates to Launch Center for Journalism and Democracy at Howard University

Hannah-Jones and Coates add to the list of media heavy hitters who have recently joined the faculty at Howard.

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Photo courtesy of Ashni; @ash_photos via unsplash

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the author of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, known best for his book “Between the World and Me,” are launching a Center for Journalism and Democracy at Howard University, the pair announced Tuesday.

The center will focus on training the next generation of Black journalists to develop “the investigative skills and historical and analytical expertise needed to cover the crisis our democracy is facing,” according to a press release the from university.

“We are at a critical juncture in our democracy, and yet our press does not reflect the nation it serves and too often struggles to grasp the danger for our country as we see growing attacks on free speech and the fundamental right to vote,” Hannah-Jones said in the release. “In the storied tradition of the Black press, the Center for Journalism and Democracy will help produce journalists capable of accurately and urgently covering the challenges of our democracy with a clarity, skepticism, rigor and historical dexterity that is too often missing from today’s journalism.”

The center is supported by nearly $20 million in grants from two philanthropic foundations and an anonymous donor. Hannah-Jones’ decision to join the faculty at Howard, an HBCU, instead of UNC-Chapel Hill, where the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist was offered a non-tenured position, was praised online. Hannah-Jones will serve as Howard’s newly created Knight Chair in Race and Journalism. Coates, once a student at Howard University (though he didn’t graduate), will be on the faculty of the College Arts of Sciences.

Hannah-Jones has authored award-winning stories on topics such as school segregation. But the 1619 Project, in which she sought to retell the role of slavery in the development of the United States, drew outrage from conservatives and former President Donald Trump. Bills were introduced to ban the use of the texts in school, and it sparked the ongoing debate around critical race theory.

Coates has also written seminal texts on race in America. His 2014 cover story in Atlantic magazine, “The Case for Reparations,” relaunched the conversation around reparations into the mainstream. More recently, Coates has made his stamp on culture as author on a series of recent Black Panther comic books.

Hannah-Jones and Coates add to the list of media heavy hitters who have recently joined the faculty at Howard.

Actress Phylicia Rashad, who also attended Howard, joined the school’s faculty as dean of the re-launched College of Fine Arts (now named for the late actor Chadwick Boseman, also a Howard alum) earlier this year.

Rashad drew criticism last month after celebrating Bill Cosby’s release from prison on Twitter, writing that “a terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” The university put out a statement saying that Rashad’s views did not represent those of the university and that she would be required to take a sensitivity course on sexual assault. That decision also proved controversial online.

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

More Segregated Than Deep South: ACLU Releases Report on Calif. Public Schools

The 2024 State of Black Education: Report Card was recently published by the American Civil Liberties Union California Action (ACLU California Action). It states that California is the third most segregated state for Black students.  Co-author of the report, policy counsel Amir Whitaker from ACLU Southern California explained the criteria the ACLU use to rank California during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education held at the State Capitol the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

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Asm. Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) was a guest speaker at the State of Black Education report card briefing at the State Capitol on May 29. CBM Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Asm. Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) was a guest speaker at the State of Black Education report card briefing at the State Capitol on May 29. CBM Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

The 2024 State of Black Education: Report Card was recently published by the American Civil Liberties Union California Action (ACLU California Action). 

It states that California is the third most segregated state for Black students.

Co-author of the report, policy counsel Amir Whitaker from ACLU Southern California explained the criteria the ACLU use to rank California during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education held at the State Capitol the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

“For every state in the Deep South, California (schools) are more segregated,” Whittaker said. “People often think that California is not segregated or unequal as Deep South states and others. The inequalities here (in California) are actually wider.”

New York and Illinois are ahead of California regarding the racial diversity of their student bodies. According to a report May 2022 report by Stanford Graduate School of Education, the Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York City school districts are in the top 10 most racially segregated districts for White-Black, White-Hispanic, and White-Asian segregation based on the average levels from 1991-2020.

In bigger school districts, segregation between low-income (students who are eligible for free lunch) and non-low-income students increased by 47% since 1991, according to the Stanford Graduate School’s report.

“That’s why it’s important to look at this data,” Whitaker said. “When you have millions of people living in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, the urban areas are a lot more segregated than the south. That’s a big part of it.

A number of factors contribute to the segregation of schools in California such as parents sending their children to private schools, others optioning for homeschooling, and other reasons, Whitaker said.

The Brown v. Board of Education case declared that separating children in public schools based on race was unconstitutional. However, Whitaker pointed to cases after the landmark decision that circumvented that federal law.

According to a 2014 report by the Civil Rights Project, in the 1990s, decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court decision ended federal desegregation orders in San Francisco and San Jose. In addition, court decisions in the state that ordered desegregation in the 1970s were overturned by the 1990s. Legally, California has no school integration policy to adhere to.

“This is why we did this report. There needs to be a report just on this issue (of school segregation),” Whitaker told California Black Media. “Right now, there’s no task force or anything addressing it. I have never seen the California Department of Education talk about it. This is a pandemic (and) a crisis.”

ACLU Northern California hosted an overview of the report and panel discussion at the State Capitol on May 29. California Black Legislative Caucus member Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) and Sen. Steven Bradford were the guest speakers. Parents, students, educators, and Black education advocates from all over the state attended the 90-minute presentation at the State Capitol.

School segregation is the No. 1 issue listed in among the report’s “24 areas of documented inequality,along with problematic trends of racial harassment, a continuous decline of Black student enrollment, school closures, connection with school staff, chronic absenteeism, low Black teacher representation, and parent participation.

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Bay Area

Oakland Students Find Learning and Classroom Disparities in New Report

The Oakland-based student program, Energy Convertors, released their yearly report on learning proficiency and classroom management for the 2023-2024 school year. Fellows in the program found that students in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) believed they were proficient in English and math curriculum, when in fact they were not. Energy Converters fellows surveyed 353 OUSD high school students (1% of all OUSD students) asking questions based on how they felt they were doing in their classes, how teachers were conveying proficiency goals to them, and whether teachers were keeping a conducive classroom environment.

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Oakland students released a report showing learning and classroom disparities that are hindering their education. Photo by Ridofranz, iStock.
Oakland students released a report showing learning and classroom disparities that are hindering their education. Photo by Ridofranz, iStock.

By Magaly Muñoz

The Oakland-based student program, Energy Convertors, released their yearly report on learning proficiency and classroom management for the 2023-2024 school year. Fellows in the program found that students in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) believed they were proficient in English and math curriculum, when in fact they were not.

Energy Converters fellows surveyed 353 OUSD high school students (1% of all OUSD students) asking questions based on how they felt they were doing in their classes, how teachers were conveying proficiency goals to them, and whether teachers were keeping a conducive classroom environment.

The report, titled “Demanding Proficiency over Pageantry”, found that 3 out of 4 students surveyed believed that they were reading on grade-level and 3 out of 5 students believed they were meeting the grade-level standard in math.

Nearly 75% of those surveyed also said that a teacher has not discussed whether they were reading or understanding math proficiently.

A study conducted by Families in Action (FIA) Oakland showed that in the 2021-22 school year only 36% of students were at grade-level reading proficiency and 26% were proficient in math.

The FIA study also showed that Black and Latino students had the lowest proficiencies in these areas at 12% and 15% respectively.

MarQuis Evans, program manager of Energy Converters, told the Post that their annual reports are based on the experiences and topics that their fellows are encountering at their schools. The students are asked to share how they feel about a particular situation, in this case how well they are doing in the classroom, and then tasked with researching the effects of those subjects in relation to Oakland students.

“A lot of students were voicing that they passed a class but they don’t necessarily know if they understand [the subject],” Evans said.

A goal of Energy Convertors is making sure the kids know that they have to be their biggest advocates in school. Teachers deal with many students over the course of their day so knowing how to ask the right questions about their educational needs is imperative.

Charles Cole, founder of Energy Convertors, said he’s pushing this responsibility onto students and their parents because they are ultimately the ones who have to deal with the consequences if they’re not staying on top of their work.

“No one is coming to save you,” Cole said.

Another finding in the report was that many students, 80% who took the survey, said they were not aware that they were chronically absent. To be considered chronically absent, a student has to miss 10% of the total school days in the year, which could mean anytime over 18 missing days.

Vulnerable groups in California such as students with disabilities, English-learners, and students of color all have high absentee rates ranging from 25% to 37%, according to the CA School Dashboard.

The report recommends that schools should use incentives, like rewards, to push kids into attending their classes. It also states that students should be communicating why they are missing from their classes and what support they might need in order to attend more frequently.

Michelle Coleman, former OUSD administrator and current principal in West Contra Costa, said it’s important for students to be able to express their concerns about their education.

Coleman explained that in her experience it helped to keep all stakeholders informed about what was going on. For example, the school would notify parents after a certain amount of absences and would offer support in cases where resources might help get the student to attend school more often.

She shared that she wished students understood that as much as they are having struggles, teachers are also trying their best to keep kids in line and help them achieve grade-level goals, but it’s hard for them to care more about their education than the student actually cares for.

“I have high expectations, but it’s because I believe in you, and I know you can do it, and I will help you get there, but I need you to help yourself first,” Coleman said.

Coleman stressed that the most important aspect in all this is that the students feel like they are succeeding and the people around them are rooting for them to do so. Educators are setting these kids up to be functioning members of society and to give back to the community the same way they were given opportunities and chances because it ultimately takes a village to raise these students.

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Bay Area

Castlemont High School Alumni Association Hosts 20th Annual Hall of Fame Awards Luncheon

The Castlemont High School Alumni Association hosted their 20th Anniversary Luncheon and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Saturday, May 18 in the school’s Phil Reeder Performing Arts Center at 8601 MacArthur Blvd. in East Oakland.

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Honoree Brenda Knight with supporters at the Castlemont High School Alumni Association 20th Annual Hall of Fame Awards Luncheon in the Phil Reeder Auditorium. (Left to right) Marie Thomas, Juanita Pree McVey, Dr. Brenda Knight, Terrie Williams, Deborah Washington, Vicky Wimberley, Kathy Neely, Barbara Piggee Dell, Alice Westbrooks.
Honoree Brenda Knight with supporters at the Castlemont High School Alumni Association 20th Annual Hall of Fame Awards Luncheon in the Phil Reeder Auditorium. (Left to right) Marie Thomas, Juanita Pree McVey, Dr. Brenda Knight, Terrie Williams, Deborah Washington, Vicky Wimberley, Kathy Neely, Barbara Piggee Dell, Alice Westbrooks.

By Carla Thomas 

The Castlemont High School Alumni Association hosted their 20th Anniversary Luncheon and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Saturday, May 18 in the school’s Phil Reeder Performing Arts Center at 8601 MacArthur Blvd. in East Oakland.

The Distinguished Knight in Shining Armor Alumni Award was presented to Jerrold Curry, class of 1971, Henry Tingle, ’74; Dr. Sandra Weatherby, ’83; Dr. Brenda (Johnson) Knight, ’70 and Dr. Doris Limbrick, ’71.

Dr. Knight thanked her supporters and spoke of being mindful of what you do in life, because someone is always watching. Knight graduated from Castlemont in 1970. When her three sons were young, playing Babe Ruth Baseball in Oakland, she went on to become the first female president of the organization and changed the entire fabric of the league.

Knight has had two special invitations to the White House: one for sports during her time with Babe Ruth Baseball and one during her time as a Community College Trustee.

In 1996, Brenda Knight founded the Ladies in Red, a women’s empowerment group. At the age of 50, she graduated, with honors, from Laney Community College with an Associate of Arts degree in Social Sciences and continued her education at Saint Mary’s College receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Management.

For the past three years, Knight has been the event coordinator for the FREE Juneteenth Celebration for the City of American Canyon and is currently running for city council. Brenda has been married to her husband, Harvey, for 50 years.

Dr. Doris Limbrick, a senior pastor of Acts Full Gospel Church, praised God for the recognition and shared the good news of the gospel. Limbrick spoke of becoming pregnant during high school yet still graduated with her class. Limbrick is the founder of GirlTalk, a women’s empowerment group. With her husband Anthony of 40 plus years, children, and grandchildren in attendance Limbrick said, “I enjoyed my school years, but these days, I’m all about sharing the love of God in Jesus Christ with everyone,” she said.

Limbrick is an active member of the Pastors of Oakland organization and retired from Pacific Bell in 1993, after 21 years of service to work full time in the ministry.  In 1999, she received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Sacramento School of Theology for being the founder of Acts Christian Academy’s K-8th grade school.

In 2007, she was nominated and selected to attend Oxford University in Oxford, England (Pembrooke College). She is a lifelong member of the Oxford University Roundtable. In 2008, Limbrick organized Bridging the Gap Foundation in the City of Oakland, and was presented with a proclamation from then-Mayor Ron Dellums honoring September 13 as “Unity in the Community Day.”

Dr. Sandra Weather, an internist for Kaiser Permanente said Black doctors in the community inspired her to become a doctor and humbly accepted her award. “I like to help healthy people stay well and when they’re sick, get well.”
The Phil Reeder Performing Arts Alumni Award was presented to Richard “Dimples” Fields, class of 1969 posthumously and Wilton Rabb, ’78; and Paul Wade, ’69.

Rabb, a guitarist who has performed globally with Prince, Graham Central Station and other music legends thanked his family and said, “I plan to continue making great music and bringing good into the world.”

The son of Richard “Dimples” Fields spoke on behalf of his father on stage with family members who flew in for the ceremony.

The Sports Hall of Fame Alumni Award was presented to Jerrold Curry, class of ’72, Charles Mitchell, ’72; Gerald Morgan, ’71; John Roberts, ’71; and Adrian Rodgers, ’71.

Curry and Mitchell reminisced on their record-breaking winning streaks with the OAL Track and Field competitions. “I plan to create a scholarship here to support the next generation of students,” said Curry.

The event also listed multiple scholarships and their recipients.
De’ core’ a Y. Reed, Israel Y. Section Zuno received the CHSAA Scholarship. Jennifer Garcia Ramirez and Guadalupe Flores Serrano received the John Mackey Award. The Class of ’71 Friends Forever Scholarship recipients included Lizbeth Ramirez, De’ core’ a Y. Reed, and Guadalupe Flores Serrano. The Richard Vanucci – Bob Balandra Trade School Scholarship was presented to Edgar Manzo Basurto, Angel Cuellar, and Kevin Yax.

“The achievements of Castlemont High are worthy of recognition,” said CHSAA President with CHSAA Vice President and HoF Chair Dana Malone Hubert.

Alumni and Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton, co-founder of the alumni association shared the group’s history. A tribute to educator Phil Reeder was presented by Larry Batiste, class of ’74 and Claytoven Richardson, ’74.

The school’s courtyard served as the banquet area featuring lunch by Michael Lathan, class of ’79 of Southern Jazz Kitchen and dessert were made by Deloris Whitehead Joseph, ’69 and Angela Banks Copeland, ’80. Music was provided by Jorge Watson, ’75 of Hillside Productions.

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