Students at Oakland High School had a special visitor in Rev. Jesse Jackson on Friday, Nov. 30.
Speaking at a student leadership class, he said, “Learning languages is important. We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters.”
Jackson decided to visit Oakland High School partly because of the success the school has had in giving students access to computer science instruction, which is something he advocates.
“What clinched it was our increased graduation rate for African American girls,” said Principal Matin Abdel-Qawi. “Once he heard about that, he decided this was the place he wanted to come to acknowledge the work that we’ve done.”
After taking a photo with the class, Rev. Jackson moved to the school auditorium where he spoke to several hundred students. He listened to songs performed by the Oakland High Jazz Band, learned that the school’s varsity football team was set to play in the City Championship that night, and then was introduced by two seniors, twin sisters, Kamiya and Kameya Turner.
“In front of my peers… it was exciting and thrilling to introduce Rev. Jesse Jackson and be part of this whole thing to get our students more civically engaged,” said Kamiya Turner.
Once on stage, Rev. Jackson had the members of the football team stand and called for their peers to give them a round of applause. He asked the team captain how much they practice. The player responded 2-3 hours a day, five days a week.
Jackson made the point that all students should have the same dedication to their studies. He then led them in repeating, “I must master science, technology, engineering, art and math… I can learn, I will learn, I must learn.” The students cheered the message.
Jackson also told the boys to treat all girls with respect and told the girls to never allow anyone to treat them poorly.
“In the legacy of Dr. King, in the legacy of (Cesar) Chavez, in the legacy of Mandela, I will not self-destruct. I will not self-degrade… I am going to college. I will make a difference, no matter the odds, I am going to make it. I am somebody.”
By the end, he had the students shouting, “I am going to college! I am going to college! I’m going to graduate from college!”
Wrapping up, Rev. Jackson emphasized the importance of civic engagement and exercising the right to vote. He then called up all 18-year-olds and those who will be 18 before the next election to register to vote.
Dozens of students filled out the forms. “We have so much power,” said senior Kameya Turner. “And when we say we can do something, we can achieve it. So, by saying that we can vote and get this person into the House or into the Mayor’s seat, or anything, then we can actually do that. If everybody said that, then everybody would have that power.”