High school students at OUSD headquarters participate in “Changing the Narrative: A Dialogue With Oakland Youth and Black Techies” prior to attending a Black Panther screening at the Grand Lake Theater sponsored by Airbnb. Photo By Carla Thomas.
Wakanda forever! was the sentiment of some 300 high school students of the Oakland Unified School District who watched blockbuster film Black Panther at the Grand Lake Theater. Courtesy of Airbnb’s Black Employee Resource Group (BERG), students were also inspired by a panel discussion titled, “Changing the Narrative: A Dialogue With Oakland Youth and Black Techies,” at OUSD headquarters. Panelists representing Airbnb, Lyft and Box explained the intersection of media, tech and its impact on communities of color.
“If a student cannot see their reflection in an industry, they will not know that they too can participate,” said Julie Wenah, Airbnb Counsel, Community Operations. “It is important for us to reach back and engage Black students and communities of color so they can prepare for options that surround them.”
As the company’s first black attorney, Wenah knows the value of and life-changing exposure having worked previously with the Obama administration for several years.
During the pre-movie discussion, students divided into smaller groups of innovation stimulated by photos of great Black leaders and thought-provoking questions. After 30 minutes, students presented the dynamic results of their brainstorming expressed through of spoken word and affirmative chants.
One group led by McClymond’s 12th grader, Destiny Shabazz responded to the question; what is blackness? The teen girls collectively confirmed; “Blackness is melody poppin’, culture, beautiful, confident, original, pride, and self-love.” “Black Panther was great and the exercise was fun,” said Shabazz.
“These students are the future Ryan Cooglers (Black Panther) producer,” said Jeff Henry, Airbnb Communications Manager, Global Trust & Risk Management. “I love the film and so do the students because they can see Black people at their best, in their own Black country, using their own Black technology, minding their own Black business.”
Event collaborators included Maya Woods-Cadiz, the American Indian Model Schools superintendent. “Events like this tell our children that their voice and packaging matter,” said Cadiz. African American Male Achievement (AAMA) director, Jerome Gourdine considered the event phenomenal and in sync with his organization’s mission. “By combining the film Black Panther and partnerships like this we can continue to change the narrative for our students,” he said. District 3 School Board representative, Jumoke Hinton Hodge announced Airbnb’s plans to develop summer programs, company tours and mentorships for OUSD students.
“This room is filled with brilliance and students ready for the future,” said Hodge. Other participants included Andrea Long, Brian Carmichael, Yves Laroque and Vikki Lampton of Lyft, along with Dorian Willis of Box.