AFRE Brings Healing to Education for Black Students

AFRE Brings Healing to Education for Black Students

Oakland has long been the birthplace of justice movements. Our collective essence is one of resistance to injustice and persistence in the face of hardship. It’s no wonder that a small group of community members have banded together to create a space of academic healing for our most vulnerable learners.

The Academy for Restorative Education (AFRE) is a new Oakland non-profit whose focus is to close the achievement gap for under performing African-American students, and promote restorative educational practices to teach healthy responses to past educational neglect.

The primary mission of the AFRE is to aid in the development and support of specific, proven and meaningful educational models to improve academic achievement. Many underperforming students in Oakland lack the basic healing spaces and equipment to thrive academically.

After years of navigating a barren and, at times, hostile educational landscape for African-American children in the public school sector, several community members in Oakland joined Dr. Lasha Pierce, the Executive Director of AFRE, and decided to start SILE: School for Innovation, Leadership, and Efficacy. With an eye on closing the opportunity gap for African-American students, they have successfully formulated an innovative, inclusive curriculum rooted in Restorative Education. AFRE plans to join the legacy independent schools in the bay area in providing an educational alternative for African-American students.

The organization’s final 501C(3) designation with the IRS is still pending, but they are carrying on with fundraising, and organizing efforts cannot drag on. All community support is welcomed.

The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019, in a yet-to-be-determined location.

Recruitment for students and families has begun.  For more information, to volunteer time or resources, or to enroll a child, email

This article originally appeared in The Oakland Post.

Oakland 12th Grader Gema Quetzal Cardenas Appointed to State Board of Education

Oakland 12th Grader Gema Quetzal Cardenas Appointed to State Board of Education

Oakland Unified School District senior Gema Quetzal Cardenas has been sworn in as the sole student member of the State Board of Education.

“My goal is to make sure I represent students as they deserve, because sometimes students don’t feel represented. And I want to make sure they get the voice that they need,” she told a local TV station.

Quetzal Cardenas was accompanied by her mother, Karina Najera on Sept. 6 to the swearing in ceremony in Sacramento.

Najera seemed amazed that her daughter’s life has reached this point. “I was also scared. As we were walking here, I felt like she was my baby, like when she was little and started walking. So, this is a new step for her. And I know she’s ready. But as a parent, you always want to keep your baby at home,  and I’m just realizing right now that she’s ready for the world.”

The 17-year-old former OUSD Board of Education student member was appointed to the State Board by Governor Jerry Brown in March after an exhaustive application process that included hundreds of other student candidates.

“I’m just a proud East Oakland girl,” Quetzal Cardenas said just before taking the oath of office. She then explained her plans for her year on the Board.

“I really want to focus on curriculum because that’s something that students work with every day.

“You know, it’s something very important because curriculum can change, and it changes the students’ perspective on subjects and potentially their future careers.”

The State Board of Education is a formal body that may be unaccustomed to the kind of activism that is more emblematic of Oakland and OUSD.

Quetzal Cardenas is a prime example of a fearless advocate for what she believes. Her mother says the State Board may not know what’s in store for them with the addition of this “proud East Oakland girl.”

“I don’t think they’re ready for her. This morning, one of them approached her and said, ‘you know, make sure you speak up because some student members, they tend to stay quiet.’ And in my mind, I was like, ‘I don’t think you’re ready for her…’ I don’t think that California is ready for this new member.”

Quetzal Cardenas is receiving internship hours for her service on the state board, all while maintaining a 4.1 GPA. After graduation, she hopes to attend Columbia University in New York City and eventually run for public office.

This article originally appeared in The Oakland Post.

Tim White Rehired to Lead Facilities Dept.  at Oakland Unified School District

Tim White Rehired to Lead Facilities Dept. at Oakland Unified School District

The Oakland Unified School District has rehired widely respected administrator Tim White as Deputy Chief of Facilities to oversee construction and renovation projects on numerous major facilities projects that are underway.

“I am excited to come back to the place where I spent 14 years, supporting young people with outstanding educational facilities,” said White.

White worked for OUSD from 2001 to 2015 as Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and later as Deputy Chief of Facilities before being forced out his position in 2015 during the administration of former Supt. Antwan Wilson.

After leaving Oakland, White served as Executive Director of Facilities for Berkeley schools, working closely with the superintendent, Construction Bond Oversight Committee, and school board to determine long-term planning for the expenditure of facility construction bonds approved by voters.

He was also responsible for the expenditure of the district’s school maintenance tax ($5 million annually) used to keep schools safe and well-maintained. White previously worked in the Compton Unified School District.

“Tim brings extensive experience, an accomplished track record and a deep commitment to Oakland and communities. We are excited about Tim’s leadership and the new team that will be assembled in our Business and Operations division,” said OUSD Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell.

“My previous time in OUSD will help me transition into this new role, enabling me to hit the ground running. There are many exciting projects well underway, including the rebuilding of Glenview Elementary and the new school building at Madison Park Academy, plus many in the early stages such as the new Central Kitchen,” said White. “I look forward to completing all of them as soon as possible, while ensuring that we are effective stewards of taxpayer dollars for the voters of Oakland.”

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Oakland Students Head to D.C. for “March for Our Lives” Demonstration

Oakland Students Head to D.C. for “March for Our Lives” Demonstration

A group of nine young leaders from East Bay schools, organized and led by Regina Jackson of East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), will participate in the “March for Our Lives” demonstration for an end to gun violence Saturday in Washington, D.C.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee urged Jackson to organize the delegation so that Oakland would have a presence in the historic march.  Lee contributed money to pay for part of the trip, and a micro-grant covered the rest.

“Recently we did a listening session with Oakland Lee about gun violence. She asked me to coordinate the student delegation. I will be leading the group of students, who have all been affected by gun violence, ages 13-18,” said Jackson.

Members of the EOYDC delegation: Damoni Nears, senior at Moreau Catholic High; Destiny Shabazz, senior at McClymonds High; Devlynn Nolan, senior at Castlemont High; Jada White, 8th grader at Edna Brewer Middle; Khali Walker, freshman at Castlemont High; Kia Hanson, senior at Fremont High; Nala Lazimba, 8th grader at Alliance Academy; Rasheem Haskins, sophomore at Skyline High; and Ramaj Walker, junior at Envision Academy.

Organizers of the Washington D.C. march are students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and adults died.

The young Oakland leaders spoke about how gun violence has impacted their lives.

“I have first-hand experience with gun violence,” said Jada White, aged 13.

“I lost my father when I was just a baby. I am going to the march to share my experience and my hope for stronger gun education and policy.”

Seventeen-year-old Kia Hanson said, “I lost my brother to gun violence. My pain is real every day. I am going to the march to represent him and my hope that no one ever have to experience a tragedy like mine ever again.”

The young people plan to write a blog about the march after they return draft some language for bills to be considered at the state and federal level.

Over 800 rallies and marches are scheduled across the country Saturday in solidarity with the protest in Washington, D.C. In the Bay Areas, marches are planned for San Jose and San Francisco.

A rally will be held Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in front of City Hall in Oakland, and then attendees will go by BART to join forces with marchers in San Francisco.

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Black Psychology: Children and Family Therapy

Black Psychology: Children and Family Therapy

By Michael E. Connor, Ph.D.
Professor Alliant International University and
Professor Emeritus CSULB

​When many/most folks think about psychology, they are likely thinking about clinical psychology—the branch which provides therapy and counseling. Some therapists may focus on children, others on adults, some on adolescents and others on geriatrics. The approaches, methodologies, interactions and parameters vary with each population. Additionally, some practitioners may work with individuals, some with groups; others with businesses; some with families or with an admixture of the above. A primary goal is to change thinking and activity in order to become more proficient, less stressed, more relaxed and more self-sufficient, which could result in more happiness and self-sufficiency.

Michael E. Connor, Ph.D., Professor Alliant International University and Professor Emeritus CSULB

Michael E. Connor, Ph.D., Professor Alliant International University and Professor Emeritus CSULB

A variety of techniques, procedures and processes are utilized, ranging from talk therapies to exercise to mindfulness training to medications (under the auspices of a medical doctor). The field of Black psychology has devoted itself to creating healing techniques and therapeutic practices design specifically for African American persons, families and community.

The focus on this month’s Critical Black Mental Health Issues is child and family therapy. When one considers the collective history and toxic context in which African American people were forced to live in the US, it is surprising that any of us have survived.

Yet, thousands have done so—this speaks directly of our (and our ancestors’) strengths, resolve, genius, and life lessons. However, living with constant stress and social toxicity too often results in physical and mental problems, including essential hypertension, diabetes, obesity, family violence, death at the hands of police, strokes, depression, anxiety, broken homes, the inability to care for self and others, and poor self esteem, to name a few.

All of this suggests the need for collaborative and culturally congruent healthy approaches to daily living which may include therapy.
​In Black psychology the major works of Akbari, Bynum, Kambon, Grills, Myers, Parham, White, etc. provide a treasure chest of theory and practice that can serve as the basis for understanding and repairing the dehumanization of African people. As Black Psychologists, we especially want to note that in considering therapy, Black people should keep in mind that all behavior occurs in a social-historical-cultural context. Given our culture, when working with younger children (those who cannot yet engage in abstract thinking), it is important to include parents, grandparents, caregivers and other engaged adults (in this sense, for Black people, all therapy should or could be viewed as a form of Family Therapy).

​In working with younger children, an approach I found most useful involved shaping and reinforcing desired behavior, using social reinforcement— while ignoring the undesired behavior (note, it is important to be aware of reasonable age appropriate child behaviors). In this model, primary caregivers are trained to observe the problematic behavior, to help determine appropriate preferred behavior and to reinforce approximations of that preferred behavior until the desired result is reached.
​Along with various therapies in Black psychology, it is important in this discussion to consider the following specific issues when working with Black children:

  • Establish consistency in their lives—developing and maintaining a schedule (i.e., eating at the same time, going to bed at the same time (seven days a week), getting up at the same time, etc.);
  • Engage and reinforce the child’s natural curiosity (answer questions, read to them share/discuss their history);
  • Try not to confuse punishment with discipline;
  • Do not “treat your kids the same”—rather get to know them and treat them “who they are;”
  • Remember, fathers AND mothers have important roles to play in their children’s lives—kids need moms and dads;
  • If possible, have an annual physical exam for your children—keep a copy of the results (mental health and physical health are related); and,
  • Consistently, model appropriate behaviors for your child

​The ABPsi’s 50th Annual International Convention will be held June 27th-July 1st, 2018, at The Marriott Oakland City Center, in Oakland, CA. Come join this gathering of psychologists, university professors, educators, health care professionals, researchers, students and everyday folks and learn about children and family therapy designed for Black people.

The Bay Area Chapter of the ABPsi can be contacted at

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Black College Expo Comes to Oakland, Feb. 17th

Black College Expo Comes to Oakland, Feb. 17th

OAKLAND POST — The Black College Expo (BCE) state-to-state tour, presented by the National College Resources Foundation (NCRF), will host its 15th Annual Black College Expo Oakland at the Oakland Marriot City Center, located at 1001 Broadway in Oakland, Saturday, Feb.17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In an effort to raise awareness and promote student participation, the NCRF will have boots on the ground in Oakland for the “Power of Me” tour from Feb. 6 through Feb. 17, leading up to the expo.

The “Power of Me” tour includes recent college graduates and celebrities who will be visiting high schools, churches, community colleges and youth organizations, and sharing their experiences about college life and the importance of education along with the various BCE opportunities to minority students.

In recent years, the event has attracted close to 5,000 college hopefuls and millennials. One of the biggest advantages of the expo is a streamlined admissions process for students to be accepted to college on the spot. This feature eliminates the guesswork and the grueling and costly process of filling out application after application, followed by the agonizing wait for acceptance.

Also, the expo provides funding resources options, including scholarships, grants and other special incentives. The highly-anticipated, one-day event is jam packed with information, excitement and entertainment.

BCE Oakland will feature close to 100 colleges and universities that will pre-screen students for college acceptance and provide counseling and information about resource options. Approximately 50 of the colleges represented at the expo will be from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Many of them will be accepting students instantly at the expo, waiving application fees and awarding more than $1 million in scholarships. Students and parents are invited to take advantage of the many seminars and workshops that will go on throughout the day, such as “Booming Careers,” “How to Find Money for College,” and “The 411 for the Student Athlete.”

Plus, representatives from the armed services—the U.S. Army and the U.S. Coast Guard—along with a host of corporations and businesses will offer internships and other opportunities for minorities.

Other features of the expo include a celebrity-hosted scholarship presentation ceremony, step shows, live entertainment and lots of free giveaways.

Tickets are $7. Register on Eventbrite at

For more information, visit

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Laney, West Side Baptist’s Pocket Houses for Homeless Students

Laney, West Side Baptist’s Pocket Houses for Homeless Students

OAKLAND POST — Laney College’s latest tiny home prototype will house two homeless students beginning this spring semester.

Laney College carpentry presents the Pocket House at Capitol Hill. Right to left: Digital fabrication instructor Marisha Farnsworth, Laney student Kim Gordon, Congressperson Barbara Lee, Laney students Daniel Ticket, Miguel Vega, and Rick Rothbart.

Laney College carpentry presents the Pocket House at Capitol Hill. Right to left: Digital fabrication instructor Marisha Farnsworth, Laney student Kim Gordon, Congressperson Barbara Lee, Laney students Daniel Ticket, Miguel Vega, and Rick Rothbart.

Laney’s carpentry department has achieved success building tiny homes. They won a contest hosted by Sacramento Municipal Utility District for a tiny home they built in 2016. Councilmember Abel Guillén spearheaded a collaboration between the City of Oakland and their department with an $80,000 grant to Laney carpentry to build a tiny home prototype for mass production.

The latest model of the Laney-made tiny homes is the Pocket House Model M. It was delivered to West Side Missionary Baptist Church by Martin Kauffman, a truck driver who donated his services.

Art Ramirez is an electrician who will also donate his services to get the tiny home’s water and electricity up and running.
Rev. Ken Chambers said the 200-member Interfaith Council of Alameda County supports this project, and has a goal to house 1,000 people this year.

But the first step is to work with Laney coordinators to interview and select students in need of the home each semester. The parking lot the tiny home sits in is already a safe car park, and Chambers is taking steps toward being able to pay a stipend to the selected students for overseeing the lot. The church will also offer access to health and employment services.
Chambers hopes to create a system that can be replicated throughout Oakland and have a deep impact on the unsheltered communities it holds.

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AC Transit to Oakland Hills  Schools Wins Reprieve

AC Transit to Oakland Hills  Schools Wins Reprieve

THE OAKLAND POST — The Oakland Unified School District and AC Transit have announced that bus transportation service to Montera Middle School, Skyline High School and Community Day School will be extended through June 2019.

“This extension gives our families assurance of both agencies’ commitment to support their transportation needs and to find solutions together,” said Board of Education Member Nina Senn.

Finding a longer-term solution will take time and an extension into 2019 gives us breathing room to do so,” she said.  “We are very grateful for AC Transit’s and our state legislators, Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond’s … partnership and collaboration as we work through this process.”

Said AC Transit Board President Elsa Ortiz, “AC Transit is proud of our decades-long partnership with OUSD and honored to know that our service will remain a passport for East Bay students.

“In collaboration with OUSD, we devoted the past year to developing cost savings that minimized changes to ‘school-tripper’ bus lines, while working with stakeholders on the financial commitments that now protect supplementary bus service through the close of next school year,” she aid.

For information about bus routes and schedules, visit AC Transit’s website at:

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When It Comes to Choosing a School in Oakland, Knowledge is Power

When It Comes to Choosing a School in Oakland, Knowledge is Power

By Dirk Tillotson

Where you send your child to school is one of the most important decisions you can make.

The new school quality data released by the state shows several public schools making great progress with Oakland children.

But before I get to the schools showing the most progress, let me offer a disclaimer.

No number can fully capture a school’s story of success. So take these insights as starting points and do your homework.

Now is the time to research and apply to schools in open enrollment.

All of the information below can be found on the Oakland Unified School District’s website.

We have never had more options, easier ways to enroll, or more information about schools, so we need make the best choices we can.

Check out this list of schools making significant gains in English language arts, math and graduation rates, as well as those that stand out for serving Black and Latino* students exceptionally well:

Elementary schools gaining in math and English

  1. Aspire Monarch*
  2. Francophone Charter school
  3. Madison Park*
  4. Manzanita SEED
  5. Glenview
Middle Schools gaining in math and English
  1. West Oakland Middle School+
  2. American Indian Public Charter+
  3. Claremont*
  4. Epic Charter*
  5. Oakland Charter *
K-8 Schools gaining in math and English
  1. Greenleaf*
  2. Ascend*
  3. Melrose
  4. American Indian Model School+
  5. Hillcrest+
6-12 Schools gaining in math and English
  1. Coliseum College Prep*
  2. Aspire Golden State*
  3. Aspire Lionel Wilson*
  4. Madison Park*
  5. Bay Area Technology Prep+
High Schools with academic gains and increasing graduation rates
  1. MetWest*+
  2. Leadership Public Schools R and D
  3. ARISE*
  4. Oakland Charter High*
  5. Envision*+
Knowledge is power. So take advantage of your options and the information available. There are still enrollment fairs coming up from OUSD and Enroll Oakland before the enrollment deadlines. Your children are counting on you to do the best by them, and that starts with making informed choices.

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Ces Butler Gifts $1 Million in Scholarships for Oakland Youth

Ces Butler Gifts $1 Million in Scholarships for Oakland Youth

Cestra “Ces” Butner. Photo by Sara Sandhu.

[/media-credit] Cestra “Ces” Butner

OAKLAND POST — Oakland businessman and community leader, Cestra “Ces” Butner, pledged another $500,000 to East Bay College Fund in front of 600 scholars, mentors, and volunteers during the organization’s 2018 Winter Retreat at Oakland Technical High School on January 4th.

With an initial $500,000 pledged last year, the CesTRA Butner Family Foundation has now gifted $1 million in scholarships for Oakland youth. East Bay College Fund will administer the scholarships and provide wraparound support services to help scholars stay on track to earn their college degrees.

As the evening’s keynote speaker, Butner also shared stories from his upbringing, including his parents’ insistence that he complete college, and his learnings as the former owner of Oakland-based Horizon Beverage Company.

“It has been a great year for me. I ended up selling my business and it afforded me an opportunity to fund the CesTRA Butner Family Foundation…dedicated to education and to provide it for Hispanic and black kids in Oakland,” said Butner. “That’s why I’m pleased to announce that I’m prepared to give another half million dollars.”

Diana Chavez, a freshman at UC Davis and one of Butner’s 20 2017 scholars, presented him with an award on behalf of East Bay College Fund and his commitment to equity in education in Oakland.

“Ces is such a role model for Oakland, and most importantly for all the young people who heard his announcement at our retreat,” shared East Bay College Fund’s Executive Director, Diane Dodge. “Ces’ gifts are so meaningful for our students, and what’s even more inspiring is how meaningful it is for him to give back to his community. He really embraces his ability to serve Oakland youth, and I’m honored to partner with him.”

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