African American Students

Black Girls CODE Bay Area Chapter Presents: Code A Brighter Future Hackathon

Black Girls CODE is teaming with Colgate to deliver a free girls-only hackathon (6th – 12th grade) as they push young women to “Code a Brighter Future”.


When you picture a promising future, what do you see? What changes do you envision in your community? How is your day-to-day life improved? What challenges do you anticipate we’ll experience with our environment or wildlife? What would you build to make the future you foresee a reality? Use your imagination to create a mobile app that paves the way for a brighter future.

What is a hackathon?

A hackathon is an event designed to bring groups of people together as they work collaboratively to solve a wide-array of problems through computer programming. Black Girls CODE youth hackathons are education focused and allow students to work in teams with experienced mentors over a weekend building apps and tools.

This hackathon will provide each Tech Diva with the opportunity to take part in a three-day youth focused hackathon that encourages creativity and teamwork. Ladies will learn how to design and build apps, concluding the weekend with team presentations and solution demos live on stage!

Who can participate in the hackathon?

The Code a Brighter Future Hackathon is open to girls, grade 6 – 12, of all experience levels. Previous computer camps and STEM exposure are great, but young ladies new to coding and app development are welcomed and encouraged to register as well!

Inviting Tech Divas fitting into the following categories to register today:

  • Girls of all experience levels
  • Girls entering 6th through 12th grade next year
  • Girls who are interested in computer science, STEM, mobile applications, and gaming

What’s the schedule?

Friday, September 22nd: 6:00pm – 9:00pm (registration begins at 5:00pm) – Galvanize, 44 Tehama Street, SF, Ca

Saturday, Sepetmber 23rd: 9:00am – 6:00pm (registration begins at 8:00am ) – Galvanize, 44 Tehama Street, SF, CA

Sunday, September 24th: 9:00am – 6:00pm (registration begins at 8:00am ) – Galvanize, 44 Tehama Street, SF, CA

Click here to register.

One step back, two steps forward — How family affinity groups start conversations about race in schools

black-childrenI am a mixed-race black parent and educator whose children attend a majority Chinese-American public school in San Francisco. Recently I began hosting a Black Family Breakfast at my girls’ school for black and mixed-race families as part of a collaborative effort with the principal to “explore race and culture.”

For the past several years I have been an active school volunteer and I also serve on multiple parent leadership groups. Last year, an incident occurred where a Chinese-American student called a black student a racial slur. The situation was resolved quickly. Nonetheless, in talking about the need to address race and culture more proactively in our school, teachers suggested parents become involved in the process, as they often undermine educator efforts in shifting school culture.

So, inspired by these conversations and those with other black families, I decided to initiate an informal get-together to share support and resources to ensure our school is an even more welcoming place.

Surprise, Surprise… Folks “Get Concerned” When black people Get Together

To my surprise, my “great idea” of bringing black families together was not met with open arms by all staff. A few days after sending out invitations for our second meeting I learned some teachers were “voicing concerns” about our group. (?!) This happened even at a school with an enlightened and supportive principal! At this moment I realized there was still a LOT of work to be done.

What was all the hubbub about? The largest concern voiced by staff was that our group (also known as an “affinity group”) would be too “exclusive” and could potentially be seen as unfair by parents of other racial and cultural groups at the school.

As a black woman who is constantly having to navigate white (and Asian) spaces, I understand the importance of being able to “tell it like it is” in a room full of folks who “get it.” I also understand how important it is to be able to speak about my experience without having to worry about defensive reactions or #whitetears.

Moving Forward, Despite Discomfort

With support from the principal (which was KEY), I moved forward anyway. He decided to use the incident as a “teachable moment” and reminded staff that exploring race meant accepting the discomfort that invariably comes up. I offered to answer any questions staff had about the purpose of the group, and we both agreed that if staff felt other affinity groups should be formed, we would encourage and support them in doing so.

In an effort to support the principal, I also shared with him an article illustrating how affinity groups can support those who are often marginalized in schools. Even though the article was focused on students, I saw many benefits that translated to families as well (emphasis on mine), including:

“[Affinity groups] allow students who share an identity — usually a marginalized identity — to gather, talk in a safe space about issues related to that identity, and transfer that discussion into action that makes for a more equitable experience at school.”

Even though I experienced some initial pushback, I’m glad we moved forward anyway. After just a few days, it has been reaffirming to see the positive outcomes of moving forward DESPITE resistance.

First, it has become very clear that YES… our teachers actually NEED to talk about race. Even if it’s just exploring how they feel about talking about it. (A good first step, right?) I am also learning that this work is ESPECIALLY important in schools with language programs such as ours which has a bilingual Chinese pathway.

As a former high school and middle school teacher in both Oakland and San Francisco, I have roughly 20 years experience working in high-poverty, urban schools. In all my years as a teacher I have never had an option to NOT talk about race.

In contrast, at my daughters’ school, where half of the classrooms are bilingual Chinese, there are many experienced teachers who might never have never been confronted with issues of anti-black racism in their classrooms. They might never have taught black students or worked with black families, and thus have little exposure to black culture in general.

Additionally, there are no black folks on staff (as you may have guessed) and most of the teachers are Asian or white.

So, I’m realizing even though my daughters attend an urban, high-poverty school, I have to readjust my assumptions about teachers’ expected comfort level or knowledge about addressing race/culture with students and families. This might be even more true for Asian-Americans teaching in mostly Asian-American schools, because as people of color themselves, they might get “checked” less often on their own implicit biases and privileges by folks of other disenfranchised groups. (e.g. “I can’t be racist… I’m Asian!)

I am also learning how parents can start conversations among staff by indirectly taking action on their own behalf. In starting black family breakfasts, we didn’t ask anything of teachers. (It’s 100 percent parent initiated and supported!) Nonetheless, the conversation about whether we should or shouldn’t have a black family affinity group (or other affinity groups for that matter) has inspired more conversation about race and the need to create cultural visibility for underrepresented groups at our school.

I am now seeing people coming out of the woodwork to form an informal support network of change-makers committed to elevating  important conversations about equity and culture at our school. This has, in turn, led to a clearer purpose and resolve to push for change around how we celebrate our cultural differences and communicate with students, staff and families about race.

  • A teacher sought me out one morning to tell me how she’s been “fuming” about some of the ignorance and resistance of her teacher peers. The experience of listening to other staff voicing questions and concerns, is spurring her to speak up more to give a voice to our most underrepresented kids (including LGBT, Spanish-speaking, low-income, etc.).
  • Our literacy specialist and the school social worker have (on their own initiative) decided to take on the idea of creating a K-5 book talk curriculum for all teachers in the school addressing race and culture in the classroom. (WOHOOO!)
  • Our principal has committed to working with school staff to increase the number of books with main characters and authors of color in our school and classroom libraries. #WeNeedDiverseBooks!


Families Have Power to Drive Conversation in their School Communities

All of this has not directly been driven by families. Nonetheless, this dialogue would never be happening if black, Latino, Asian and white families hadn’t started the conversation last year.

As an active member of our school community, I believe there has always been agreement that we “should” talk about race. Nonetheless, over the past five years of my involvement, it has never been on the front burner. The fact that all this new activity is happening is a direct result of families starting the conversation. It’s one thing to have a principal make demands of staff (among all the other demands made of teachers each day.) It is quite another for parents and grandparents to make direct requests from teachers on behalf of their kids.

I am tired of feeling like the “angry black parent” every time I bring up the need to address race in our schools. Talking with other black families, and (Latinx, Asian, and white allies) I see I’m not alone. Together, we are making “requests” (aka: nice demands) of staff at our school to meet the needs of our children and families, such as:

  • ALL children deserve to see positive images of black culture in their curriculum and books. All children should see themselves and their peers represented.
  • In order for ALL our children to feel safe and valued at our school, teachers to TALK about race.
  • Underrepresented groups at our school need and deserve enhanced outreach and support.

Now that black parents and grandparents have an affinity group at our school, we no longer feel isolated and alone. The culture of silence is starting to shift. After five years of asking (and waiting for others to take initiative), we finally decided to start the conversation ourselves. Now our school community is moving out of the comfort zone — things are starting to change.

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Ali Collins is an educator, parent organizer, and public school advocate living in the Bay Area. She writes about race, parenting and education on her blog SF Public School Mom. To read her musing on being a public school parent and educator, and to download resources to spur change at your child’s school, go to or connect with her via Twitter:, LinkedIn: or Facebook:


#Because of Them We Can

Tommie & JohnOn October 16, 1968, Sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gave this iconic salute during the medal ceremony at the Olympics in Mexico City.

After Smith won the gold medal and Carlos won the bronze medal in the 200 meter-dash, both took to the podium barefoot in protest and proudly raised their black-gloved fists, while the U.S. National Anthem played. This move allowed Smith and Carlos to take a stand against racial inequality on an international stage, but by the next day, they were forced to return their medals and were thrown out of the Olympic Village.

The third man in the photo, Peter Norman, also stood in solidarity with Smith and Carlos, by wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge during the award ceremony. His actions resulted in his home country, Australia, who enforced the White Australian policy at the time, to deny him for the 1972 Munich Olympics. Although he broke an Australian record that day, Norman’s achievements would go unacknowledged.

Tommie, John and Peter, thank you for using your platform to advocate for racial equality.

PS. When Peter died in 2006, both Carlos and Smith traveled to Australia to serve as his pallbearers.


What Led You to Mandarin Immersion? Please Complete This Survey!!

It is really important that families take the time to complete Ted’s survey (it took me less than 8 minutes to complete) so we can further research that explores what motivates families to pursue a Mandarin immersion education. Please forward this survey to parents at your school, parent boards, and PAASSC families. Ted and his family are a great addition to our PAASSC family and I hope you are able to support the work he is doing.

Edward Watson

Hello Parents!

My name is Edward Watson and I am a graduate student in the Sociology PhD program at University of California – Irvine.  My research is focusing on parental motivations for Mandarin Immersion programs.  I left for China in 2006 and ended up staying over four years, having been back twice on visits.  I did not know any Chinese upon arrival, but through continued hard work, I have achieved near fluency.  My experience with the Chinese language and Its culture has changed my life for the better, giving me the desire to use what I have learned to act as a resource for other students and families.

I am happy to see the recent increase in the popularity of Mandarin Immersion programs.  I am curious as to why parents are choosing this style of education for their children, and whether the reasons behind this choice differ between parents’ experiences and backgrounds.  In order to better examine the rising demand for Mandarin programs, I am asking parents to complete an anonymous online survey by clicking on the link at the bottom.  The 25-question survey should not take more than 15 minutes to complete and your answers will provide substantial data for this project.  My ultimate goal is to strengthen the educational and cultural bonds between America and China while increasing an understanding for our global society.  Whenever possible, I would also like to offer a small compensation provided through my email as a token of my appreciation.

Thanks so much for you time!

Edward Watson


Highlighting Black Administrators Encouraging Mandarin Language Learning!

As the school year starts we wanted to take some time to acknowledge the growing leadership of African American administrators in schools with active Mandarin language programs. We also want to acknowledge the significant accomplishments of Sean Wilson as he transitions from the International High School of Louisiana to the head of school at the International School of Louisiana. While Mandarin is not a language in at his new school they do offer Spanish and French immersion programs for students at their tuition-free campus. We hope to partner with Sean Wilson in the near future and continue to thank him for his progress and support in assisting and promoting Mandarin language learning for Black youth at the International School of Louisiana.

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We are excited to highlight that Jamila Dugan is beginning the school year as the Vice Principal for Yu Ming Charter School in Oakland, CA. . Ms. Dugan is currently a graduate student at the University California, Berkeley. She is excited about her opportunity to assist families, improve and enhance outcomes and she has been a great partner with PAASSC. We are excited to highlight Jamila and look forward to continue working closely with her and Yu Ming throughout the school year. Jamila was born and raised in East Oakland with an incredible passion for education driven by social justice. She previously served as the Director of Professional Development at Yu Ming Charter School and also teaches English to first and second graders in the Yu Ming immersion program. Previous to her current role, Jamila was both a New Teacher Coach and Director of Teacher Learning at Teach For America Oakland. She has taught several grades in early elementary in Washington D.C. and holds a masters degree in Early Childhood Education from George Mason University. She comes to the LEEP program with a thirst for knowledge and interest in equity issues in education and beyond.
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I am always excited to highlight the many accomplishments of Jolynn Washington, Principal at Jose Ortega Elementary School. As principal of Jose Ortega Elementary School, JoLynn Washington emphasizes a culture of service. Ms. Washington initiated the Mandarin Immersion program to enrich the learning experiences of the diverse population of students. Jose Ortega also offers students the opportunity to participate in community garden and greening projects, as well as various social awareness drives. Principal Washington ensures her students have access to after school programs and extracurricular activities such as a monthly book club. Her effective leadership is evident in the vast progress Jose Ortega has made on both an academic and community level. She obtained the teacher of the year award for the 2010/2011 school year.
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Marquita Hart is the Principal at Yu Ying Elementary School in San Francisco. Ms. Alexander has celebrated many incredible firsts during her tenure at Yu Ying. Most recently she organized an opportunity for the children at her school to participate in official White House ceremonies to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan to Washington, DC. Over 100 Yu Ying students representing Kindergarten, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade will take part in various ceremonies throughout the two day state visit. These events include presenting flowers upon arrival to the Chinese First Family at Andrews Air Force, participating at the arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn, and performing Chinese songs and dances for U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan at the Washington National Zoo.
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Willie Adams is the Middle School Dean of Student Life, and also works in our three divisions as the K-12 Diversity Counselor. Head Royce does not offer an Immersion program but they do offer their students the unique opportunity of selecting Mandarin as a second language as early as kindergarten. In his role as Dean of Student Life, Willie will work to strengthen our service learning efforts in the Middle School, advise the Middle School student government activities, and join the MS deans group working closely with Middle School Head Carol Swainson. Willie is no stranger to Head-Royce, having served as a Lower School Intern for two years and having played a significant role in strengthening our diversity efforts for the last several years as a member of our Diversity Committees. Willie received his B.A. in Film and Media Studies from UC Irvine, has worked at the Katherine Burke School, the Aim High Program, and the Mills College Upward Bound Program. Willie is a member of the Heads Up Advisory Board and is also the Dean of Students for the Heads Up Program. 

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Over the course of the year I will continue to take efforts to highlight African American administrators that are supporting Black youth as the learn Mandarin. We encourage you to share ideas and strategies with one another. We hope parents will identify Black administrators so that we can also highlight them on our site.

FREE STEM Program for Middle School Boys (Deadline 9/15)

SMASH prep has the express goal of increasing the pipeline of viable Bay Area African American males for SMASH Academy and other STEM preparatory programs. It’s curriculum, designed for 6th – 9th graders, will increase the participants college and STEM aspirations by improving math and science content knowledge and skills while developing scholars’ critical thinking skills. It is a rigorous program that will expose scholars to competencies that are one year in advance of their grade level.

How To Apply

  • Deadline – September 15th by 9pm (SMP Flyer 2014)
  • Complete Application: Student App, Parent Questionnaire, Two letters of recommendation, transcripts and CST scores.
  • Email Application:
  • Ideal Candidates will be invited to Interview!!


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