Category: Commentary

Commentary: Oakland Needs a Department to Address Institutionalized Injustice

By Kitty Kelly Epstein

Two-thirds of the people who live in Oakland are not white and Oakland has a long history of struggle for racial justice.

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Yet the situation of most whites is quite different from the situation of many Latinos, African-Americans, Asians and indigenous people.  In fact, Oakland has the seventh worst income inequality of any major city in the country. (Statistics on wealth gaps for Asians and indigenous groups are not available from those doing these calculations.)

We need to put changing this at the center of the city’s efforts. In the one place where we have some real power, local government, we need to say that we understand institutional racism still exists and we want to do something about it – officially

It won’t be easy. The whole country is full of policies that uphold racism, but there is a lot more we could do if we focused and strategized, especially on the policies and practices that produce the racial wealth gap.

We need a city Department of Race and Equity because the racial wealth gap in the U.S. is 13 to 1 between the median white and the median African-American family and 10 to 1 between the median white and the median Latino family.

These gaps in wealth and income result from a national history of overt and covert racial discrimination – slavery, U.S. seizure of Mexican land, share-cropping, red-lining; English-only policies; bracero programs; immigration policies and a thousand other events and policies.

And these gaps contribute to housing, health, and policing inequities as well. Here are just a few current local specifics which a department of Race and Equity might look into:

African Americans are 28 percent of the Oakland population. Yet they were hired for only 5 percent of the hours on city-funded construction projects last year;

Latinos are 41 percent of Oakland students, but only 13 percent of its teachers. A city department would, of course, need to work collaboratively with the school district if it were to help in rectifying this imbalance.

Oakland is lauded for multi-cultural music and art. Yet city support for minority-owned venues is often lacking;

Oakland has lots of new fancy restaurants, but not many Black or Latino or Asian folk earn the fancy tips at the front-end of these houses.

Some city departments seem to have many employees of every ethnicity. Yet the department that plans the city’s economic future seems to be overwhelmingly white.

The last “disparity study” commissioned by the city showed statistically significant underutilization of “minority” owned and women owned firms in both construction and professional services contracts.   There was also a significant underutilization of Asian, Latino, and African-American firms in construction sub-contracts.

Non-white contractors have reported a good-old-boys network, difficulty in receiving information on the bid process, difficulty in obtaining financing, and other issues.

Oakland is blessed with dozens of activist and non-profit organizations that work on these issues, but we often feel that we are fighting a multiple-headed beast, winning in one place, only to lose again when someone forgets that a new policy or procedure is supposed to be in place.

We need an official department in city government that is responsible for caring whether two-thirds of the residents receive the same economic, political, and social benefits as the other third.

We need a Department of Race and Equity

Kitty Kelly Epstein, PhD is author of “Organizing to Change a City” (2012), Peter Lang, and host of Education Today on KPFA 94.1 FM.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

The Outrage of Jailing Atlanta Black Educators

By Kitty Kelly Epstein

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

The jailing of seven Black Atlanta educators is an outrage matched only by the racist tests they were forced to give and the racist conditions in which many of their students are forced to live.

Five facts to consider when drawing conclusions about these educators:

1. The standardized testing process that these and other U.S. teachers are forced to participate in was created by a member of the Eugenics movement, Lewis Terman, who first used it to track Black and Latino and immigrant children into low-track classes in Oakland (1920).

Who is going to jail for continuing to give tests that produce exactly the same results Terma created them to produce?

2. There have been accusations and investigations for test cheating in cities across the country. In no other city were the teachers mostly Black.

In none of those cities was anyone sent to jail.

3. U.S. education policy encourages shutting down schools based on their test scores. Since test scores are correlated with family wealth, the schools shut down are almost always in Black and Latino neighborhoods, leaving the neighborhood without a school and the families with transportation problems for their children.

Who is going to jail for that?

4. The racial wealth gap between the median White family and the median Black family is 20 to 1. Who’s going to jail for the mortgage crisis, the redlining, the biased employment practices, and the residuals of slavery, which produced that number.

5. Across the South 38,000 Black teachers lost their jobs with the beginning of desegregation because the white school districts would not allow Black teachers to teach their children, and the Educational Testing Service assisted with this outrage by offering to use the practice of testing teachers.

Anyone get jail time for that?

We know the answer.

Do I think teachers should change test papers? No.

What we should do is stop giving these expensive, biased, harmful tests.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, April 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Opinion: Oakland Needs Office of Race and Equity

“Allow ourselves to become comfortable with being uncomfortable”

 By Desley Brooks

It is widely known now that I have called for an office of Race and Equity to be established in the City of Oakland. Voices have risen up across our entire city from residents, community

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

organizations, agencies, and other elected officials discussing the need for such an office in our city.

The most resounding voice on the issue is in absolute agreement of a need for an office of Race and Equity. However there are other opinions as well ranging from moderate consideration, outright disagreement, as well as those who are undecided.

Race is a subject that we handle very interestingly in America. It impacts so much of the atmosphere in the worlds of business, politics, education, and family life, whether we admit it or not.

Yet we are largely uncomfortable having meaningful discourse around this thing that is so prevalent in our day-to-day lives. Because we are uncomfortable talking about race, many of us tend to pick a side on an issue concerning race and just stand on that square, unwilling to really hear the perspective of others.

If we are going to address racial inequalities in our city, we are going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

We are going to have to be willing to respectfully listen to the opinions and ideas of others that may not always sit well with us or even stir up emotions of fear, anger, and guilt.

Racial equity is not an issue of politics – it is an issue of humanity that can be addressed through a political process.

I obviously believe in the need for such an office in our city, but I’m not asking anyone to blindly join this cause or agree with me automatically.

I invite all of us to explore the facts and consider the climate in our city as it relates to race and equity in Oakland.

My hope is that we all will allow ourselves to be comfortable being uncomfortable and asking ourselves questions and reflecting personally on our experiences and beliefs relating to race and racism.

Desley Brooks is a member of the Oakland City Council, representing District 6.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 11, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Three Generations of a Family Continue the Fight for Voting Rights

By Tasha Ellis

Have you ever believed that you can change the world? Have you believed that you could help to eradicate injustice?

Thomas Chatmon

Thomas Chatmon

Growing up in a family that was heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement, I learned that we win as we unite with a common purpose to support the evolution of humanity.

My grandfather Thomas C. Chatmon Sr. was one of my greatest examples of someone who was an agent of change. In 1961, he and eight others founded the Albany Movement because they were weary of blatant injustices in Albany, Georgia.

When white-owned banks would not approve funding for his business, the Black community supported his endeavors by purchasing his products, and eventually he was able to franchise in three different states.

In December 1961, about 700 demonstrators were jailed for staging sit-ins and freedom rides. My family used money from their business, Chatmon’s Beauty Supply, to help finance the Albany Movement.

My grandfather often emphasized the importance of voter registration. And so voting, for me, became a sacred act.

In the meantime, my father Fred Ellis moved to Oakland and carried out another sort of civil rights effort. He started a successful program to help more African-Americans become teachers, and he used his own voting rights to campaign for candidates who supported this mission.

Fred Ellis

Fred Ellis

In 2014, I personally discovered, like those before me, that we still have to help people carry out the right to vote., and I became committed to voter registration.   Personally, I found great inspiration in my pastor, Dr. Raphael Warnock of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. He passionately advocates against society’s injustices, and he was a spokesperson for the New Georgia Project.

The New Georgia Project works to decrease the number of unregistered voters in the state of Georgia. In 2014, Georgia had approximately 800,000 unregistered voters.

The group collected more than 87,000 voter registration forms. Other groups working in conjunction with the New Georgia Project collected as many as 20,000 more voter registration forms.

Challenges occurred and nearly 40,000 of the registered applicants did not show up on the registrar’s roll.

New Georgia Project filed a lawsuit against Secretary of Date Brian Kemp in October 2014 alleging that the “missing” voters were being ignored.

Tasha Ellis

Tasha Ellis

The judge dismissed the case that the New Georgia Project filed. Kemp said that the case was “frivolous.”

Fifty years after my grandfather’s involvement in the struggle, voter suppression is still alive and well. In spite of this inequity, progress is essential.

The New Georgia Project will continue to build upon the work from 2014 and looks forward to registering and engaging even more Georgians in 2015.

For additional information about the New Georgia Project visit www.newgeorgiaproject.org

 Tasha Ellis is a voting rights activist and graduate student.

 

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 22, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Our Schools Need Latino Teachers

Latino students two

 

By Francisco Ortiz, Kimberly Mayfield Lynch and Kitty Kelly Epstein

Marisol, a very effective Bay Area high school teacher, says that she never had a Latino teacher until she was in the 10th grade.

“Having a Latino teacher made me much more positive about education and caused me to think about teaching,” she said.

Latino students threeMarisol’s experience is not unusual.   Fifty-three percent of students and only 18 percent percent of teachers in California public schools are Latino. There are schools in the Bay Area that have hundreds of Latino children and not a single Latino teacher.

Currently, one of the authors of this article, Mr. Ortiz, is the only Spanish-speaking Latino teacher for the entire upper-elementary grades (4-6) at his school.

He says, “I am able to effectively communicate with the newcomer students in my classroom, as well as other newcomer students in grades 4-6, something which may not always be possible for monolingual English speaking teachers.”

“Although I teach sixth grade,” he continues, “parents from other classrooms say they hope that their children will be my students in the future. Kids from grades 2-5 often see me in the halls and express their excitement to be in my classroom.”

Latino students 1Latino students want to succeed. Whether it’s cultural capital, linguistic

Francisco Ortiz

Francisco Ortiz

capital or a combination of both that allow Latino students to feel more empowered and confident through having Latino teachers, this ever growing and crucially important resource should not be ignored, especially since the Latino population is the fastest growing ethnic group in California’s schools, he said.

Dr. Kimberly Mayfiled Lynch

Dr. Kimberly Mayfiled-Lynch

Asian, white and Black students also need Latino teachers to share their language, along with their cultural and global wisdom.

Some authors treat the lack of Latino teachers as a problem of recruitment, and some have even argued that Latinos are not interested in becoming teachers.

In reality there are many barriers that stand in the way of Latinos earning the teaching credential.   Standardized tests continue to be a significant barrier for Latinos entering the teaching profession.

Due to the racial wealth gap, many Latino families are challenged by the high fees for the assessments and by the requirement of many programs that candidates work for free as a student teacher.

Another barrier for Latinos who have English as a second language is the writing section of the standardized assessment. Test takers are required to write all responses in English.

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Although Spanish is the first language for 40 percent of California students, there is absolutely no credit given for Spanish fluency in fulfilling the requirements for credentialing.

Additionally, traditional recruitment strategies are often not effective for recruiting Latinos. Recruitment of college graduates and career-changers through community-based organizations is more effective than the traditional bureaucratic routes.

In our view the recruitment of teachers of color is a far better way to improve American schools and stabilize the teaching force than the over-testing of everybody, which is currently the favorite project of many policy-makers.

Kimberly Mayfield-Lynch is chair of Black Women Organized for Political Action and chair of the Education Department at Holy Names University.

Francisco Ortiz is a Bay Area teacher and a graduate student researching issues of Latino teacher recruitment.

Kitty Kelly Epstein hosts Education Today on KPFA – FM and writes on issues involving education and urban policy. (A Different View of Urban Schools (2012) Peter Lang).

Courtey of the Post News Group, February 27, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

“I Am Black, I Am Jewish, and My Life Matters.”

Kim Carter Martinez spoke at the #BlackLivesMatter Hanukkah demonstration Dec. 16 in San Francisco. Photo by Gabrielle Lurie.

By Kim Carter Martinez

 
My name is Kim. I am Black, I am Jewish, and my life matters. For the last few months, our country has seen a movement growing from a wave of protests against the police and vigilante law enforcement killings of unarmed Black men.

As a country we have struggled with talking about the issues of police brutality and racism — individual racism, and the systemic and institutionalized racism that Black and Brown people in our country fall victim to on a daily basis.

In America, a black person is killed by the police or by vigilante law enforcement every 28 hours. #BlackLivesMatter, the movement that arose out of the outrage over these killings, describes itself as “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise … [an affirmation of black folks’] contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”Hanukkah march

Over and over again, I’ve heard people in the Jewish community talk about #BlackLivesMatter as if the violence and racism toward people of color is happening to an outside group we are not a part of.

It’s happening to “them,” and we can only show solidarity to this group in certain ways because it is a group to which we do not belong.

Many Jews post on Facebook or Twitter showing their solidarity for the cause. Some attend rallies and marches to show their solidarity for the cause.

Many talk with their friends and watch comedy television with quasi-political pundits who talk about #BlackLivesMatter.

We do everything we can to align ourselves with the cause and show our solidarity — except at the same time we continue to ignore the fact that, according to several estimates, there are tens of thousands of Black Jewish Americans for whom the issues of police brutality and institutional and systemic racism are an everyday reality.

These are not just Black issues, these are also Jewish issues, and we cannot continue to count them as something separate. Doing so erases the identity of people like me, who are both Black and Jewish.

We are moved by our Jewish teachings of tikkun olam (heal the world) and tzedek, tzedek, tirdof  (justice, justice you shall pursue). Yet how can we, as a Jewish people, truly heal the world and pursue justice when we continue to not include Jews of color in leadership roles in our work fighting racism and police brutality in America?

Are we really healing the world and pursuing justice if we ignore the racism that Jews of color have to endure? Organizations must make a concerted outreach effort to Jews of color if they want to have an authentic campaign of solidarity with the issues of all people of color.

Recently I attended a #BlackLivesMatter action in San Francisco, held on the first night of Hanukkah. I was honored to be the emcee, and disappointed to see only a handful of Jews of color among the participants. Why were they left out? Jews of color must be at the forefront of these movements.

I was happy to see J. and other Jewish newspapers carry the story of the Hanukkah action with some prominence. But I also was disappointed to see no quotes or pictures of Jews of color. Why were they left out?

Our stories of racism and discrimination inside and outside the Jewish community must be lifted up and heard. We must welcome Jews of color to tell their stories of racial discrimination in our organized Jewish community, such as synagogues, federations, social groups and Jewish nonprofits. We must not just listen to the stories of racism that Jews of color have endured, we must stand up to it and act, because these are not just Black or Brown issues, they are Jewish issues. And all Jewish people matter.

Kim Carter Martinez is a campaign coordinator for a public employee labor union. She served on the regional council of Bend the Arc and lives in Oakland. This article was reprinted from jweekly.com

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, January 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Op-ed: Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney Responds to Criticisms

By Lynette Gibson McElhaney

The East Bay Express (EBX) has been investigating me for the last nine months – digging into my personal life, my work in Richmond and on the City Council.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Frustrated in their attempt to find any meaningful evidence of wrongdoing or unethical behavior, they have concocted a front-page “scandal” about the practices of the affordable housing non-profit, where I have served as a leader since 2001.

The practice in question? A modest investment in market-rate real estate, with the proceeds from that investment being used to fulfill our mission of providing affordable housing for veterans.

A child of the Civil Rights movement, I have dedicated my life to public service. I am proud of both my service at Richmond NHS where I have served since 2001 and as an elected representative on the Oakland City Council since 2013.

In light of the unwarranted and dishonorable attacks on my reputation I want to make it clear to all of my supporters, colleagues, and constituents that I have done nothing wrong or unethical. This attack only strengthens my commitment to tackling the real problems facing Oakland.

And to (Express editor) Bob Gammon, I want to make it crystal clear that at a time when funds for affordable housing have been decimated and tensions are rising between communities of color and law enforcement across the country, your decision to focus the considerable power of your publishing platform on me, calls into question your editorial judgment.

The public needs to know that in its response to the EBX inquiry, the NHS Board of Directors investigated its claims and found that there has been no violation of policy or law by the Executive Director, members of the board or its partners, Richard Reese or Kevin Hampton, in any deal where Richmond NHS was involved.

Further, Boardmember Niels Povlsen is a leader with an impeccable reputation who did not do anything in violation of any law or policy of NHS. There have been no conflicts of interest found by any agency by any member of the board or staff.

As a fierce advocate for affordable housing I have worked closely with my city council colleagues to create a designated fund for affordable housing and to strengthen tenant protection laws. I am also a pro-growth advocate for smart development because

I understand that failure to meet the demand for market-rate housing will lead to more displacement. And, while it is true that I am deeply concerned about maintaining economic and racial diversity in Oakland, I believe the biggest threat is the ability to attract and retain working-class jobs and to maintain public safety in our neighborhoods.

Like many others, I have often put the needs of others ahead of my own. Those who know me can attest that I work tirelessly to care for the people in my family, the community, and my work. This has resulted most notably in the painful and embarrassing failure to file timely tax returns – a matter which was rectified this week. In addition,

I was unaware of a technical difficulty that resulted in the delinquent filing of our mid-year campaign report.

These errors, as embarrassing as they are, do not rise to level of unethical behavior or some indication that my work in service to the community is anything other than honorable. Sadly, this type of coverage centering on innuendo and personal attacks often serves to discourage average people from serving in public life.

Most of us are not born with the privilege of having a life unscathed by personal or financial challenges, tragedies or imperfections. This is very unfortunate because every level of government is better served by the diversity of representation that can relate to the daily challenges the average working class American must confront.

I am grateful and honored for the opportunity to serve the people of Oakland as an elected leader. Despite this attack, I will continue to serve with the utmost respect for the public and for my colleagues.

In the past two years I have worked to fulfill my campaign pledge to focus on strengthening the local economy, improving public safety and improving the professionalism of the Council.

And, I sincerely hope that my service inspires others to serve without the need to be perfect.

District 3 Councilmember Lynette McElhaney was elected president of the Oakland City Council at the council’s meeting on Monday, Jan. 5.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney, District 3 City Council member, is president of the Oakland City Council.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Why Supporting the Fight Against Racist Police Killings Could Mean a New Chapter in Environmentalism

black lives matter milwaukee protest

By Katie Valentine,ThinkProgress

The Sierra Club has had its share of environmental successes over the years. It prevented the damming of the Grand Canyon in the 1960s. It ran successful efforts to expand Sequoia National Park in 1926 and create the Redwoods National Park in 1968. And it has helped persuade multiple college campuses to divest from fossil fuels and phase out coal-fired power plants on campus.

But until recently, there’s one thing the Sierra Club — and, some say, the broader environmental movement — hasn’t done well. It hasn’t shown support for other social movements, hasn’t added its voice to other calls for change. That’s something Michael Brune, president of the Sierra Club, wants to change.

“Whenever we see things that threaten our democracy, whether it’s the influx of corporate money into our political system or the erosion of voting rights, or things like [police violence] that are a violation of human rights, we feel it’s our job to speak up,” he said. “And we’re happy to do so.”

And, for Brune, the recent police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio have touched a nerve. During the first week of December, the Sierra Club posted multiple statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has grown out of the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and the high-profile police killings that have taken place in the last few months.

“Whether it’s the planet itself or the people who inhabit it, we hold the ideals of respect and reverence in the highest regard,” the organization wrote on its Facebook page on December 4. “For these reasons, we stand in solidarity with the organizations who are protesting and demanding justice in the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and every other victim of injustice.”

The choice to have the Sierra Club show support for the movement was simple for Brune, as he explained in blog posts following the Facebook-issued statements. All people, regardless of race, deserve a clean and healthy planet, he wrote. They also deserve to be able to live their lives without being fearful of the police, and without being subjected to discrimination.

These two issues, Brune wrote, “are not separate. Indeed, we believe that working toward a just, equitable, and transparent society is not only morally necessary but also exactly what we need to confront the unprecedented environmental challenges we face.”

Opal Tometi, Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter Movement, agrees. She said in a statement to ThinkProgress that environmental issues are “inextricably linked to a racial justice agenda,” and that she’d like to see more people of color — especially those who are already leaders in the environmental justice movement — rise up to leadership roles in the larger, national organizations — organizations that, as a whole, have been found to skew white.

“Black communities in the U.S. and around the globe are impacted the worst and should be central in shaping and leading the national environmental justice movement,” Tometi said.

Brune isn’t the only one in the environmental movement who thinks so. The Sierra Club was among multiple environmental groups to put out statements of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in recent months: the National Resources Defense Council, for one, published a blog post this month stating the group’s support for the movement, and Greenpeace did the same in August.

In November, Friends of the Earth International put out a statement of support for the protests that erupted in Ferguson after unarmed teen Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer, saying that the shooting was “an affront to Friends of the Earth International’s vision of a society of interdependent people living in harmony.” The group’s U.S.-based arm put out another statement in December, after the police officer who used a chokehold to kill unarmed Eric Garner wasn’t indicted.

These types of statements are a sign of progress for the environmental movement, said Van Jones, environmental and civil rights advocate and founder of Green for All and Rebuild the Dream. Jones said environmental groups need to continue to engage with relevant social causes if they want to grow and evolve, and also if they want to gain supporters from the non-white community, a demographic which, polls have found, is often supportive of efforts to protect the environment.

A Yale poll from 2010 found that black Americans, Hispanics and people of other races are “often the strongest supporters of climate and energy policies and were also more likely to support these policies even if they incurred greater cost.” A 2012 poll found that 71 percent of Asian Americans would call themselves an environmentalist, compared to the national average of about 41 percent. And, according to a 2013 poll, 86 percent of black Americans support the President taking “significant steps” on climate change, compared to 76 percent of Hispanics and 60 percent of whites.

“It’s only natural that, if people who make up a large part of your growing base are under fire — literally — that you should express some sympathy and some concern,” Jones said. And, he said, now that these statements have been made, environmental groups should be sure to make their members aware of any legislation that might come out of the Black Lives Matter movement.

May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, said she hopes environmental groups’ statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement is a sign of a new era in environmentalism.

There have been other signs in recent years that major environmental groups are starting to branch out: the Sierra Club came out in favor of immigration reform in 2013, an issue that had sparked internal arguments in the group in past years. It was joined by 350.org and Greenpeace. And Friends of The Earth has been fairly outspoken in the past about issues that fall outside of the traditional bounds of an environmental organization. The group’s D.C. office marched in support of healthcare reform in 2010, and President Erich Pica said they’ve also supported the marriage equality movement.

Pica said the Black Lives Matter movement was another reminder that the group that it can’t achieve its mission — to defend the environment and champion a healthy and just world — if it doesn’t address the “deeper, systemic” issues in American society.

“As an environmental group, we can focus too much on the healthy world piece,” Pica said. “On the justice piece — the ‘just’ piece — it’s hard for Friends of the Earth to accomplish that mission if there are blatant injustices that are occurring out there, where Americans — African Americans, black Americans — don’t have the basic rights to a justice system, where they fear that an encounter with a police officer could be their last.”

For the groups that issued statements of support for the movement, the decision to do so was fairly easy. But not everyone is happy about these statements — or, at least, not everyone on the Sierra Club’s Facebook page. Some wondered why a group whose main goal was the protection of the earth and the advancement of renewable energy sources bothered to put out a statement of support for a cause that, at first glance, had little to do with the environment.

One commenter called the Sierra Club’s statement “out of line,” and said he was disappointed that the environmental organization would choose to associate itself with “controversial criminal justice cases.”

Brune said he understood why some people were confused about the group’s statement — police violence, after all, isn’t an issue that’s typically discussed in the same conversation as carbon regulations and sage grouse protection. He can see why some might be concerned about the implications of the Sierra Club putting out statements of support for other issues: that it could water down the environmental movement or make the public confused about the movement’s goals.

But ultimately, Brune doesn’t agree with those concerns. He didn’t think twice about making the statements of support, and he wants to do more to address social issues in the future. He and his family have joined in some of the marches against police violence, and he said that Sierra Club organizers are “working in solidarity,” with Black Lives Matter organizers.

“I’m proud of the way in which we’re acting and engaging. For us, it’s not just about a post on Facebook or a blog entry or a series of supportive statements — we’re determined to engage on these issues over the long-haul,” he said. Externally, we’re always thinking about ways to both strengthen the environmental progress that we’re making and address some of the underlying obstacles towards that progress.”

Courtesy of Think Progress, December 16, 2014 (thinkprogressnow.org)

President to Award Medal of Freedom to Three Slain Civil Rights Workers

Slain civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman will be posthumously awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During Freedom Summer 1964, they worked to register African Americans to vote in Mississippi.

Slain civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman will be posthumously awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During Freedom Summer 1964, they worked to register African Americans to vote in Mississippi.

Three young men murdered in Neshoba County 50 years ago registering African Americans to vote will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House has announced.

Murdered in a plot hatched by the Ku Klux Klan, James Chaney, 21, Andrew Goodman, 21, and Michael Schwerner, 24, will be awarded the medal posthumously by President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday, Nov. 24.

In the midst of Freedom Summer 1964, the three men on Father’s Day were investigating the ruins of Mt. Zion United Methodist, burned to the ground by the Klan because it was being used as a meeting place.

Driving back into Philadelphia the trio was stopped on trumped-up speeding charges, arrested and jailed.

They were released that night and later pursued by a mob of Klansmen that included law enforcement. They were pulled from their station wagon, driven to a remote county road and shot at point-blank range.

After a massive search that included federal authorities, their bodies were found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam off Highway 21 south.

In 1967, seven men were convicted of conspiring to violate their civil rights. Some served prison time.

In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen, a part-time Baptist preacher and sawmill owner, was indicted by a Neshoba County grand jury and later convicted on three counts of manslaughter for his role in orchestrating the murders.

He received three 20-year consecutive sentences and is still serving.

The murders gained international attention, and the Neshoba County murders helped lead to passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Fifty years ago, the lives of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were taken away from us at a far too early age,” said Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.

“These three young men, and countless others, paid the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to help bring equality to the state of Mississippi,” Thompson said. “Bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor to these three men is a fitting tribute for their contribution toward making this country a more perfect Union. I commend President Obama for honoring these men and look forward to carrying on the spirit of their effort.”

On May 29, Congressman Thompson and members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to President Obama requesting for the Presidential Medal of Freedom to be bestowed posthumously to Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, November 18, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Commentary: The Transfer of Army Base Property to CWS Is “Critically Important”

By Phil Tagami

I do not think it is productive or appropriate to frame conflict where there simply is none. The transfer of the subject site to CWS is critically important for all parties as the anticipated sale proceeds of the site are needed to balance the sources and uses to satisfy the state matching grants that all parties benefit from.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

We are generally unaware of the details of the city’s new trash /recycling contract other than what we have read in the newspapers.

We have a standing request to Public works and CWS to better understand the nature of the proposed CWS operations now that they are doing the whole trash/recycling operation opposed to just the recycling as originally intended for the north gateway site.

The CEQA requirements for the OAB project include 660 conditions and mitigation of approval many that are in specific to operations. Air quality and trip generation are just a few sensitive areas that need to be better understood to ensure compliance.

There remain a large number of issues that could impact the delivery of the public infrastructure and thereby impact delivery dates for all of the parties. We wrestle with these each and every day. It is in all parties’ interest to get out of the ground as soon as possible.

Though we are benefiting from the dry spell we need to guard against the onset of winter rains as we are unable to conduct a number of important construction operations in inclement weather.  Getting too much going at one time could lead to unintended consequences and unforeseen costs.

The Oakland Global team has been working diligently with City staff to ensure all of the base tenants/development partners can get access to the site in a timely basis and have access to utility connections.

A few changes have been introduced by the temporary location of OMSS in the north gateway and the interim bicycle parking for the bay bridge in late 2013 that lead to a re-sequencing of the project from what was originally proposed. We have been working on yet another re-sequencing with the city staff to reduce the overall delivery of the project by as much as 10 months.

New delivery dates for the various development sites is anticipated in the next 30-45 days pending city staff approval.