The day after an election, it's traditional for candidates—win or lose—to thank their supporters.
Portland Public Schools board candidate Jamila Singleton Munson, who is an alum of Grant High School and works for Teach for America, continued that tradition today.
But Munson also took the "thank you" in a slightly new direction, excoriating those who failed to support her.
"Due to the numerous actions taken, I would describe this as macroaggression or a large-scale effort to marginalize my voice as a candidate and dominate access to the hearts and minds of voters," Munson wrote. "This election has uncovered and shed light on the progressive, liberal, xenophobic, intolerant politics of this community."
Her campaign manager, Jake Weigler, did not respond to requests to discuss her email.
Munson originally announced her candidacy without reference to her life's work in the education reform movement, including a stint as a charter school principal. That looked like a tacit acknowledgment of how politically unpopular charter schools and school choice are in Portland. At the time, her campaign said the decision had more to do with whether Portland was familiar with the KIPP network of charter schools as well and Teach for America, where she also worked.
Munson, nonetheless, racked up endorsements from the top elected officials in the city, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, County Chair Deborah Kafoury, City Commissioners Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman, and a majority of the current school board, among many others. She outspent her opponent, $120,000 to $50,000, including in-kind donations.
That opponent, Rita Moore, a longtime parent activist, listed the endorsement of a single elected official on her website, State Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland). Moore also had the endorsement of the Portland Association of Teachers as well as of The Oregonian and WW.
Moore won the race by 16 points, 57 percent to 42 percent, with about 1 percent going to write-in candidates.
Here's Munson's email to supporters:
From: Jamila for Portland Schools
Sent: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 11:14 AM
Subject: The Morning After
It is the morning after. It is 7am, and I am at PDX, headed to a staff training conference in Tulsa this weekend, the gravity of the unfavorable election results are still ringing in my heart and mind, and likely will continue to dramatically sting for weeks to come. Equally true, I have commitments to several public school communities in Orlando, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Detroit, Tulsa, Greater Seattle, Greater Cleveland, and Twin Cities. I must carry on and manage a summer institute for over 400 novice teachers this summer. So, the struggle for creating the kind of schooling experience that will liberate our students continues. However, before I fully close this chapter, I’d like to share I have no regrets, a provocation and some thank you I missed at the election party last night.
First, I have no regrets. It was critical for me to follow my desire to have a seat at the decision-making table in the public school system in which I grew up, leveraging my identity and competence, and becoming an active and visible leader. Despite the thousands of voters that decided to exclude me from school board leadership, I do believe that I will find other ways to influence change in PPS. I have some introspective work to do, but more importantly, I want to engage the amazing collective set of community leaders that stepped up by my side this election. We can progress in this struggle. If you would like to be a part of shaping and helping define a path forward, please email me at email@example.com.
Second, I leave you with the following provocation. We need to interrogate this election process through an equity lens and specifically consider how power was held and maintained and for whom. When the results came out, I was emotionally overwhelmed, and shock washed over me because there was a great deal of momentum and attention concentrated around my candidacy.
Dominant culture hostility persisted throughout my campaign with almost daily attempts to assume authority over my narrative (to speak on my behalf without invitation). This included the unwillingness of Bernie PDX to invite me to the endorsement process to speak with members of the organization. Willamette Week reporter Rachel Monahan attempting to tell me I was a perpetuator of the status quo. Numerous social media narratives to ‘uncover’ conspiracy theories actively contesting my integrity and values.
Due to the numerous actions taken, I would describe this as macroaggression or a large-scale effort to marginalize my voice as a candidate and dominate access to the hearts and minds of voters. Just because someone enters the field of electoral politics, does not grant permission for those that choose to engage to dehumanize them. If you see your role as someone that must ‘whistle-blow’ and attack another person’s character and integrity, you are no different from our conservative, prejudiced national leaders.
This election has uncovered and shed light on the progressive, liberal, xenophobic, intolerant politics of this community. There were many times in this election that my freedom was threatened, my identity was attacked, and consequentially my power continually subdued. Last night’s results were an overwhelming reminder of how my freedom, my identity, and my power exist among the majority.
Whether or not you care about my individual freedom and dignity, we should all be concerned about any elected leaders that step on others to achieve their individual accomplishments and progress. Or shall I say, we must be concerned about groups and community that rally to step on another’s freedom to uplift someone into power. I would argue it is unacceptable for our community members to verbally assault or attempt to define anyone’s value—or diminish the value of others.
I find it particularly concerning to see a white majority attacking a woman of color in a city that has a history of being a ‘white utopia.’ Is this the authentic democracy that “blue” Oregon is striving for? What kind of educational change are we hoping to inspire by this kind of politics? What will these groups and community leaders expect from those that are elected in these circumstances? Be #woke, y’all. This isn’t happening to us, Portland, we are willfully creating and maintaining a culture surrounding Portland Public Schools that is establishing exclusionary environments that step on freedom.
So in closing, a few thank yous.
Thank you to every person inside this community and surrounding this community that actively spoke up for equity and advocating for an approach to leadership that acknowledges the history of our underserved community this election.
Thank you for supporting fundraising and helping us exceed our goal by raising over $120K.
Thank you for the endorsements and the advocacy within your networks and constituencies.
Thank you for taking the time to organize forums.
Thank you for your FB love.
Thank you for the countless conversations you had with neighbors, community members and hosting house parties, we have almost 40,000 votes with your support.
Thank you, Jake Weigler and Eddie Sherman for being my devoted team throughout this election. Your expertise, wisdom, and encouragement guided me through a campaign I am proud of. Your allyship supported and empowered me to find my power and face the barriers that were unanticipated as a novice candidate of color in this community.
Thank you to Stephenie Smith and Chris Carpenter. Your hours coordinating and supporting the infrastructure of my campaign ensured we exceeded our goals. All of that success can be attributed to your willingness to do the non-glamorous work behind the scenes.
Jamila Singleton Munson