Surge Oakland hosts Transformative Fireside Chat with Dr. Bettina Love!

Oakland, CA – On January 31st, the Surge Oakland community held a Fireside Chat with Dr. Bettina Love to discuss her book We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. The evening also featured a dialogue on topics such as the current state of U.S. education, abolitionist teaching, and mental health prioritization for education leaders. Hosted at The Flight Deck in downtown Oakland, the space was filled with spirited leaders of color from all realms in education who are committed to serving our young people and communities. 

Surge Alumnus and Executive Director of the Urban Ed Academy, Randy Seriguchi, Jr. kicked off the evening by sharing a few words on the importance of being in community with other leaders of color who are in an uphill battle to equitably serve families in the Bay Area and beyond.

“To be in the spaces we work in means we have to be unapologetic. And that’s what Surge is,” Seriguchi stated. He also shared his own vision for change in the Bay Area, connecting back to his 2018 Surge Fellowship capstone project, which centered on providing housing for Black male teachers in the Bay Area to alleviate the unexceptionally high living cost in the area for these leaders that the schools and their students need.

Afterwards, Surge Alumni Nicole Magtoto (2018) and Adanta Ahanonu (2019) led the collective through an exercise using the San Francisco Coalition of Essential Small Schools’ (SF-CESS) “Race Cards,” a medium that allows for authentic dialogue on racial healing and reflective discourse. Dr. Bettina Love reflected on a prompt relating to microaggressions experienced and the weight that is attached. She stated, “I don’t believe in microaggressions. I believe in aggression,” sharing that the “micro” component oftentimes gives leeway for white counterparts to escape seeing their statements or actions as inherently racist and/or ignorant.

Transitioning into the evening’s central topics, Dr. Love then touched on what it means to be an abolitionist and abolitionist teaching. She shared “To be an abolitionist means to put it on the line, to fight for it, to do what’s necessary for our Black children.” The conversation’s subject matter also intersected with that of allyship, specifically white allyship, and Dr. Love shared, “It (allyship) is not a mutual thing between us and white folks. I want them to use their privilege and be co-conspirators in order to truly support our communities.” The stigmatization of mental health within communities of color was also a topic of discussion in addition to its presence in one’s workplace. “We can’t have justice if we’re not well,” Dr. Love stated, and she continued, “I think as educators, we should all be in therapy, especially if you’re a parent. It has been one of the most wonderful journeys for me.” The gathering concluded with an emphasis on the mantra “just be;” as leaders of color in education, but more importantly just people, we need not always focus on the work or what the next venture may be. Dr. Love concluded the evening by sharing, “There is nothing that shines a light on white mediocrity like Black excellence.”

The Surge Oakland community is truly thankful for having a chance to have a transformative dialogue with Dr. Love on our collective work as educators and change-makers. You can follow her on social media @BLoveSoulPower or where you can also get a copy of We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom.

About the Surge Institute:

The Surge Institute was established in 2014 with a simple but important mission to develop and elevate leaders of color who create transformative change for children, families, and communities. Founded by Carmita Semaan in 2014, the organization’s signature program, the Surge Fellowship, was designed to empower emerging diverse leaders to change the landscape of education by providing them with a unique, authentic leadership development experience.