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Conversation with Dr. Fatima Alleyne about equity and justice in education: Motivation to be a changemaker

Dr. Fatima Alleyne spoke at UC Berkeley on Jan. 20, 11-noon using an interview format, 240 Sutardja Dai Hall (Center for Information Technology in the Interest of Society). She talked about her experiences running a grass roots effort for office. Title: Conversation with Dr. Fatima Alleyne about equity and justice in education: Motivation to be a changemaker.

See video of talk and discussion.

With a message to push for equity and justice, Dr. Fatima Alleyne was elected to the Contra Costa County Board of Education, Area 1 in the last election. She won over 46% of the vote. She received many endorsements, including the East Bay Times. She was also recognized as a 2016 DWJ Fellow. Congratulations Fatima!

Dr. Fatima Alleyne was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She lived in an urban community called Brownsville, a place where there was a village to raise a child but also a place that was devastated by crack-cocaine and HIV epidemic. She attended PS 284, JHS 275, and eventually graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School. In her first year of college she was a single mother but determined to bring her dream to fruition – become a doctor. Eventually Fatima graduated with an associate’s degree in Physical Sciences and minor in Math and a baccalaureate degree in Chemistry and minor in Math from Medgar Evers College and Hunter College, respectively. Upon graduation from Hunter College she and her daughter relocated to California so she could pursue a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from UC Berkeley. During herFatima_dissertation_signing tenure at CAL her research interests included protective clothing apparel for farmworker communities, microstructural analysis of prophylaxis for HIV/AIDS prevention and aluminum nitride resonators for energy scavenging devices. She also was actively involved in STEM Education and Outreach at CAL and her community (Richmond, CA), recruiting and encouraging underrepresented students to pursue STEM and higher education while empowering parents to advocate for their children and quality education.  She worked in the BEST Lab with Prof. Agogino on the El Seguro project to reduce pesticide poisoning with migrant farm workers. Alice Agogino had the great honor of hooding her during the December 2012 commencement ceremony. The commencement speaker was Maz Jobrani, a 1993 UC Berkeley alumnus and Iranian-American actor and comedian whose “Axis of Evil” group explores Islamophobia and has appeared on Comedy Central.  Dr. Fatima’s dissertation was titled: “Precipitation Effects in Ion Implanted Aluminum Nitride”.

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Upon graduation from CAL, Dr. Fatima Alleyne was employed as a General Research Engineer for the United States Department of Agriculture. After almost 3 years of service, in August 2016 she decided to run for political office. She was driven to take on such an active role because there was a need – a need for someone at the table to be the voice of parents and students who desire quality education for all independent of race, religion and gender. Given that West Contra Costa Unified School District is one of the lowest performing districts in the state, she wholeheartedly knew that it was essential to have someone at the table who would advocate for, support, and implement policies that would improve the educational outcomes for students and teachers.  So she thought if not me, who? Who will support and improve the educational outcomes of students in our community? So Dr. Fatima Alleyne took a leap of faith and pursued an opportunity to become Trustee for the Contra Costa County Board of Education Area 1.

In making this decision Dr. Fatima Alleyne would soon learn that running for political office was not as simple as she thought. The Trustee position for Area 1 was held by an incumbent who was initially elected to the Contra Costa County Board of Education in 1988. In such races, it is highly improbable for anyone, let alone someone who has never run or held a political office, to successfully win an election against an incumbent. Even worse, Dr. Alleyne chose to run a grassroots campaign, with no major corporate or special interests groups funding her campaign against 2 previously elected officials. Remember what they say – 3s a crowd. She relied heavily on volunteers, individual donations, and word of mouth. Many of her friends and colleagues did not support her and others told her “you will not win.” Despite this, Dr. Alleyne worked tenaciously to raise funds within her network and seek volunteers. Dr. Alleyne, sometimes with volunteers and her children, could be found walking, rain or shine, throughout the cities of Richmond, Pinole, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Kensington, and El Sobrante to talk and connect with fellow residents. She purchased thousands of campaign materials including door hangers, yard signs, mailers, postcards, banners, and business cards. She used social media to spread the word and update constituents and received several endorsements, including an endorsement from the East Bay Times. On November 8th, with 46% of the votes and ~12,000 votes more than the next highest ranked competitor, she was elected to the Contra Costa County Board of Education.

Dr. Fatima Alleyne is the mother of 4 children (one who is a current student at CAL), Education Advisor for the Center for Restorative Solutions and Contra Costa County Board of Education Area 1 Trustee. She also serves as Clerk for the County Board and is the Alameda/Contra Costa County nominee for the California School Boards Association (CSBA) Delegate Assembly and California County Boards of Education (CCBE) Board of Directors. In her capacity as CSBA Delegate and CCBE Board member, she will provide policy direction for the association that meets the best interests of school districts and county offices throughout the state of California and advocate on behalf of children, public education, and local boards.