FOREMAN FAMILY MIGRATION STORY
Artists: Penelope Kershaw & Sierra Cook
Writer: Zach Franklin
Completed in 2018
Link to full Interview video
Jocelyn Foreman’s mother and grandparents migrated to the Bay Area from Madera, California. Her grandfather was a porter for the Southern Pacific railroad. His parents had been sharecroppers, so he grew up seeing his parents trapped in servitude. While he was born free and was able to have a career, his career also forced him to practice servitude and endure racism on a daily basis.
Her grandparents were able to buy a big Victorian house in West Oakland down by the post office, and raise a big family. But the racism and limited opportunity and servitude that her grandfather dealt with on a daily basis scarred him. He was also very dark skinned, and had to deal with racism within the African American community as well.
Her grandmother had a farm in the backyard, with lots of produce, chickens, rabbits, and even a goat! They grew all of their own food. Her grandmother had seven children, and it was like a family compound. They lived down the block from Prescott School, where in the 1960s the Black Panthers were running their school lunch program.
Jocelyn would spend her summers with her grandmother, and they would spend lots of time picking and cleaning greens together. The greens often had little green worms in them, and she and her grandmother would just set the worms on the windowsill, split them in half, and keep going.
Her father migrated from Plano, Texas, and came from a family of educators, but had run into trouble with the law and was escorted to the city limits. He had to make a new path for himself, so he moved to the Bay Area. He was a pastor and an upholsterer, and met Jocelyn’s mother, who worked for the Navy as a systems analyst. They purchased a home in South Berkeley on Fairview Street, and raised their family there. Jocelyn went to Malcolm X from 4th to 6th grade.
South Berkeley was a different racial environment from West Oakland where her cousins lived, and Jocelyn grew up with a deep understanding of the power of code switching as a tool to successfully navigate different spaces. She went on to work for Berkeley Unified School District helping families, and particularly kids of color, use these tools to succeed in life.