"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
View Kathy Emery, PhD's LinkedIn profileView Kathy Emery, PhD's profile

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wazir Peacock RIP

Wazir Peacock died this year.  He will be missed.

We in Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement (BayVets) were privileged to work with Wazir, and learn from him. In the South in the 1960s, his Freedom Movement brothers and sisters usually referred to him as "Peacock," but here in NorCal in the late '90s and after we used his self-chosen name "Wazir."

"So many Willie's in the world," he told us. "For awhile, I came to Islam right after SNCC around 1966, and I was given the name. It means essentially one who shares with the people. One of the persons who translated the Koran into English -- he said that the best meaning was one who worked on behalf of the people for God, for Allah. A servant of the people in its truest sense."

Wazir was one of our founding members when we first came together in 1999. He became an important guide and contributor to our Civil Rights Movement Veterans website ( Most of us had been active in the Movement in Alabama and Mississippi from 1963 on, so he was our link to the early pioneering days when young students were first stepping up and, "daring to stand in a strong sun and cast a sharp shadow."

We originally formed BayVets around the idea of finding ways to help our Movement sisters and brothers who had fallen on hard times -- the "walking wounded" as we called them. It was Wazir who showed us that we whose boots had been on the ground in the hard and dangerous days of the freedom struggle were all of us walking wounded ourselves. All of us were carrying hidden scars and emotional wounds that only others who had shared similar experiences could help heal. That healing became a vital part of our BayVets work.

Wazir loved to speak about the Freedom Movement to community groups, churches, and most definitely school kids. He had a special affinity for reaching the younger children in elementary school with whom he could talk about what it was like growing up as a child in segregated, Jim Crow Mississippi. And he loved -- and they loved -- being able to share with them the freedom songs of the Freedom Movement.

Recently, Milton Reynolds of "Facing History" wrote to Wazir: "I appreciate the fact that we have had the opportunity to connect as colleagues in the struggle, but also that I've been able to share your work and your beloved community of freedom fighters with hundreds of students. I can only tell you that they are inspired, and moved to action by your life of dignity and purpose."

For six years, Wazir was a primary resource expert for the San Francisco summer Freedom School program that worked to bring the lessons of the Movement to today's teachers and students. And until he fell ill, he was a regular guest speaker in San Francisco State University history and political science classes.

Professor Kathy Emery of the S.F. Freedom School and S.F. State said, "I can't tell you how much my students miss your semester visits to San Francisco State University. Your guest speaker visits have become legend.  Veteran students have told new students that you used to come to class and tell compelling stories of growing up in Mississippi; running away to protest your father's decision to move you all to the plantation; why you changed your name to Wazir from Willie B. (they are particularly outraged by the doctor naming you Willie B when you were born)... You gave your life to the movement and your stories have inspired hundreds of my students to participate in social justice action today..."

Two years ago Wazir recorded a video oral-history titled, "Stand For Freedom: The Life and Times of Willie B. Wazir Peacock" which is now available on You Tube ( He took great pride in being able to share his legacy with those who are picking up the freedom torch today. A transcription of an earlier oral history is also available on the CRMVet website (

Bruce Hartford and Chude Allen
For BayVets

Thursday, December 10, 2015

downsizing of city college sf

An Open Letter to Guy Lease, Chancellor Lamb and the City College Board of Trustees
Stop Hemorrhaging Enrollment at City College:
End the Racist Payment Policy

Activists with Save City College and the student Solidarity Committee (composed of Asian Student Union, Black Student Union, MECHA, P.E.A.C.E.--Pilipinos for Education, Arts, Culture and Empowerment) are writing to ask you to place an item on the Board of Trustees agenda ASAP:  the current harsh payment policy that was initiated in October 2013, with the first wave of students being evicted from the college during enrollment for spring 2014.[1]

This policy puts pressure on already-enrolled students to immediately pay fees and back debts, before financial aid arrives. Students who can’t pay, are pressed to take out a loan from the predatory student loan company Nelnet.[2] Those who do not set up a loan, are robo-dropped from all their classes.[3] Information about a waiver for people whose financial aid is pending is buried in the fine print of the college website.

Over only four semesters, 9124 enrolled students have been robo-dropped from all their classes, with less than half (4284, or 47%) ever managing to re-enroll, and 4840 (53%) simply gone missing—in the middle of an enrollment crisis at the college!
Our goal is that the Board would direct Chancellor Lamb to place a moratorium on the current harsh payment policy, and to push back deadlines before the next wave of robo-dropping students, which could happen as soon as mid to late December, for spring semester.

Student organizers from the Solidarity Committee at CCSF call this “the racist payment policy” because of the many reports they have gotten from Black, Pacific Islander, Latino, Asian and low-income students about the impact of the payment policy on pushing students out of City College.  The impact is heaviest on non-AB 540 undocumented students and out of state students, who may find themselves pressured for immediate payment of thousands of dollars, with new charges piled on top regularly by Nelnet.

In October of 2013, the College’s announcement of the new policy featured a statement to the SF Chronicle from a vice chancellor:
“We are in a serious transition to right-size the college.”[4]
We believe that the current policy fits within a larger corporate agenda aimed at downsizing our college, worsening the already-devastating loss of one out of three students since 2008.[5]

Here is an example of how the policy works:  Renata owed City College $129. She was sent to wait in two long lines to see a financial aid specialist for help filling out her financial aid forms, and finally gave up. Next she received a threatening letter from City College saying that her tax refund might be intercepted.  As she scrambled to pay the rent, BART, books and her debt, suddenly the college dropped Renata from all of her classes. Her carefully planned work schedule was thrown into chaos.  

Every time a full-time student is pushed out, the college loses up to $4676 in state appropriations.  Yet the average debt to City College is only $256, so the college loses far more than it stands to collect.  The new policy only makes sense if the real goal is downsizing our public college, bringing in revenue for the for-profit colleges and student loan companies, and allowing asset stripping of College land by real estate developers. If the overarching goal is to rebuild enrollment, the policy is utterly counter productive.

We have confirmed with college attorney Steve Bruckman that the current payment policy was a local decision by the administration, so it can and should be immediately overturned. There was a Board resolution authorizing a contract with Nelnet on May 23, 2013 (Action V-F).  Very briefly, Mr. Bruckman said that state law requires colleges to collect fees from students, but how that is done is up to the college administration.

City College’s previous policy was to allow students to continue adding, dropping and taking classes while they arranged payment—only transcripts were frozen.  It is our understanding from other colleges, that a “pay up front” payment policy is very disruptive for low-income students if financial aid advising and accurate information are not readily available —for example, if students lack crucial information about the waiver for students who have financial aid pending.  We know from the presentation at the October Board meeting, that financial aid advising is understaffed, mainly available at Ocean, and not available in multiple languages.  We also know that the enrollment website gives exceptionally obscure instructions about the waiver for students who have financial aid pending.

Before thousands more enrolled students are dropped, the administration should put a moratorium on the current payment policy and overhaul it in line with the principles below:
1.  The BOT should ask Institutional Research to prepare an Equity Impact Report on the current payment policy. It should include the demographics of students who have been robo-dropped, including their ethnicities, ages, zip code and information that might highlight special impacts on undocumented students. How many of the pushed-out students were actually eligible for fee waivers if they had been provided with proper advising?   How many students have been pressured into signing up with Nelnet?

2. Information on the current payment options must be immediately changed so that the payment policy waiver for students who have financial aid pending, is clear and prominent. On the enrollment website, for example, Option 2 is now buried in fine print, and presented in bureaucratic gobbledegook as “Third Party Payer/Self Exemption.”   Very clear and prominent notices should be posted wherever students enroll and throughout college communications, and of course on the enrollment web page.

3. A moratorium should be placed on the current policy at least until City College has enough financial aid advising at all sites in in multiple languages, making it possible for students to get timely assistance in obtaining BOG, Pell, Cal Grants and other real assistance (versus loans), shielding them from being robo-dropped.  The College must follow financial aid professional association guidelines on the recommended ratio of students to advisors.   

4. The administration can and should adjust deadlines so that payment is due AFTER financial aid arrives, not before. If deadlines are pushed out, far fewer loans will be required.

5. The tone of over-the-top hostility and threats in correspondence from the college to students, and on the college website, must be corrected immediately.  Again, this tone is self-defeating if the goal is to re-build enrollment.
  1. The administration or Board should contact Mayor Ed Lee and get swift follow-up on the fund to assist undocumented students, discussed by the Mayor over a year ago with zero concrete progress. The Board should set a deadline and make a back-up plan. We quote from a letter sent by Supervisor David Campos to Ed Lee on 2.7.14: 
  1. “Undocumented students that were dropped because of the current payment policy should be able to register while a more equitable solution is created;
  2. The emergency relief fund to be created by the Mayor’s office must support all undocumented students, including both AB540 and non AB540 students;[6]
  3. Provide in-state tuition for undocumented students that have graduated from a high school in the US and have lived in California for a year and one day.  (CCSF currently grants in-state tuition to out-of-state students so long as they can prove they have lived in California for a year and one day);
  4. Engage both AB540 and other undocumented students in the discussion on how best to address this problem.” 
7.  Un-freeze accounts: If students have accounts in arrears, they must still be able to add and drop classes, with only transcripts put on hold. The policy of totally freezing accounts sets students up to run afoul of the Academic Progress policy if they need to drop, but cannot.

8. End the contract with predatory Nelnet Business Solutions and develop an equitable payment plan based on student income. An in-house payment plan, run by the financial aid office, should emphasize retention and support for low-income students. If financing can’t be handled in-house, an arrangement could be made with a local credit union.

December 8, 2015
On behalf of the Save City College Coalition and the Solidarity Committee (Asian Student Union, Black Student Union, MECHA, P.E.A.C.E.--Pilipinos for Education, Arts, Culture and Empowerment)
Michael Adams (Save City College, community member)
Tarik Farrar (Save City College, *AFT 2121 and the *Department Chairs Council)
Allan Fisher (Save City College and *AFT 2121)
Jon Gausman (Black Student Union)
Lalo Gonzalez (MECHA)
Wendy Kaufmyn (Save City College and *AFT 2121)
Win-Mon Kyi (Asian Student Union)
Claire Warren (P.E.A.C.E., Pilipinos for Education, Arts, Culture and Empowerment)

* Asterisk indicates other affiliations for identification purposes only

[1] The policy was also presented by VC Samuel Santos at the October, 2015 Board meeting, available on video at 3:24:00,
[2] A US Department of Education audit revealed that from 1993 to 2007, student loan companies had set up an elaborate scam to over-bill the federal government for interest on student loans—to the tune of $600 million in taxpayer dollars, $278 million for Nelnet alone. Nelnet has made multiple court settlements for fraud, kickbacks, and improper inducements to colleges and universities (Sources:  Washington Post and Collinge, The Student Loan Scam)
[3]  Oddly enough, the policy only applies to students who have planned ahead and enrolled in classes in advance.  Once classes have started, state regulations prevent students from being dropped. 
[4] October 25, 2013, statement by the then vice chancellor of student development.  This was no doubt considered a communications slip, since the downsizing policy is mainly discussed off mike and obliquely. 
[5] The corporate agenda to downsize City College informs ongoing coverage by the SF Chronicle, which since the beginning of the crisis has repeated scores of times the message that City College is “a vast college,” “a behemoth,” and must change from being “a bloated, slow-thinking system of nine campuses into a lean, sharp-minded institution of higher learning” (translation:  a much smaller college that will “no longer need all its campuses,” which may be better used for luxury condo development schemes such as those led by the Chronicle’s corporate owner, the Hearst Corporation, along with Forest City Enterprises.  See Supes OK big SoMa project, $1 billion development planned at 5th and Mission, SF Chronicle 11/18/2015.  The huge multi-site development project is centered one block from Downtown Campus.  Will Downtown Campus go the way of 33 Gough and Civic Center Tenderloin Campus?)
[6] Under the California Dream Act, AB540 students must have graduated from a California high school or GED program, and have attended high school in California for three or more years.   

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Common Core in it's historical perspective

Here's a very very brief outline of my PhD dissertation

1. business LEADERS have always determined what educational policy is -- business leaders fundamentally alter schooling to meet their needs to sort and socialize the work force. When the nation's economic structure alters, the school system's structure has been changed by business.

2. fundamental education reform has happened 3 times in U.S. history:
  • 1848 -- creation of standardized, hierarchical public school system
  • 1890's -- creation of comprehensive high schools and tracking system using standardized tests (working class tracked into vocational education; middle class tracked into college prep courses).
  • 1989 -- creation of high-stakes testing (attaching High stakes to the standardized tests that have been in use since 1890s)

3. these three transformations of the public school system match the three major transformations of the U.S. economy.
  • 1840s' -- transition from agricultural to manufacturing society
  • 1890's -- transition from manufacturing society to industrial
  • 1980's -- transition from industrial to service economy

4. beginning in 1990's the Business Roundtable engineered a coalition of business groups and educators to pass "high-stakes legislation" in all the state legislatures. By 2000, only 16 states had passed high stakes testing:
  • a. state content standards
  • b. state mandatory standardized tests
  • c. rewards and sanctions connected to test results

5. so, frustrated at the state level, the BRT went to Washington D.C. and lobbied Dems and Republicans to rewrite the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act to reflect high stakes testing policy. the result was NCLB, in the hopes that lobbyists could use NCLB as LEVERAGE to get the recalcitrant state legislatures (those resistant to HST) to pass HST legislation. Many more states came on board during the next 10 years.

6. NCLB was set to expire in 2007. It was SO UNPOPULAR that congress didn't want to touch it with a ten foot pole, in spite of heavy lobbying by the BRT inspired coalition to reauthorize the law. In 2008, Obama campaigned to rewrite the law to respond to criticism. When in office, he hired Arne Duncan ( the NEA has recently called for Duncan to resign) who essentially replaced NCLB with Race to the Top. This has been equally widely unpopular.

7. Business CEO's, frustrated by teacher, parent and student sabotage of high stakes testing have now settled on a "common core" set of standards to once again, be enforced by standardized tests.

What is the purpose of HST/Common Core? The top CEOs want to increase the number of college graduates in STEM fields -- to increase the supply far beyond the demand, so as to lower their wages. HST failed to do that, so Gates et al got Congress to expand the H1B visas to bring in foreign born "knowledge workers" at half the price of native bred STEM. also, majorly outsourcing computer programming et al to India and China and anywhere where they were cheap.

Top down education reform doesn't work. it doesn't get the willing participation of those who are actually implementing it. and the more administrators threaten, cajole teachers, the more teachers resist in any way they can. Teachers had different goals for their students than business leaders have. the clash of goals in schools and in the classroom frustrates everyone.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Activism: Then and Now (event at USF)

I was delighted to work with Victor Valle, a student at the University of San Francisco, in putting on this event.  I met Victor when I went to  Marilyn DeLaure's Rhetoric of Social Movement's class.  Marilyn was, briefly, a board member of the SF Freedom School.  She invites community groups to present options for community service during the first weeks of her course (as part of the community service requirement of her course).  After I presented, Victor contacted me to ask if he could work with "the SF Freedom School" to put on a panel that would include current day activists and a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement.  I suggested several current day activists of which two were able to participate -- Shanell Williams and Javier Reyes.  I ask Phil Hutchings, a former field secretary and program director of SNCC, veteran of the Venceramos Brigade and, currently, a senior organizer for Causa Justa/Just Cause and the Black Alliance for Immigration Reform.
presented to Professor

On November 14th, at the University Center at USF, around 30 people attended the event.  Victor had arranged for food to be served and moderated the panel.  Phil, Shanell and Javier took turns presenting.
    Victor moderated the presentations in such a way that he encouraged a spirited interaction among the panelists as they responded to each other's presentations. The questions from the audience also provoked discussion among the panelists.


    Phil, as part of his presentation, read the last three paragraphs from Julian Bond's essay, SNCC: What We Accomplished, published by Monthly Review in 2000.

    Throughout its brief history, SNCC insisted on group-centered leadership and community-based politics. It made clear the connection between economic power and racial oppression. It refused to define racism as a solely southern phenomenon, to describe racial inequality as caused by irrational prejudice alone, or to limit its struggle solely to guaranteeing legal equality. It challenged U.S. imperialism while mainstream civil rights organizations were silent or curried favor with President Lyndon Johnson, condemning SNCC’s linkage of domestic and international poverty and racism with overseas adventurism. SNCC refused to apply political tests to its membership or supporters, opposing the red-baiting that other organizations and leaders endorsed or condoned. And it created an atmosphere of expectation and anticipation among the people with whom it worked, trusting them to make decisions about their own lives. Thus SNCC widened the definition of politics beyond campaigns and elections; for SNCC, politics encompassed not only electoral races, but also organizing political parties, labor unions, producer cooperatives, and alternative schools.

    SNCC initially sought to transform southern politics by organizing and enfranchising blacks. One proof of its success was the increase in black elected officials in the southern states from seventy-two in 1965 to 388 in 1968. But SNCC also sought to amplify the ends of political participation by enlarging the issues of political debate to include the economic and foreign-policy concerns of American blacks. SNCC’s articulation and advocacy of Black Power redefined the relationship between black Americans and white power. No longer would political equity be considered a privilege; it had become a right.

    A final SNCC legacy is the destruction of the psychological shackles which had kept black southerners in physical and mental peonage; SNCC helped break those chains forever. It demonstrated that ordinary women and men, young and old, could perform extraordinary tasks.

    They did then and can do so again.