My wife and I just had daughter in good health. I am so grateful. It's a magical time of transition; we're taking on responsibility and I'm feeling my humanity shift to orient around this tiny person.
We opted-in for local parent education and community. So my life is a more cloistered world of swaddling and breastmilk and clusters of mindblown new parents rocking infants. Barely two months in, we haven't yet begun worrying about childcare and schooling in earnest.
Meanwhile through my magic phone I learn the world beyond our home seems aflame. Brexit, ISIS, the South China Sea. Trump and Black Lives Matter.
What can I contribute to soothe & heal our world? A nicely woke white woman?
My Facebook feed is filled with well-meaning thoroughly educated white people doing penance over their privilege and looking to assert that they believe that black people should not be killed by police. Meanwhile I have a cop friend, who happens to be black, who decries the violence that happens within black communities without any police involvement. It's all a sad testament to the legacy of human slavery in America.
In the 1970s & 80s I grew up in Chicago in a nice house near the Cabrini Green housing projects. Today I own a small home in the Southeastern part of San Francisco somewhat near the Bayview-Hunter's Point. Historically these neighborhoods hosted black Americans who were pushed out of other parts of San Francisco; as writer James Baldwin said in 1963 "this is the San Francisco America pretends does not exist."
What connection to I have to my black neighbors today? We ride some of the same buses around the city. But my birth circumstances otherwise keep me in a largely white and Asian world, swollen with the potential of technology to change lives and empower dream$.
Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' deep article "The Case for Reparations" in 2014 reminded me how black people in America have been systemically denied a chance to participate in prosperity. And now America continues to reel from the sustained pain inflicted by this kind of injustice. I wonder how our country can bring about more equal access to peace and power?
In June 2014, a friend Mamie Rheingold hosted a meet-n-greet for a local politician named Stevon Cook, a first time candidate for San Francisco school board. Rheingold met Cook years before at a philosophy summer school session for high school students at Stanford University and she was impressed by his ambition and perseverance.
Amidst a small audience of Rheingold's friends and family I learned that Stevon Cook was born and raised in public housing in the Bayview-Hunters Point. His parents wrestled with addiction and he was raised by his grandmother. Cook worked hard at his public high school and attended a private liberal arts college. This experience turned him on to the value of education; when Cook finished college he came back to San Francisco and he decided to run for school board in 2014 - the youngest candidate at 28 years old.
Cook lost the election that year by less than 1%; now he's running again in 2016.
Much of politics is a popularity contest; loosely based on ideas - except that most people in San Francisco don't pay attention to the school board election. The most likely path to victory for Cook is to win an endorsement from the SF Democratic County Central Committee, so the legions of democrats in this city might dutifully check check his box when they go to vote in November.
I sat down for an interview with Stevon Cook in February; months before my child was born, when fatherhood seemed more like a looming deadline than a consciousness shift. I sat down to interview Stevon Cook because I want to extend my network to include a wider range of folks around shared values: the importance of education, community-building and increasing access to tools.
I sat down to interview Stevon Cook because I am curious about how a native black American San Franciscan is working to climb up in the ranks of the enfranchised change makers in this city.
Now that I have a daughter in San Francisco, I want to know that she can attend a quality public school here in a few years time. And I want to know that she can choose to live in a fair, free, and fabulous America. So the stakes are growing higher for me.
So please meet Stevon Cook. He's working as CEO of Mission Bit, a non profit teaching coding skills to low income students of color in SF public schools. And Stevon Cook is running for San Francisco school board in San Francisco in November, 2016.
Here is a July 2016 edit of a February 2016 interview with Stevon Cook for the Justin Hall Show:
Note: this essay was also posted to https://medium.com/@jah/an-interview-with-stevon-cook-ceo-and-candidate-for-sf-school-board-aaec80eddc1b#.uktklbfxq