Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Education Association (OEA), received the Paul Robeson Educator Activist Award and gave an inspiring presentation in dialogue with Dr. Kimberly Mayfield to alumni and current students of Holy Names University on April 18.
Brown grew up in Oakland and attended Bret Harte and Skyline. When one teacher told him he should be a history teacher, he replied, “Oh, no I’m never going to be teacher.”
But he had some jobs working with young people while he attended Holy Names as an undergrad, and he liked the work. So, he started a credential program.
He gives credit to the caring and support of teacher educator Fred Ellis for the success of teachers who got their credentials through the Oakland Partnership Program. He recalls Dr. Ellis telling him, “As a Black man, I want to be certain that you get a credential.”
Brown became an OEA building representative from his school, and at first, he couldn’t see the point of the meetings. But he also began working with the Black Workers Center and came to the conclusion that organizing teachers was important and that the OEA should transform itself from a service union to an organizing union, taking an approach to organizing that involves “no short cuts.”
At the end of the meeting, Keith was presented with the first Paul Robeson Educator Activist Award by Dean of the School of Education Dr. Kimberly Mayfield.