Black Love is Liberation, Personified

Student Showcase Spring Symposium group participants

April was a month of profound reflection and invigoration. It began with a transformative visit to the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The Oakland Fund for Public Innovation invited local leaders from Oakland to visit the storied grounds of Montgomery, Alabama, immersing ourselves in the history of the civil rights movement at the Equal Justice Initiative sites.  

Artist Michelle Browder and COE Chris ChatmonWe met an extraordinary artist and activist, Ms. Michelle Browder, curator of the Mothers of Gynecology exhibit who created three statues depicting Anarcha Westcott, Betsey, and Lucy, three enslaved women who were patients of controversial doctor and “father of gynecology” J. Marion Sims. The statues were created – “to symbolize how Black women have been treated and to demonstrate the beauty in the broken and discarded.”

The exchanges and artwork served as powerful reminders of resilience, leaving a lasting impression on our shared awareness.   Deep appreciation to Juma Crawford, Misha Perez, and The Oakland Fund for Public Innovation for curating a transformative trip.

I left Alabama realizing the greatest weapon of our forebears against enslavement, white supremacy, and racial injustice was LOVE.  Black Love is Liberation is the antidote to the perpetual slavery we are living in today.  It was not a coincidence that I spent two weeks in Alabama, “The Cradle of the Confederacy” to come back to our Kingmakers of Oakland Spring Symposium titled, “Black Love is Liberation.”  

Shiree Teng presentationWe must continue to give voice to the hardship, take back our narrative, and tell our stories.  Racially biased narratives have never been confronted in this country. The symposium was not just an education leadership conference but a vibrant celebration of how love can revolutionize education. Groundbreaking research led by Shiree Teng and her team, Rahsaan Smith, Rumi Smith, Kelechi Ubozoh, and Theodore Miller, demonstrated methodologies to embed love in educational practices. Their work helps enhance connections and belonging among students, families, and teachers, proving that love can indeed be systematically nurtured within academic settings.

Antoinette Malveaux fireside chatHighlights included a fireside chat with Antoinette Malveaux, Managing Director SEI, Casey Family Programs, and explorations of liberatory practices with Spearitwurk co-founders Mizan Alkebulan-Abakah and Sizwe Andrews-Abakah, which enriched our understanding of creating supportive educational environments. Dr. Shawn Ginwright’s keynote, alongside a panel led by Dr. Travis Bristol and Dr. KO Wilson, provided well-rounded strategies on self-care and support systems crucial for educator well-being.

Additionally, the launch of our “The Griots of Oakland” book and a multi-media art installation powerfully displayed the narratives of over 80 Black males from Oakland, emphasizing the importance of controlling our own stories. The symposium concluded with a Student Showcase highlighting the innate greatness, beauty, and brilliance of Kings, Queens, and non-binary royalty from Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, Lancaster, Ile Omode, Hidden Genius Project, and numerous other programs and schools.  

This convening reinforced that when love is practiced in education, it truly has the power to change lives. This event honored our educational legacy and vividly brought the liberating power of Black love to life, leaving my heart overflowing with hope and dedication. Thank you to all who enabled us to showcase our greatest asset; our youth.

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