upper waypoint

Dispatch From Parker Elementary with Tongo Eisen-Martin

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

Tongo Eisen-Martin stands in the hallway of Parker Elementary School in East Oakland.
Tongo Eisen-Martin, a poet, educator and organizer, poses for a portrait at Parker Elementary School in Oakland on July 27, 2022. (Beth LaBerge )

Hey Rightnowish listeners, you can help shape the future of the podcast! Just fill out a short survey.

Last year, renowned writer and San Francisco Poet Laureate, Tongo Eisen-Martin, told us that it’s not enough to simply be a poet. “The poet needs to just come on down to the trenches,” he said, explaining that quality writing comes from the lived experience of participating in community activism.

In direct application of his own philosophy, Tongo has been involved with the occupation of Parker Elementary School, where organizers are fighting against the latest round of school closures in Oakland Unified School District — schools that are located in communities that are largely populated by Black and brown students.

Tongo has been a part of the group’s Freedom Friday events, where artists of all sorts are invited to show up and perform.

“We have poets and (an) open mic,” Tongo says during a recent phone call. “We also intersperse political dialogue in between the poets, making sure that everyone knows what we doing here.”

The ongoing fight against school closures has resulted in physical altercations, as well as legal actions. KQED will continue to share updates as the story progresses.

In the meantime, we’re going into the archives this week to share Tongo’s poem,  “A Sketch of Genocide.” The piece was included in his book, Heaven Is All Goodbyes, which won a 2018 American Book Award. 

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.


lower waypoint
next waypoint
Marin County’s Best Late-Night Restaurant Is a Poker Room With $26 Prime RibLive Review: Madonna Gives a Master Class in ‘Eras’ in San FranciscoLive Review: Nicki Minaj Reclaims Her Crown at Tour Kickoff in OaklandA Bay Area Rapper and Software Engineer Made an AI Album in 24 HoursZendaya Donates $100,000 to Bay Area Theater CompanyYBCA Gallery Remains Closed; Pro-Palestinian Artists Claim CensorshipGeorge Crampton Glassanos has Pendletons, Paint and PassionMy Daughters Sold Girl Scout Cookies. Here’s what I Learned in the Thin Mint TrenchesSex, Violence, ‘Game of Thrones’-Style Power Grabs — the New ‘Shōgun’ Has it AllLive Review: Bad Bunny Gets in His Feels at San Francisco’s Chase Center