You might have already seen Haldun Morgan on your BUSD campus: signature black glasses, jeans and a blazer, camera and tripod in hand. As the Berkeley Public Schools Fund’s Communications Coordinator, Haldun’s multimedia job is to document the great work of BUSD grantees, spotlight the contributions of Berkeley Schools Volunteers, and lift up equity successes wherever he finds them.
Schools Fund: Tell us a little bit about your background both in life and professionally. How did you make your way to the Schools Fund?
Haldun: One of my earliest memories was of my aunt telling me that if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can still get it done because you can set your mind to it.
I got into education by being a product of a public education system that didn’t serve me and didn’t serve a lot of my peers. I was told at a young age that I wasn’t expected to go to college, that I was probably going to be low-class labor. I was educationally tracked into lower vocational tracks. I didn’t learn that until later, but once I found out, it ignited a fire in me. I was like, I can do whatever I want if I put my mind to it! This job is where my heart is in terms of work and what I want to do in the world – letting other young people of color know they can do whatever they want to do.
I got into the University of Texas at Austin. I was a big activist in college and I started a nonprofit with my friends. It was a youth of color media summer camp. And that laid the path for all the work that I’ve done since. My work’s about young people, it’s about critical thinking, it’s about storytelling and identity, it’s about asserting yourself in the world. That’s pretty much what it’s all about for me.
Schools Fund: What is your storytelling philosophy or mission? What role does your work specifically play at the Schools Fund?
Haldun: You know, oral history projects were huge for me growing up because it was a really good way to validate your story – you know, talking to your parents, finding out your family tree – it really opens up the complexities.
My personal thing is that my history has kind of been erased. I’m half Mexican and half Turkish. On my Mexican side, we’re Texas Mexicans and we’ve done, like, the ancestry thing but it hits a wall, you know, at some point. And that’s a very deliberate thing, that’s by no mistake. That’s why storytelling is so important – it tells us that we exist, that we’re here, it validates our being.
For me, it all goes back to cave paintings. (Haldun chuckles) We all want to see some representation of ourselves in the world that we live in. Some people do it through visual arts. I just happen to do it through media…My work is geared toward connecting people. I’m a conduit. I’m the space in between. If somebody has an idea, I can help you get it done. And it’s about dignity and respect. Everyone has a story to tell.
Schools Fund: What do you want BUSD educators to know about your time going classroom to classroom, site to site, documenting the work of the district?
Haldun: I’m really proud to work in Berkeley. It’s so welcoming and forward-thinking. People are really open to ideas and exchanges. That doesn’t reflect my own school experiences. I kind of wish I’d gone to Berkeley schools.
I look at the educators and I think they’re doing an amazing job. I’m taken aback every time I walk into a classroom – how much care and passion and dedication these teachers have for their students. I see that, and I see it reflected in the young people too.
Schools Fund: What do you want BUSD educators to know about the Schools Fund itself?
Haldun: I’ve seen, even in these last months, this is a community that really embraces public education. And I think our organization is that space in between – that extra support – to push the line from where we are to where we want to be. We’re a resource to help you get to where we want ALL children to be. We can help fill in gaps. We hold things together. We’re kind of like glue in that way. Because whatever we were doing before was great, but for the society we want to build, we gotta be better. We gotta be better.