Author Archives: Brittany Bracy

Oakland Teachers Protest Over Closures

On Friday, April 29, Oakland Unified School district teachers walked off the job to protest the upcoming closures of 7 Oakland public schools and the merger of 4 more in the next two years. They were met with the support of hundreds of students and parents. 

So far, Parker and Community Day schools will be closing at the end of the 2022 school year. This closure alone displaces hundreds of students. Korematsu, Horace Mann, Brookfield, Carl B. Munck, and Grass Valley will close next year. 

Before the Feb. 2022 vote by the OUSD board of directors, there was an uproar from OUSD teachers and parents of students. 

Earlier this year, a list of the schools that would potentially close was leaked, making many OUSD families nervous about the uncertainty of their children’s educational future and safety. 

“My children would potentially have to walk through a very dangerous area to get to a farther away school. It would mean that the community we’ve built over the years would be torn apart,” said Azlinah Tambu, a parent who has two students in fifth grade and one in first grade.”

The board cited the decline in enrollment and lack of funds as the reason they voted to approve the closures. 

According to KQED, an estimated 93% of students at the schools affected by the plan are considered either lower-income, English learners, or foster youth, compared to the district wide average of about 80%. Black students are also disproportionately affected — about 43% of students at the eight sites on the original school closure list are Black, almost twice the proportion of Black students in the entire district.

Regardless of the budget deficit taking place, there’s a clear discrepancy in the families it affects. It’s unfair to the teachers, students, and families who are taxpayers. If this has been on the radar of the city and school district, the kids have been overlooked along with the staff members who have already been fighting for fair pay. 

To the OUSD board of directors, Oakland residents are concerned about what resources will be made available to offset this unfortunate turn of events.

Justice Jackson Confirmed

In an unprecedented 53-47 vote in the senate, Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first black woman to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice on Apr. 7. This momentous confirmation came just weeks after president Joe Biden announced her nomination. 

Born in Washington D.C. and raised in Miami, Florida, Jackson graduated from a public high school in 1988 when segregation and racism were prevalent. Brown openly described instances of prejudice and racism that she went through during her education. 

Jackson was on the speech and debate team at Miami Palmetto Senior High School. She even received a national oratory title after her captivating speeches. Unsurprisingly she also served as student body president. What others may think of as small achievements, Jackson took it and ran with it to Harvard Law School. Prior to attending Harvard, she temporarily worked as a staff reporter and researcher for Time magazine. 

Clerkships allow students to work closely with judges to study and train how to become an attorney. And after graduating from Harvard in 1996, she began a clerkship for Massachusetts District Court Judge Patti B. Saris. About a year later, she began a clerkship for Judge Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Then, in 1999 she clerked for Supreme Court Judge Stephen Breyer, whose seat she ironically took upon her historical confirmation. 

A sign of her humility came in 2005 in her work as a public defender in Washington, D.C. It was during this time that, according to the Washington Post, she “won uncommon victories against the government that shortened or erased lengthy prison terms.”

Her work as a public defender was questioned, and at many points, Jackson was cut off when speaking during the confirmation hearings by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Lindsey Graham (RSC). Cotton bombarded her with questions such as “Have you ever represented a terrorist at Guantánamo Bay?”

Her previous work as a public defender and judge was used as a double-edged sword for many Republicans who questioned her work and morality during the hearing. 

In response to Graham’s questioning of previous sentences she imposed for specific cases, Jackson said, “What we’re trying to do is be rational in our dealing with some of the most horrible behavior.” 

A major turning point in Jackson’s legal career came in 2012 when President Obama nominated her as a district court judge for the district court of Columbia. 

In 2021 Jackson went on to serve in the U.S. Court of Appeals after being nominated by President Biden. 

That brings us to April 2022. In its 233-year history, prior to Judge Jackson, there had only been two African Americans who served in the U.S. Supreme Court. Jackson became the first black female nominated and first black female to obtain that position in the highest court in our country. 

To young Americans who watched the confirmation hearing, Jackson had this to say:

“I hope to inspire people to try to follow this path because I love this country. Because I love the law. Because I think that it’s important that we all invest in our future. The young people are the future, and I want them to know that they can do and be anything. I would tell them to persevere.”

U.S. Economic Sanctions Against Russia

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, President Biden and other western leaders have placed a plethora of sanctions against Russia. Most of which target their financial institutions. 

The U.S. placed a sanction against Russia’s Central bank, preventing Americans from doing business with the bank. This means that any assets that the bank has in the U.S. are frozen. Other countries like the European Union, the U.K., and Canada have since followed suit. 

Russia has over $600 billion in currency reserves, but most of this cannot be accessed because of the sanctions. Over half of it is reliant on the ability to buy rubles (the Russian currency) from western financial institutions. The reserves must be exchanged for the other countries’ currencies in order for Russia to be able to import goods. The ability to access that money could be the key to stabilizing the inflation taking place in the country. 

According to Michale Bernstam, an economist at Stanford’s Hoover institution, $250 billion is unavailable because those are government bonds of western-aligned countries, including the European Union, Japanese, and British bonds. 

“We wanted to put these actions in place before our markets open because we learned over the course of the weekend from our allies and partners that the Russian Central Bank was attempting to move assets,” said an anonymous senior Biden administration official.

The sanctions are an effort to destabilize the Russian economy. 

Russian banks were also banned from SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. SWIFT is the primary way for global banks to communicate, send and receive orders. Russia’s global banks will have to find an alternative way of communicating with other countries. 

A Biden administrative official described the goal of the sanctions, “We’re committed to fully implementing sanctions and other anti-money-laundering financial and enforcement measures to maximal effect on sanctioned Russian officials and elites close to the Russian government, as well as their families and their enablers, We’re going to identify and freeze the assets they hold in our jurisdictions” said the official. 

As of Mar. 8, the U.S. announced the ban on Russian imports of oil, petroleum, liquefied natural gas, and coal. This is important because crude oil is one of Russia’s top exports. Last year 3% of our imported gasoline came from Russia and the gasoline accounted for about 13% of U.S. exports according to The Hill.

The invasion is part of the reason why U.S. gas prices have been steadily rising. Shell Oil Company recently made headlines after it was discovered that they bought discounted crude oil from Russia in the midst of the invasion. The same day that the U.S. announced the ban, Shell issued an apology and pledged to stop all operations with Russia. 

President Biden told Americans, “Defending freedom is going to cost.”

The deflation of the Russian ruble directly led to inflation. The value of the ruble is down nearly 30%. Inflation has been a nightmare for Russian citizens scrambling to get basic necessities like food which was already expensive. Now it’s even pricier, and people can’t buy as much. Prices also continue to soar for electronics, appliances, and cars in the country. Russians are taking money out of the ATMs and are trying to buy things of lasting value. 

According to ABC news “Mastercard said cards issued by Russian banks will no longer be supported by its network and any Mastercard issued outside the country will not work in Russian stores or ATMs.”

The same is taking place for Visa cards because both American companies decided to suspend their operations in Russia on Mar. 5. 

Before the value of the ruble began to fall, many Russian citizens hurriedly tried to exchange their currency for dollars or euros which currently holds more value than the ruble. Interestingly enough, the Russian central bank put a limit on the amount of foreign currency that citizens can withdraw.

This new reality makes Russian citizens reexamine their finances and urgently protect their money. The economic losses and financial hurdles that many Russians are facing does not compare to the lives lost in the invasion of Ukraine.

The Mental Health Stigma in Minority Communities

The stigma around mental health in the black and minority communities remains. Perhaps if we acknowledge that mental health struggles exist, we may eventually feel comfortable enough to implement techniques and utilize our resources to help in a healthy way.

How do you feel? 

This can be a loaded question for more than 50 million Americans who have experienced mental illness in recent years. Mental illness is any health condition involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior (or a combination of these). From multiple personality disorder to common anxiety, even if you feel like you cannot relate, one day you might, and chances are you know someone who does. 

According to a 2020 poll done by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Undefeated, “Across the country, only 6 out of 10 Black adults said they trust doctors to do what is right most of the time, compared with 8 out of 10 white people.”

Growing up, I’ve seen this distrust first hand. My grandfather was hesitant to take medicine prescribed to him by doctors. My father, a military veteran, only trusts his black doctor due to past instances of discrimination.

Charles Bracy described his experience with his black health care provider: “He went through me like a fine-tooth comb. He’s a little more personal than other doctors I’ve had in the past since he follows up with me about testing and results.”

Everyone should have a health care provider who treats them in a caring manner, unaccompanied by dismissiveness so that they feel comfortable enough to seek health care.

If I explored why a large percentage of black people don’t trust doctors, I would be here all day listing historical accounts of racism and unfair treatment of black people in America’s health system. I would go into detail about the terrifying atrocities committed by the U.S. Public Health Service in 1932 during the Tuskegee Experiment, where doctors injected Syphilis disease into 600 black men after offering them free health care resulting in over 128 related deaths.

I could also discuss how the American health system was not built for black people therefore even with health insurance, blacks tend to receive lower-quality health care, but that would be a different article. 

This is about mental health. The American Psychological Association notes that just 4% of therapists and mental health professionals in the U.S. are black. Also, 5% are Hispanic, and another 5% are Asian. Perhaps if there were more therapists of color that minorities could identify with, more would seek a mental health professional. 

I prefer to discuss healing, support and cures. I’m not going to pretend I don’t know people or have people in my family who are dealing with mental health issues. Nor am I going to pretend I haven’t had my own mental struggles. Like many, I do believe that you shouldn’t have to hit rock bottom to work on yourself. 

“The thing that was sent that I thought was going to be there to break me, actually was the thing that could strengthen me and take me even further than I could even fathom for my entire life,” said Tyler Campbell. 

Campbell, a San Diego State graduate turned motivational speaker, guest hosted Chabot College’s President’s Speaker Series for February. Campbell was dealt his fair share of battles as a college student. He was one of the first people to play Division 1 college football while suffering from multiple sclerosis. Campbell received mental health care and despite this diagnosis, overcame his adversities to become an author, radio show host, MS Ambassador and father.

Since the start of the COVID pandemic there has been an increase in conversations about mental health. It’s interesting that many more people are comfortable enough to talk about their struggles with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. We can talk on the phone and explore alternate scenarios but please do consider solutions. Typically things don’t change overnight but take a step. The sources for this story emphasized therapy, counseling, meditation. They suggested that healthy ways to cope such as working out, changing your diet and journaling can be a good place to start. Take the good and implement it, leave the rest. 

“The average person takes about 11 years before they go into therapy. The onset of a mental health disorder generally happens around the adolescent time frame.”

– Valerie Doyle, black therapist and founder of Matters of the Heart Counseling Centers in San Leandro CA

Doyle went on to mention, “Many African Americans go into therapy much later than they should. So many of their symptoms are more severe than if they would’ve gone in when they were having a crisis or they were feeling a little uncomfortable.” Even so, Doyle feels like millennials are more accepting than older generations of therapy as a form of healing.

If you’d rather find a therapist of color that you relate to in order to live to your fullest potential, that’s commendable. If you’d like to make some changes before 11 years of struggling, please do. You never know how implementing those changes could help you in six months, one year, or 10 years from now. 

Dr. Porscha Moore, who oversees the Black Mental Wellness group at Chabot College, has noticed an increase in mental health awareness since the pandemic. Dr. Moore co-facilitated a nationwide Black Mental Wellness space via zoom for Black/African diaspora professionals to connect and be seen. 

Dr. Moore describes, “The Black Mental Wellness group’s primary objective is to build community by strengthening health and wellness strategies to support African/Black diaspora participants as they navigate the effects of systemic oppression, and ongoing institutionalized race-based violence at the intersections of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and other important identity factors.”

Participants in the group engage in thoughtful dialogue and observation to increase connection, empowerment, and self-awareness. 

For all Chabot College students, Dr. Moore highlighted the CARES team: “The CARES Mental health student is one of the resources available to support the mental wellness of students. The CARES team is predominantly staff of color who are fully licensed & trained mental health professionals.”

The CARES department is located in building 2300 on the 2nd floor. The therapy sessions are provided Monday to Saturday at varying times in-person and online. Students can find the schedule for walk-in virtual and in-person sessions on the Chabot College website under mental health services. 

We are capable of breaking generational curses of substance abuse, anger, violence, and depression. Take a step in the right direction. Whether you’re doing it for your family, friends, or most importantly, yourself, explore your options no matter what you’re going through.

Mask Mandate Continues for Students

This week the indoor mask mandate was lifted in California and 12 Bay Area Counties. However, Chabot Las Positas Colleges Chancellor Ronald Gerhard confirmed that wearing masks indoors will still be required for everyone at both colleges and district offices. 

On Feb. 7, in-person instruction returned for thousands of Chabot and Las Positas College students. Chancellor Gerhard took a lot into consideration before making this decision, but the main reason was “..[for students] to again experience face-to-face instruction in a safe and supportive manner.”

In-person learning adds a degree of normalcy for many students and staff. Although wearing a mask at all times is an oddity, it’s currently one of our best options to protect everyone. It is also important to note that the chancellor can change this decision around mask-wearing in the future. 

Many students, their families, and counterparts rightfully have anxiety around the issue of COVID-19 since it’s something that could be spread to their loved ones. 

Safety is the priority, and Chancellor Gerhard cited a news release from Bay Area health officers detailing how the restrictions of unvaccinated people will continue. This news release also went on to list the instances where indoor masking is still required for all regardless of vaccination status: “ public transportation; health care settings; congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters; long term care facilities; and in K-12 schools and child care settings.” 

The decision from the state to lift the mask mandate comes at a time where COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been rapidly declining over the past month. 

With things improving, the California Department of Public Health still urges everyone to wear a mask in public settings and get vaccinated in order to reduce the spread. For the utmost protection, it is recommended to get a booster shot when eligible. 

As a college student, no one really wants to be told what to do but wearing a mask is also required in K-12 schools and in most jobs. This is a confusing time for many, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.