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Dear Park Day Community,
We are so heartbroken at the recent Atlanta shootings that took place Tuesday evening in which Asian American women were fatally targeted by a white male. Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Julie Park, Hyeon Jeong Park, and others as yet unidentified. We remember these victims, and say their names while thinking of their families and of the immediate impact this tragedy has on their communities. We are equally disheartened to read yet another report of two separate hate crimes involving elderly Asian people in San Francisco. Racism and white supremacy once again show their ugly faces and yet, the reality is that crimes against our AAPI community members are ever present and often go unreported. Today we write, in solidarity as a staff, to denounce these hate crimes.
This week at school, we listened closely to our students to decipher what they knew of the events (if anything) and to speak with them and process these horrors in developmentally appropriate ways. It is a deeply held Park Day value that, “When you see a problem, you do something about it.” We move forward with deep reflection on our program and consideration of how often our AAPI students see themselves reflected in the authors we share, the characters they read about, the changemakers they learn from and the community members who surround them.
Asian American activist Grace Lee Boggs is quoted saying, “You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” We share the following resources and articles that we are looking to as we push to elevate the voices of Asian Americans and continue to fight against racism:
In celebration of the rich and diverse contributions of Asian Americans in our school, city, country, and world communities, we will use our April assembly to elevate the voices of our AAPI community members and devote our May assembly to Asian American heritage.
We hope this letter serves as a call to action for the Park Day community–we take pride in working together to abolish racism and end racist violence.
Josie A.G. Shapiro
Dear Park Day Families
We write to you today with heavy hearts, just as we were elating in hope brought forth by the recent elections.
Yesterday, January 6, 2021, began with moments of reckoning and ended in shock and dismay. Many of us opened class acknowledging Rev. Raphael Warnock’s win as the first Black Senator of Georgia. This was later followed by Jon Ossoff’s win as the first Jewish Senator of Georgia. We honored changemaker Stacey Abrams and how her tireless work boosted voter turnout in Georgia, and inspired activism across the country to get out the vote. And we discussed the process underway to certify Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the new President and Vice President of our nation.
Then, disheartening news began filtering through. White mobs had moved through police barricades, violently destroying, defacing, and denigrating the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, bringing to a halt the democratic process. We acknowledge this as an act of white supremacy where a privileged group can violently act on their anger and, unimpeded, storm the Capitol. Contrast this with how, when protesting peacefully, our Black and Brown community members are met with brutality from throngs of riot police and face hatred and violence while jogging, bird watching, or simply playing outside.
We spoke about these events in real time at our staff meeting yesterday. We processed what happened and how we were feeling. Soon after, vowing to strap our boots on once again, our conversation shifted to how we would support our students. As we do after any tragic event, with this one threatening the very existence of our democracy, we will spend the time it takes to listen carefully to students, helping them process their feelings and guiding them to understand their own power, particularly when those in power incite violence and divisiveness. We will also continue to provide factual information, in developmentally appropriate ways, and to have conversations about the stained history of our country, placing these recent events along that timeline.
As a community of educators, we denounce both the actions of the mob and the inactions of those in power who could have prevented this. We acknowledge the long history of white supremacy in our country and understand that these past four years, along with the hundreds before them, cultivated the racism and division that fueled yesterday’s events. With the current state of our world, there will surely be more situations in the near future that require us to come together as a community to process, to heal, and to take action. May this moment be another rallying cry, reminding us of the values our community stands behind and of the courageous acts we all must take to both uphold our democracy and to push forward the fight for racial justice.
Devin Homme, Katy Ailes, Ilya Pratt, Sonya Coles, Joyce Ting, Marisa Hatcher, Denise Montgomery, Lisa Ostapinski, Chelsea Feldman, Grecia Zúñiga-Bloom, Carrie Kartman, Eileen Walker, Joe Patton, Susan Lee, Sarah Sheaffer, Noreen Axelson, Jill Knowland, Josie AG Shapiro, Jen Hoggatt, Alisa Peres, Claudia Peña, Elizabeth McDowell, Sara Levine, Jeffrey Allen, Sara Mohn, Gina Giarmo, Becky Bob-Waksberg, Lisa Appleyard, Dani Herrera, Andrew Risinger, KG, Jeanine Harmon, Rachel Stone, Michelle McAfee, Victoria Jones, Cassandra McCraw, Cristina Portela, Deborah Crawford, Chris Miller, Monica Schuster, Amalia Bob-Waksberg, Paul Rendón, Karen Colaric, Miguel Martinez, Jennifer Cooper, Jalen Cole-Williams, Angela Taylor, Jules Greene, Ashley Foster
Dear Park Day Families,
I exhaled on Saturday morning at around 8:45am. It was at that moment I realized I had been holding my breath for maybe the last four years. Wow.
On Election Day last Tuesday, Jules and I gathered a group of teachers and we went around (the Zoom room) sharing how we were all feeling. Some said “nervous”. Some said “exhausted.” Some said “cautiously optimistic.”
That was the word that came tumbling out of my mouth before I could really give it much thought, before I could censor it to be “work appropriate.” I hadn’t realized it but I believe I wore my “numbness” as an armor and a shield to allow myself to go on and to function despite how I was really feeling. Scared. Angry. Deeply disappointed in our nation.
Immediately following that deep exhalation on Saturday morning, I heard a little voice from inside my spirit whisper something very soft and it almost went unnoticed.
“Maybe they will see me now.”
Oakland’s own (ok, we will share her with Berkeley, if we must), Kamala Harris, will be the next Vice President of the United States!
“Maybe they will see me now.”
I don’t usually quote Malcolm X because he is often seen as the controversial other side of the coin to Martin Luther King’s peaceful and somewhat palatable posthumous remix. But, Malcolm X’s quote from a speech he gave in 1962 in Los Angeles came to mind in a way that I could not ignore, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”
With Vice-President Elect Harris heading to the White House… “maybe they will see me now.”
It took 244 years. This is an important milestone for our nation. This is an important milestone for women. This is an important milestone for all women of color. This is an important milestone for Indian women. And, as a black woman who used to be a shy, little girl who worked twice as hard as everyone else in every class and on every job I have ever had, this is life-giving and affirming.
“Maybe they will see me now.”
I am so excited for all of those little girls who can now see themselves represented in a position of power. I am so excited to be a part of a community that proudly shares the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion for all.
We have a long road ahead of us and it will not be easy. But…
“Maybe they will see me now.”
The last time I formally addressed this community back in October immediately following my appointment, my message was full of excitement, gratitude, and hope. Almost eight full months have passed and during that time, the world has completely changed. Against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, our nation is literally erupting with collective pain, frustration, and rage. My message now is that we have to meet our present moment.
Like so many, I have been grappling for the last two weeks with this most recent lynching of an unarmed black man at the hands of a police officer. Watching the video of George Floyd’s last moments on this earth impacted me at a cellular level. He could have easily been my husband, my cousin, my nephew, or even me. For me, this is not an intellectual exercise.
As a black woman working in predominantly white spaces, I have been struggling with how to grieve, how to varnish my anger, how to lead, and how not to allow myself to slip into despair. Aside from my deep faith, the thing that is keeping me focused is that in my role as an educator. I get to touch the future through every teacher and student I impact. Citizens across this country are protesting not only the death of George Floyd but police killings of black and brown men over the course of centuries and true to form, it is young people who are taking the lead.
In less than 30 days, I will have the honor and privilege of leading Park Day. While I am still full of excitement, gratitude, and hope, there will be a lot on our collective shoulders. We will have to start the school year with health and safety protocols that will change how we exist in community. We will have to lean into the Park Day promise to “prepare students to be informed, courageous, and compassionate people who shape a more equitable and sustainable world” by deepening our social justice focus on systemic racism and activism even for our youngest learners. Nimbleness and agility with delivering a quality Park Day education whether live or remote will be key.
I have appreciated the thoughtfulness and foresight of Erik and the Board of Trustees who activated an early transition process for me which started back in late March. I feel confident in a smooth “passing of the baton” come July 1 because of the dedicated educators, engaged students, and passionate parents and guardians of Park Day.
I am looking forward to getting to know you and your hopes and dreams for Park Day as we start this first year together. I wish your families a safe and restorative summer.
I am so pleased to be joining the Park Day community and honored to partner with all of you as we co-create the future of this exceptional school. Park Day is truly a transformational, child-centered oasis in the middle of Oakland!
My visits to campus during the search process confirmed and underscored the school’s strong reputation. Park Day has been and continues to be a beacon of progressive education where social justice and student voice and agency are foundational. Each person I had the opportunity to meet brought what I had heard and learned about the school to life. I met joyful and engaged students who are passionate about making a difference in the world. I met teachers united in their commitment to deeply knowing their students and cultivating in them a sense of obligation to the larger community. I met an administrative team focused on maximizing and harnessing the collective wisdom and expertise of the teachers and staff. I met passionate parents and guardians who embrace the mission and are invested in the success and sustainability of Park Day. In total, I encountered a close-knit community who is leaning and stretching towards its future and I am thrilled to be invited to be a part of that future!
Thank you to the search committee, its co-chairs, Noam Ragins and Manisha Patel, and to the Board Chair, Germaine Hunter, not only for their professionalism and care they showed throughout the process but also for their confidence. I am also grateful to the faculty, staff, parents, students, and board members I have met for their openness, candor, and for showing me the beauty of the community they love so much. My husband, Shaw, and I have lived in Oakland for over 20 years and we are both excited about being a part of positive change in our own backyard. We look forward to meeting you as we visit over the coming year and when we formally join the Park Day family in July 2020.
Incoming Head of School