I suppose the reason I disliked all those chants was because at times it felt like we were shouting down a well. All we could hear were the echoes of our own voices. And the honking of horns from passing cars. Sometimes they rolled down their windows and hollered their support. Some just waved or gave us a thumbs up.
And then there was the hour each morning when I stood on the curb and talked to parents about what we were trying to do. These were the parents who had already more or less made up their minds that their kids were going to school, picket line or not. This is when I heard those chants in the background, and I began to wonder what use they had. Trying to negotiate with a working mother who only wanted a safe place to drop off her children before she went to work. Our cause didn't seem all that important compared to the struggles of a family to keep food on the table and pay the month's rent. Each day that passed brought me closer to that day to day existence. I was doing my own calculations. Each day on the picket line was a day's pay. I was betting those days against a future with a better salary. And smaller class sizes. And more student supports. And public schools. For that mother who was worried about tomorrow.
All those chants were about getting us to the place where tomorrow could be different. Teachers would choose to stay here instead of looking for greener pastures. Students could receive the care and attention they so desperately need. Neighborhood schools for the families in those neighborhoods. Education for all.
Whose schools? Our schools. What kind of schools? Public schools.
Now that those words aren't being repeated endlessly while walking in circles, they mean more. Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like. A city came together and shared a voice. The thumbs up and the horns honking were the sounds that accompanied those chants. Those chants that were echoed by thousands of teachers and students and parents and neighbors. That was the sound of Oakland coming together.
It wasn't easy, and I still don't care much for chants, but I like the sound of a city coming together. It sounds like victory.