|Friday, February 12, 2021
|Dear Oakland Unified Community,
I want to wish everyone in our community a wonderful Lunar New Year. This is the Year of the Ox or Water Buffalo, which officially begins today, February 12. As Angel Ho from our Translation Team shares, “The ox is so important because, historically, many of our communities worked in agriculture, and this animal is key to our livelihoods as a hardworking, strong and reliable friend.”
The Lunar New Year celebrations can last up to several weeks, and many people use it to travel to see their loved ones, much like Thanksgiving in the United States. This year’s celebration, of course, is different as travel is not possible for most people because of the pandemic. For anyone missing being with family right now, I am sorry that these are the circumstances we are facing. But as Norma Ryuko Kawelokū Wong Roshi, a Zen Buddhist who teaches in Oakland, says, “The prevalent energy of the Year of the Metal Ox will be less chaotic, more determined. It is arriving at an important time – one in which there is so much work to do.” After the past year, we can all hope for less chaos and more determination in the New Year.
Regardless of the obstacles we may face, I hope everyone who honors this holiday has a joyous time together celebrating its history and meaning in our Chinese, Vietnamese, Iu-Mien, Hmong, Korean, Indonesian, Mongolian, and Tibetan families’ cultures and homes. To learn more about the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Ox, click here.
Unfortunately, at this joyous moment in time, there’s a depravity that I must also address, an ugliness that’s showing itself in our community. You have likely heard about numerous attacks on older Asian residents around the Bay Area. One 84 year old man was killed in an attack in San Francisco last month, and several others have been seriously injured in similar attacks including in Oakland’s Chinatown. Multiple suspects have been arrested in relation to these incidents, but the Asian community is still very much on edge, in pain, and calling for unity and healing. I echo that sentiment.
The kind of hatred that motivates people to commit these heinous acts has no place in our city, or in a civilized society. Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, people of Asian descent have been vilified, including by people at the highest levels of our government. To counter this, I am pleased that within a week of taking office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at combating anti-Asian violence and xenophobia. So, I hope we are heading in the right direction as a nation. Resources to Help Process, Combat, and Heal from Anti-Asian RacismHow to Intervene in a Racist Attack, Akshat RathiBias & Harassment Bystander Intervention Resources + Training, Hollaback!Self-Care for People of Color After Psychological Trauma, Just JasmineTalking to children after racial incidents – Penn Graduate School of EducationAct to Change Homeroom & Racism Is a Virus Anti-Bullying CurriculumSocial Justice Education and Anti-Racism Resources for Schools, Kathleen Bennett, OUSD Behavioral HealthElementary & Secondary Curriculum Resources to Teach About Anti-Asian Violence
Here in Oakland, our communities are asking that we don’t let these acts of violence divide us, but that instead, we stand proudly together to support one another and say in a united voice that hatred has no place in our city. You can join this Chinatown event virtually this Saturday at 3pm to show your solidarity.
As a school district, we are committed to pushing forward in our work to create more inclusive, culturally responsive and racially just classrooms that celebrate and deepen understanding and solidarity across all of our diverse communities.
Within our District community, it is incumbent upon everyone to follow the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. When it comes to hatred and discrimination, I quote Chinese philsopher and teacher, Confucius. “If you hate a person, you are defeated by them.” There is no room in our city, our district, or frankly, in our hearts, for hatred. Don’t be defeated by hate, be uplifted by love. That is what will help all of us as we work through the pandemic and back to a more normal life. We have been at this for almost 11 months, and I know the characteristics of an ox will help us as a community: the strength, the honesty, the bravery, and the determination.
I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Lunar New Year. Gung Hay Fat Choy! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! Happy Losar, Imlek, Seollal and Tsagaan Sar! May this Year of the Ox be far better, more loving and more free than last year.
Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell
What do you think?