Two Teachers :: Transcript 2

Joffer Smith interviewed after a DOE meeting, October 25, 2011 (at 1:07:47 on video)

Interviewer: There’re 2000 folks out there watching, so we’ll ask you a few questions and...Hi, how are you?

Joffer: Hey, I’m all right.

I: this is Occupy TV

J: Thank you very much. I’m glad you guys are here.

I: Look at me and basically, first of all. introduce yourself and talk a little bit about what brought you here. You know...what your feelings are and what happened.

J: Good, good. Good evening. My name is Joffer Smith. I’m a former ESL teacher for the DOE here in New York City. What brought me here is that I heard about the PEP meeting and I knew that there was going to be some turmoil here and I know that people would be here speaking truth to power.

I: Have you ever experienced something like this before? What do you know about “Occupy Wall Street”...the whole General Assembly...what’s going on...

J: Well I experienced something like this on a smaller scale when I was in undergraduate school, years and years ago, but nothing like this, nothing with the magnitude of this. This is something unprecedented and this is something that I think has been a long time coming. We read about these kinds of things in school happening in the sixties and seventies.

I: You were very eloquent in there talking about the connection between “Occupy Wall Street” and the board of education and...(?)...the changes in the larger, big picture. Can you reiterate what you were saying in there?

J: Well, you know, what’s going on here with the education system is I think a litmus test for what they want to go on worldwide. It was this year that I found out that the corporations here in the United States, multi-national corporations worldwide, are trying to infiltrate education systems all over the world. You know they’re killing teachers in the Honduras. They tried to institute charter schools in Puerto Rico and in Panama and in other places. So this is something — whatever they’re doing, whatever they’re successful in doing here — it’s going to sweep the world in terms of education and the businesses model that’s going on. I didn’t get an opportunity — get the chance — to say that there but the things that are going on here are very, very important and I think the Occupy movement that began here — well here in the West — is very, very important. And I think people really really need to open up their minds and their eyes and see what’s really going on because this is something that’s critically important.

I: What’s next for you in terms of activism...or getting this message out there and trying to bring change to the system?

J: Well, I try to enlighten my children and enlighten my family members. I’m from the south and there isn’t a whole lot going on, although I must give a shout out to the people in Savannah, Georgia — because they’re occupying Savannah, Georgia as well. And I think the more we engage in discussion and the dialog— because everyone is feeling the crunch — that Wall Street is biting down on the people worldwide and I think people are feeling that, so I think those of us who can get out and occupy and be in the streets, we should do that; those people who are eloquent with their writing, they should do that; people who can speak should do that; everyone should do what he or she can in order to keep the message going and keep the Occupy movement going. We should occupy every ounce...or every inch of the world and that’s the thing that we should do. We should all be active and do as much as we can.

I: Last question. Why do you care so much as to take your time to come out here and speak and be involved?

J: Well I’m one of those people who was a victim... I’m a victim of this whole thing. It wasn’t long ago I was standing in the classroom delivering lessons and planning and spending my money to buy materials; so everything that the people here said tonight, I’ve experienced that firsthand. I was one of those people who saw the impact of overcrowding, the impact of testing, the whole plan of the school being moved aside so we could do test prep. I was one of those people who was there. I was there. So I understood everything that they were saying and that’s the reason why I’m here. I’m here because I have to be here. I have to be here. I also have four children who are in public schools so this is something that I feel on both sides.