Laney College teach-in tackles local issues to strengthen student-community bondsVolunteers from Laney College faculty, student body, and community hosted their second teach-in of the year in The Forum on Wednesday, Oct. 19, to discuss local issues on the Nov. 8 ballot. The event was titled “The Audacity of Profit is a Threat to Democracy.”
It covered the following ballot initiatives:
Measure JJ – Renters Protection
Measure LL – Police Oversight
Proposition 55 – Public Funding of Public Education
Before the teach-in began, the Laney Quad was speckled with bright T-shirts on the backs of young representatives from groups like the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Californians for Justice, the Green Party, and Yes on 55 together with the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC).
The microphone was passed to various representatives. Laiseng Saechao from APEN explained her stance in favor of Measure JJ to avoid displacement of families.
Evan Hawkins of the FACCC explained its partnership with the Yes on 55 campaign in the interest of keeping community colleges affordable.
Californians for Justice, represented by Justine Santos, was at the event to support young voter turnout. Two other volunteers were clad in purple t-shirts, which read, “Register to vote in under 3 minutes.”
Voter information and registration in the Quad were the preamble to a series of passionate panel speakers discussing their perspectives on these issues. These speakers, including ASLC Senator Trent Hanible, Oakland activist Jabari Shaw, and Ethel Long-Scott of the Women’s Economic Agenda Project (WEAP) shared their personal understandings of the issues at hand.
“This is extra-curricular, right, but this is the curriculum,” said Chris Weidenbach, English Department co-chair. “Social justice is always the curriculum.” Weidenbach kicked off the teach-in by reciting his poem entitled “This American Life,” which came to him while driving. He had to pull over to write it.
WEAP’s Long-Scott observed, “We the people better be about it.” Long-Scott was instrumental in organizing the spring teach-in about the Flint, Mich., water crisis, and spoke at this event about how capitalism has exacerbated poverty in Oakland as a result of the tech boom spillover from Silicon Valley.
Just as in the previous teach-in, Long-Scott stressed the importance of a strong community of informed people to address local issues. “This is a new day, folks,” Long-Scott said. “We desperately need to build, broaden our social movement, so that everyone under attack begins to unite—as we fight, we must also teach.”
For Weidenbach and the other members of the planning committee, the teach-ins at Laney offer education beyond the classroom.
“The big context is life, and trying to develop healthy systems,” he said, “instead of being subject to the systems built in the interest of profit.”
Dr. Kimberly King, a psychology professor at Laney and planning committee member for both teach-ins this year, considers the step from educator to activist to be a natural transition. “Some of us see education as one of the ways that we are trying to achieve social justice,” she said.
After meeting regularly since May, the planning committee drafted a mission and vision statement, which begins:
“Our mission is to create public space to envision an equitable, abundant, sustainable future for our communities and our college.”
Teach-in participants explored the connection between the failure of government to protect and improve the quality of life in Flint to the housing market in Oakland. “What is happening in Flint could happen here,” Laney College student Alicia Alston said in May.
At that teach-in, Brittany Brown of the East 12th Street Coalition spoke then about the terms Oakland residents are forced to accept as a result of corporate interests. “Who here can afford a $3,100 a month for a one bedroom?”
The Flint water crisis “was really about negligence or intentional efforts to screw up something that was a valuable public resource,” Weidenbach said. In Oakland, residents are struggling with rent increases that threaten to displace them.
Weidenbach and other members of the teach-in planning committee share high hopes for the series’ impact on community building. The next teach-in is planned for mid-November, after the election. The committee meets every Tuesday from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. in T-450, unless otherwise stated. Anyone interested is invited to participate.
For more information, contact Weidenbach at cweidenbach(at)peralta.edu.
Laney Teach-In Mission Statement
Our mission is to create public space to envision an equitable, abundant, sustainable future for our communities and our college. The vision that guides our mission is of a sustainable society and world of abundance, peace and equality. That world is attainable. To that end, we will host public events to share vital information among the college and the community about sociopolitical issues in ways that are collaborative, educational and informative.