A battle cry for education

A battle cry for education

Nate Parker of “The Great Debaters” signs autographs for members of the Fremont Federation debate team on March 9. Parker spoke to an audience at Mills College about how education needs to change to serve students of color more effectively. Photo by Lisa Shafer

The Hollywood star told his Oakland audi­ence he wasn’t giving a speech about education but a “battle cry.”

Nate Parker, who starred in the “Great Debaters” and who is currently filming “Red Tails,” spoke about the need to transform education as part of the Oakland Unified School District’s Oratorical Fest at Mills College on March 9.

Parker said that many teachers are going into the classroom to teach African American students and other minorities without the right tools. He said teachers often have cultural incompetence to teach their students.

“Teachers come unprepared to class,” he said. “Teachers blame kids for not learning.”

Teachers instead need to respond to the cultural needs of a group, he said. He said that he, as an African American, would not get hired at a Jewish school unless he fully understood the Holocaust and Jewish history.

He said teachers need to fully understand African American history and the trauma involved if they are to teach African American students effectively.

Parker started the speech telling the audience about his own difficult time in school. He said he at­tended 13 schools in 12 years.

Parker told the audience that he often got into fights when he was in school and even got kicked out of preschool.

But one day his mother told him, with tears in her eyes, that she could not afford to send him to college.

After that, Parker decided to get to college through a wrestling scholarship and he looked at every oppo­nent as someone putting tears in his mother’s eyes.

Fremont’s debate team took a trip to Mills College to hear Parker’s speech and got a chance to speak to Parker after.

Parker told Debate Coach William David Williams that he was the real hero. “I’m just an actor,” he said.

Senior Brandon Sneed said he was glad to have the chance to hear Parker.

“Nate’s ability to speak his mind with eloquence in front of a large crowd inspired me to do the same,” said Sneed.