My activism in the Trump years

(last chapter of my mini-autobio-blography)

After Trump was elected, some members of Kehilla Community Synagogue, where I belong, were moved to start organizing monthly protests outside the Richmond jail, which had a contract with the federal government as an ICE detention center. The Let Our People Go protests started as a way to increase the pressure by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, which had held monthly vigils at the same jail for many years. 

I was moved to help this project, and the protests slowly grew, until the biggest one in the wake of the #FamiliesBelongTogether movement in June of 2018, which drew over 4000 people. A few days later, partly out of concern that ongoing large protests would make it impossible to continue operating the jail, the Contra Costa County sheriff announced he was ending the contract with ICE.

I continued participating with the immigrant rights committee at Kehilla. Kehilla is a member of Faith in Action East Bay, where I had been volunteering for many years, and being deeply connected in both communities allowed me to help make useful connections. We held a large training at Kehilla for allies to support the immigrant rights hotline in case of ICE raids, and I led a team of volunteers in assisting a Venezuelan refugee successfully through the asylum process.

I thought that my activism would continue in the direction of supporting immigrant rights, but at the end of 2018, a couple of people that I trust asked me to run for school board. They were very concerned about the influx of outside money into school board elections in 2016 and 2018. Only a school board candidate who had many years of experience with the Oakland schools, and connections to groups across the city, could win against massive donations from billionaires who live outside of Oakland. 

I had never thought of myself as a politician before, but after years of going to school board meetings as an activist, I knew that Oakland could not afford new people on the school board who were not aware of the depth and magnitude of the issues that are ahead of us. And so, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work reaching out to people and creating the infrastructure of my campaign.

Many people have said to me, "Being on the school board is a tough job! Why would you want to do that?" Yet every time I go to Oakland SOL, I am in awe of the full-time teachers and staff who work there, and how little help they get doing their jobs. And I look at the faces of middle school students who are growing up as kids of color during the time of Trump (and gentrification) in the flatlands of East Oakland. They face challenges that are much, much tougher than anything I have to do. 

So I am not going to shirk from this responsibility - I'll do what is right for the kids and educators of Oakland, first building a campaign that can win against the whims of the billionaires, and then making decisions with my fellow Board Directors in a way that puts equity first each and every day.


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