After Colin Kaepernick gained national attention for his sustained refusal to stand during the National Anthem before several pre-season football games in protest of police brutality and systemic racism — “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he said at a press conference — the San Francisco 49ers quarterback was planning to speak at Third Baptist Church near Alamo Square on Sunday. A scheduling conflict kept him from that engagement,the Chronicle writes, but another attendee of the services, Board of Education President Matt Haney, was inspired by a sermon regarding Kaepernick's advocacy. Writing on Facebook, where he is outspoken on issues of social justice, Haney suggested that San Francisco schools currently bearing the names of figures like Francis Scott Key the slaveowner and anti-abolitionist whose poem "Defense of Fort M'Henry" was set to a popular British song to become "The Star-Spangled Banner" be renamed instead for local luminaries and historical figures.
"We miss a critical opportunity if we continue to give insufficient thought to what a student will answer when asked, “What school do you attend?”" Haney wrote in a follow-up to his original post, penned in light of coverage in the Examiner. "Whose name will that child recite from memory countless times?"
“I don’t think the goal is to condemn people who died a long time ago,” Haney told the paper. “The question is whether there might be a more appropriate, meaningful name [for schools]." In lieu of George Washington High School, to name one example, Haney proposes the new moniker Maya Angelou High School. What could be more appropriate: Angelou herself attended George Washington High until she became pregnant, writing in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings that "I knew I knew very little, but I was certain that the things I had yet to learn wouldn't be taught to me at George Washington High School." Put that on a plaque, people! "Perhaps someday soon the school community might rally around changing George Washington High School to Maya Angelou High School," Haney encourages, "a powerful statement about what and who we value in our public schools."
Haney was named Board of Education president in January, as the Ex recorded at the time, noting that at 33 he is the second-youngest commissioner to hold the position. That's after now-Supervisor Jane Kim, who became its president in 2010.
More than mere suggestion, the Examiner reports that the education official plans to introduce a resolution formally asking schools to consider such measures. “Most of our schools are going to be fine with the names that they have but there are a handful of schools where at least the question should be brought up,” Haney told the paper. In the past, some San Francisco schools have been renamed, such as Hawthorne Elementary, originally named for the author of The Scarlet Letter, now called after civil and labor rights leader Cesar Chavez.