Category: Equal Rights/Equity

Churches Fight Terror with “Week of Righteous Resistance”

(L to R): Rev. Ben McBride, Andrea Marta, Rev. Michael McBride, Mollie Costello and Devonte Jackson discuss their community organizing at The Way Christian Center in West Berkeley.

(L to R): Rev. Ben McBride, Andrea Marta, Rev. Michael McBride, Mollie Costello and Devonte Jackson discuss their community organizing at The Way Christian Center in West Berkeley.

By Tulio Ospina

Last Sunday was the beginning of a weeklong faith-based campaign to spread a message of resistance against bigotry and acts of systemic violence. Hundreds of churches, mosques and temples across the country are participating in the campaign, called the “Week of Righteous Resistance” (WORR).

The campaign was sparked by the burnings of several Black churches that have been terrorizing communities in the South since the killing of the Charleston nine.

Rev. Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center in West Berkeley helped plan the national actions of faith congregations around the country, which will raise money to help rebuild the churches that were set ablaze.

Planned actions included marches, special services, educational teach-ins and film screenings.

Rev. McBride’s service on Sunday focused on this theme of resistance and tied his teachings to recent events in the South, hence the title of his sermon, “Fight Fire with Fire.”

“What I noticed was that the church had yet to bring the kind of force of faith and impact to match the terror that is being unleashed all across the country,” said Rev. McBride during the sermon.

“The churches burning, while tragic as it is, is indicative of the kind of fires that are burning in many of our lives every single day,” he said. “Fires of oppression, fires of poverty, fire of exploitation, fires of police terror and killings. We wanted to create a space where the church can respond and resist through the Week of Righteous Resistance.”

Also on Sunday at The Way Christian Center, Rev. McBride kicked off the Week of Righteous Resistance with a panel of community organizers, who spoke to churchgoers about the work they are doing to address issues of systemic violence.

Panel members, some of whom Rev. McBride had protested alongside in Ferguson, Missouri, included Devonte Jackson—Bay Area organizer for Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Mollie Costello—co-director of the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, Andrea Marta of the Pacific Institute for Community Organizations (PICO) and Rev. Ben McBride—founder of the Empower Initiative.

Panelists spoke about the community organizing work they participate in and offered advice on how faith can be used to fuel resistance.

“I’ve noticed that African American communities are often pitted against immigrant communities, that immigrant rights are pinned as a Latino issue. But there’s a lot of Black immigrants out there who are just as under-resourced,” said Jackson of BAJI

“I think a lot of the church congregations can bring multiple generations and communities together to really take action against these issues,” he said.

According to a number of the panelists, resistance comes in many forms, from protests and marches to simply holding a space where people can come together to heal or express themselves.

“Everybody wants to be Jesus, but nobody wants to be John,” said Rev. Ben McBride. “We have not been called to be a messianic figure in the empire. We’ve been called to be the prophet who speaks truth to power.”

The faith-based Week of Righteous Resistance continues into the weekend with Peace Walks on Friday responding to intercommunal violence in neighborhoods and a massive counter-rally at state capitols on Saturday in response to a planned South Carolina Ku Klux Klan rally.

As a reminder of the revolutionary nature of the history that is presented in the Bible, Rev. Ben McBride wrapped up his words with an anecdote from when he and several church leaders, including his brother, Rev. Michael McBride, were arrested together in Ferguson.

“We all got arrested and we were in jail, and the police asked us, ‘Who started the protest,’” said McBride. “And one of us yelled—‘Jesus!’”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 17, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

OPD Still Refusing to Release Evidence in Demouria Hogg Shooting Death

OPD May be Breaking Law by Withholding Name of Officer Who Killed Hogg

Scene of the June 6 police kiling of Demouria Hogg, 30, in Oakland. Photo courtesy of ABC7 News.

Scene of the June 6 police kiling of Demouria Hogg, 30, in Oakland. Photo courtesy of ABC7 News.

By Ken Epstein

Almost six weeks after the shooting death of Demouria Hogg, the Oakland Police Department and the City of Oakland have not released information related to the killing, including the name of the OPD officer who shot Hogg or the video evidence, police reports or coroner’s reports.

A Public Records Act request to OPD from the Post was denied on June 18.

On July 14, a police spokesperson told the Post, “The investigation is still ongoing, and because there are multiple investigations (OPD, Internal Affairs and the DA’s office), the release of information will take some time. Additionally, we are not releasing the name of the officer due to officer safety concerns.”

However, a May 2014 ruling of the California Supreme Court indicates that OPD may be in violation of the state law in refusing to release the officer’s name.

Demouria Hogg, 30,

Demouria Hogg, 30,

“If it is essential to protect an officer’s anonymity for safety reasons or for reasons peculiar to the officer’s duties — as, for example, in the case of an undercover officer — then the public interest in disclosure of the officer’s name may need to give way,” according to the ruling. “That determination, however, would need to be based on a particularized showing.”

“Vague safety concerns that apply to all officers involved in shootings are insufficient to tip the balance against disclosure of officer names,” the ruling said.

“This is big decision,” said attorney James Chanin, who is involved in the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) that resulted in Judge Thelton Henderson’s oversight of OPD.

“There is a presumption that the public has a right to know the identities of officers involved in shooting incidents,” said Chanin.

The Post contacted City Attorney Barbara Parker, asking her legal opinion on OPD’s refusal to release the officer’s name. By press time, she did not reply.

Hogg, 30, a Hayward resident, was killed on Saturday, June 6 near Lake Merritt. At about 7:30 a.m., Oakland firefighters saw a man unconscious or asleep in a BMW stopped on the Lakeshore Avenue exit of Interstate 580.

When firefighters saw a handgun on the passenger seat, they called police, who arrived and set up a perimeter around the car.

Police repeated attempted to wake the man, using a bullhorn and tried to break the car windows with beanbag rounds. When Hogg awoke, one officer fired a Taser, and a second officer shot him with her gun. Hogg was taken to Highland Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

OPD Chief Sean When had originally said in a press conference after the shooting that the name of the officer who killed Hogg would be released shortly. Since then, OPD has changed its mind.

A local group, Anti Police-Terror Project, held a demonstration on June 12 at the site of Hogg’s death, demanding that police release any footage that captured the shooting and police or coroners reports.

Relatives also have demanded that an independent investigator be brought in to investigate the fatal shooting.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 17, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Pope Francis Returns to South America, Calling for Climate Justice for the World’s Poor

He says government should include indigenous groups, people of African descent, women in decision-making

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

By Tulio Ospina

Pope Francis arrived in Ecuador on Sunday, visiting his home continent for a three-country tour that includes Bolivia and Paraguay.

The pope’s visit to Quito—Ecuador’s capital city—attracted over one million people who traveled from across the country and camped out overnight to get a good view of the pontiff.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, right, welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival at Quito Airport, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5. Photo courtesy of Fox News

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, right, welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival at Quito Airport, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5. Photo courtesy of Fox News

The pope, who is Argentinian, had been expected to address the exploitation of the Amazon—the planet’s most ecologically important rainforest—following the release of his extensive encyclical on the environment.

The encyclical reveals his deep scientific, economic and social knowledge surrounding the causes and effects of “the harm we have inflicted on [the planet] by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

In accordance with Francis’ concern for the poor, the encyclical asserts that while human-induced global warming—based on “a very solid scientific consensus”—concerns all people, “its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries” and the world’s neediest populations.

Pope visits nursing home in Quito, Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Pope visits nursing home in Quito, Ecuador. Photo courtesy of  the Associated Press.

Known informally as “the pope of the poor,” his visit to the region has focused on a message that uplifts family values, communal love and unity.

“The people of Ecuador are beyond excited and pleased, the majority of them being Catholic,” said Azalia Cruz, a Post correspondent in Quito. “In Quito, it was extremely cold, and it was raining a lot when he arrived. Despite this, thousands of people gathered to greet the Pope.”

In one of Latin America’s oldest Catholic churches, Francis pressed a variety of issues,

Addressing ecological concerns, he reminded the Ecuadorean people that “when exploiting Ecuador’s natural resources, the focus should not be on instant gratification” and that appropriate environmental caution and gratitude must be paid when managing these resources.

“Groups of environmentalists opposing petroleum extraction in the Amazonian Yasuní National Park were trying to get a letter to the pope to get a statement out of him,” said Cruz.

These groups have come together in protest to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s intention to open the park’s untouched interior for oil extraction, which will strongly affect the lives of the region’s indigenous tribes and the environment around them, as it has in the past.

Over many years, Ecuador and it’s peasant and indigenous populations have been involved in ongoing international legal battles with Chevron, accusing the oil company of deliberately dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater and 17 million gallons of crude oil and leaving behind hundreds of open pits filled with hazardous waste.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, July 12, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

The Government’s Response to Church Burnings Must Have “Real Teeth,” Say Clergy

Church Fire

By Ashley Chambers

The discussion of entrenched of racism in America is intensifying in the wake of the recent killing of nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a young white supremacist, followed by fires at eight predominantly Black churches in the South.

Though most the church fires have not yet been confirmed as arson, at least three fires have been found to be intentional. These incidents bring to memory the rampant church burnings during the Civil Rights Movement that targeted Black families and congregations in the South as a form of intimidation.

There has been a national outcry on social media and in the faith community denouncing these acts of arson and white supremacy that are hovering over the country.

As part of the national outcry, Bay Area clergy are calling for the federal government to exercise its authority to halt the assaults on Black churches.

“Our country needs to respond with a lot more empathy and swiftness to make sure that our Black institutions can be protected,” said Pastor Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley.

The government response must be forthcoming with a sense of urgency, he said.

“There’s never a moment where people even think that Black folks are being afforded due process,” he said. “When we are experiencing terror, we are always being asked to wait for more information, rather than just acknowledging that what’s happening is terrorizing our communities. But the system rarely waits for more information when it’s our time to go on trial.”

Pastor Michael McBride

Pastor Michael McBride

In an effort to combat a rise in attacks on Black churches, the federal government established the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996. The act reads, “Whoever intentionally defaces, damages, or destroys any religious real property because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of any individual associated with that religious property, or attempts to do so, shall be punished.”

However, federal officials have not identified the recent arsons as hate crimes. Since 2009, the FBI has recorded one racially motivated church burning, Fusion reports.

“There have been other acts of hatred that we’ve seen across the years with delayed action, if any, from the federal government,” said Pastor Harold Mayberry of First AME Church in Oakland.

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Pastor Harold Mayberry of First AME Church in Oakland.

Mayberry says he wants the federal government to sit down with people of color to have real discussion around racism in America. Also, any legislation against church burning must have real teeth, he said, “not just a law passed to pacify [those affected] people, but prosecutes to the fullest extent of the law those who participate in those acts of hatred.”

Clergy around the country this week are calling for a “Week of Righteous Resistance (WORR),” July 12 through July 18, with national religious partners, PICO, as well as members of the AME Church.

“We have to help amplify the need for a courageous, faith-based call to end white supremacy and racial terror,” said McBride.

For more information, search hashtag #thisisWORR or visit www.thisisworr.org information.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, July 11, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Alicia Garza of #BlackLivesMatter Serves as Grand Marshal, Speaks at SF Pride Parade

“We have a lot of work to do to make sure that there is equity for all of us,” says Garza

Oakland's Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, was selected as Community Grand Marshal for the 2015 Pride Parade and spoke before City Hall about the need to keep fighting for all Black lives. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

Oakland’s Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, was selected as Community Grand Marshal for the 2015 Pride Parade and spoke before City Hall about the need to keep fighting for all Black lives. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina

Amid the rainbow-clad crowds cheering at this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade arose a mass of Black Power fists. They belonged to the Bay Area contingent of #BlackLivesMatter, an organizing network comprised of an intergenerational and all-gendered crew of activists fighting for the human rights of Black people around the world.

Amid the rainbow-clad crowds cheering at this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade arose a mass of Black Power fists. They belonged to the Bay Area contingent of #BlackLivesMatter, an organizing network comprised of an intergenerational and all-gendered crew of activists fighting for the human rights of Black people around the world.

Alicia Garza, the Oakland-based co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, was selected as the Member’s Choice for Community Grand Marshal at the 2015 Pride celebration. Grand Marshals are considered local heroes who have made significant contributions to the LGBTQ community and society at large.

Speaking at the parade rally at City Hall, Garza emphasized that despite the progress that has been made, there is still much work to be done for Black lives.

“Is it okay that the average life expectancy of a Black trans person in this country is 35 years old? No, that ain’t right!” said Garza.

“Is it okay that there’s more Black people in jail than are in the population of San Francisco right now? Hell no! Look around you right now. Do you know this city has less than a four percent Black population? And that is not a mistake, my friends,” she said.

#BlackLivesMatter was co-created by Garza along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. Symbolically, it has stood firmly “as a love note to Black people in the face of state and vigilante brutality, violence and oppression,” said Garza.

The network began as a hashtag and expanded into an international organizing project, seen by many as an affirmation and embrace of the resistance and resilience of Black people.

Last Sunday, over two dozen #BlackLivesMatter organizers and supporters marched in the Pride Parade behind Garza who sat next to Miss Major, last year’s Community Grand Marshal, in a convertible reserved for her.

The movement’s supporters carried a banner inscribed with Assata Shakur’s name and her famous call, “It is our duty to fight.” They were dressed mostly in black in contrast to the colorful gathering surrounding them.

The group was mostly comprised of Black queer and trans people, some just married.

#BlackLivesMatter came out in full force to San Francisco’s Pride Parade 2015 on June 28  to highlight the intersections between race, gender, sexual orientation, ability and class. Over two dozen Black organizers and affiliates marched down Market Street with their fists raised and a banner that quoted Assata Shakur's words:  “It is our duty to fight.” Photo by Tulio Ospina.

#BlackLivesMatter came out in full force to San Francisco’s Pride Parade 2015 on June 28 to highlight the intersections between race, gender, sexual orientation, ability and class. Over two dozen Black organizers and affiliates marched down Market Street with their fists raised and a banner that quoted Assata Shakur’s words: “It is our duty to fight.” Photo by Tulio Ospina.

“With our contingent in the parade, we tried to hammer home the message that all Black lives matter, that Black trans lives matter, that Black queer lives matter and that Black people are also queer and are also trans,” said Garza.

“As we think about the celebration of Pride, let us not forget that the road is still long and that we have a lot of work to do to make sure that there is equity for all of us,” urged Garza after her speech.

“We’re going to keep pushing forward this motto: ‘None of us are free until all of us are free.'”

Courtesy of the Post News Group, July 6, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

LGBT Mural at Galería de la Raza Set on Fire

Ani Rivera, director of Galería de la Raza, speaks before a crowd of 300 supporters where a LGBT mural was set ablaze on Monday night, June 29. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

Ani Rivera, director of Galería de la Raza, speaks before a crowd of 300 supporters where a LGBT mural was set ablaze on Monday night, June 29. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

SF Mission Locals Call for Unity in the Face of Hate Crime

By Tulio Ospina

Over 300 community members rallied last Wednesday in front of Galería de la Raza, an art gallery in San Francisco’s Mission district where an LGBT mural depicting two gay couples and a Latino trans man has been defaced three times in the last month.

The artist from the Los Angeles-based Maricón Collective had just finished repainting the mural for a second time when someone attempted to set the wall on fire last Monday night, endangering the lives of the building’s inhabitants.

This happened on June 29, the day after San Francisco celebrated its largest Pride event in history.

“In the face of the Supreme Court’s decision for marriage equality and the joyous Pride celebration we had, waking up the next day and seeing this was incredibly painful,” said San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, speaking at the rally.

Campos and several community leaders spoke at the gathering, sharing words of anger, pain, and sadness. Many speakers spoke about the need to remain united.

“We cannot let this violent act be a distraction for our community,” said Ani Rivera, director of the Galería.

“We must come together to retain our history and regain our space. Ten thousand people have been displaced from the Mission—8,000 of them Latino—and we cannot let this be a distraction,” she said

Rivera was referring to the fight that many community organizations are currently engaged in to get the San Francisco City Council to pass a moratorium on the development of luxury housing in the area.

Last Monday’s hate crime also comes at a time when at least seven predominantly Black churches have gone up in flames throughout the South since the shooting at Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina.

Mount Zion AME, one of the churches that caught fire this past week, had previously been burned to the ground by members of the Ku Klux Klan in a rash of church fires that torched more than 600 mostly Black churches across the South in 1995.

Mount Zion was within driving distance of the church where the nine worshipers were murdered.

Among the speakers at the Galería de la Raza was Rev. Richard Smith, a clergyman from St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco, who also stressed the importance of unity within the community.

“Racism and homophobia all come from the same beast,” said Rev. Smith, linking the acts of arson. “We have to deal with the same hatred here in the Bay as they do in the South and it all has to do with how we come together to deal with it.”

“Too many moms and dads have shed tears seeing their kids get killed or sent to prison or deported. But we’ve stood together—and strongly so—since the beginning. It is important for us to stay together still,” added Rev. Smith.

San Francisco police are currently investigating the hate crime. The Galería had installed surveillance cameras facing the mural after it was vandalized the first time.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Brooks’ Victory for Oakland’s New Department of Race and Equity

Community support for historic measure garnered council’s unanimous support

By Ashley Chambers

After months of debate, the City Council unanimously voted this week to create a Department of Race and Equity to address systemic racism and inequality in the City of Oakland.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

The council voted at its special budget meeting Monday for full funding of the department, $520,730, to pay for the hiring of a director, program analyst and administrative assistant.

Authored by Councilmember Desley Brooks, the proposal came before the council earlier this year to create the new city department to begin to come to grips with the systemic racism and inequity in city policies and practices that adversely impact communities of color.

Over the past few months, hundreds of community members have come to council meetings to speak in favor of the proposal. They talked about the desperate need for the city to take action to deal with gentrification and the displacement of families, the lack of minority contractors on city projects, failure to enforce tenant protections and persistent underfunding of job programs for reentry, youth, and unemployed residents.

Over 50 organizations and 700 residents have expressed their support for the new department.

Speaking at the Council meeting Monday, Post Publisher Paul Cobb called for the councilmembers to endorse, support and fully fund the Department of Race and Equity.

Cobb read a text message sent to him from community advocate José Dueñas who died last weekend. Backing the new department, Dueñas wrote:

“I think we need to create a coalition of Latinos, African Americans and Asians to discuss how to deal with the inequities in this city and this county.”

“This is just a first step, and the next step to what started out as affirmative action… I still remember how tenacious you (Paul Cobb) were with me (during that time)…We must do that again now.”

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who endorsed the department and fully funded it in her proposed budget, said, “Oakland is changing and we need to have a department to ensure that we continue to respect and honor our diverse population and that we are able to do that proactively.”

She added, “The focus is really about how the city delivers its services to ensure that (local) government is serving all sectors of its residents, and all geographic sectors of the city.”

This victory for the Department of Race and Equity makes Oakland one of few cities around the country, along with Portland and Seattle, that have created departments to ensure equality and fairness for all residents.

Among other issues, the Department of Race and Equity will need to look at unequal enforcement of city zoning policies, said Brooks.

“It’s the planning and the zoning decisions that have allowed for auto body shops to be next door to somebody’s house, that allow for environmental issues to impact communities of color, that allow for West Oakland to have (a higher) asthma rate because of the bad conditions,” she said.

“We need a Department of Race and Equity because we have normalized the conversation of race,” Brooks said. “When you think about the incidents that just happened in South Carolina…we need a Department of Race and Equity because there are systemic issues that unless we address them we will never get to where we need to be.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 28, 2015 (postnewsroup.com)

Teachers Question Mayor’s Appointment of New Education Advisor

By Ken Epstein

Local teachers and school activists are questioning Mayor Libby Schaaf’s decision to appoint David Silver as a chief policy advisor on education, criticizing her for paying for the position with money

David Silver

David Silver

donated by non-profits that have a record of working to expand local charters schools at the expense of public education.

A number of people see her approach as setting a dangerous precedent.

“I personally have nothing against David – I do not question his integrity or his passion for Oakland students, “said Oakland Education Association (OEA) President Trish Gorham.

OEA President Trish Gorham

OEA President Trish Gorham

“I do question paying the salary of someone with private money that comes with a very clear agenda, using that money to pay for someone who is going to help shape public policy,” she said.

Mayor Schaaf announced Silver’s appointment on June 11, funded through “a multi-year partnership” with the Oakland Public Education Fund, made up the Rainin Foundation, New Schools Venture Fund, the Rogers Family Foundation and the Packard Foundation.

New Schools Venture Fund is an organization associated with the national movement for corporate-driven school reform of public education, accused by opponents of backing policies that seek untapped investment opportunities and to unleash hidden markets embedded in public schools.

The Rogers Family Foundation, which is closely connected to the nonprofit Great Oakland (GO) Public Schools and helped found the Oakland Public Education Fund, has long been associated with efforts to expand the role of charter schools in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and decrease of the influence the teachers’ union and of unionized teachers.

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

“The Rodgers Foundation, New Schools Venture Fund -what see in Oakland and other urban school districts is that foundations may have started out to help a district pay for its projects, but now they come in with money and their own projects and their own agenda, their own point of view and their own expectations of outcomes,” said Gorham.

“I don’t think David Silver is going to forestall a privatizing education agenda,” she said.

In her June 11 media release, Schaaf praised Silver for his ability to create equity and help students succeed in colleges and careers.

“(He) has demonstrated a unique ability to pursue and implement strategies to ensure Oakland students succeed in school — with a special focus on correcting unacceptable disparities for underserved communities,” she said.

“I am committed to ensuring that David has the resources and support to transform my vision of a cradle to career pipeline into reality,” she said.

Despite Schaaf’s strong vision, school activists expressed misgivings.

“The Rogers foundation continues to use its money to leverage policy. It’s shocking that the Mayor’s Office in our city would allow its policy to be bought and paid for,” said Mike Hutchinson, a public education advocate.

Added community activist and longtime educator Pam Drake, “I’ve been writing about this on Facebook and Twitter. The language they are using covers up what is really going on. Rodgers and New Schools Ventures are definitely privatizing organizations.”

Silver spoke earlier this year at a school board meeting in support of OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson’s decision to allow charter schools to apply to run five Oakland schools, including Castlemont, McClymonds and Fremont High schools. Speaking in opposition were angry groups of students, parents and community members from the schools.

Ultimately, no charters turned in an application to operate the schools.

Silver until recently served as chief executive officer of College Track, a national non-profit that helps students from underserved communities to graduate from college.

He also helped found and lead Think College Now, a public elementary school in East Oakland.

“I have worked in education in Oakland since 1997, and I have never been more optimistic than today,” he said. “We have incredible students, dedicated teachers and principals, committed families and community partners, as well as a mayor, superintendent, and School Board with a powerful vision of educational equity, and models of successful schools. This is our time.”

Silver has a degree from UCLA and a master’s degree from Harvard. He lives in the Laurel District with his wife and son.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 19, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Civil Rights Complaint Filed Against School District on Behalf of English Learner Students

By Ken Epstein

Several local Latino organizations filed a complaint this week with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights against the Oakland Unified School District for failing to provide adequate education to English Language Learner students.

Latino Education Network spokesman Jorge Lerma hold a copy of the complaint that was filed this week with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. Photo by Ken Epstein

Latino Education Network spokesman Jorge Lerma hold a copy of the complaint that was filed this week with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. Photo by Ken Epstein

The complaint alleges that English Learners are systematically deprived of their rights to equal education under the law, citing evidence based on a review of Oakland’s English-Language programs conducted for OUSD by the Stanford University Graduate School of Education.

The Stanford study, which was released earlier this year, “revealed deep and troubling practices and conditions in the English Language Learner program in Oakland,” said Jorge Lerma, spokesman for the Latino Education Network.

“The complaint says OUSD has participated in systematic and multigenerational non compliance in regard to federal and state regulations, which in turn has negatively impacted English Language Learner students for many decades, “ said Lerma.

As a result, he said, “OUSD has created a dual system of education in Oakland, one for English speakers and one for English Language Learners.”

The complaint has been filed, he said, because the “community has been patient and has believed in the good will of school and governmental leaders with no meaningful results.”

Among its specific allegations, the complaint says:

Students are not counseled to take courses they need nor prepared to pass the required academic classes that are required to enter the university, causing many students to end up dropping out of school or not being prepared to go to college;

Many classes that were labeled as “bilingual” were in fact conducted entirely or nearly all in English, disregarding students’ individual needs and level of understanding;

Many students who no longer need English Language instruction or needed more advanced instruction were left to languish in programs that did not challenge them;

The Stanford study found that in 43 percent of middle and high school classrooms and 37 percent of elementary classroom, fewer than one-fourth of the students interacted verbally at last once during a class session. However, the study notes that “academic discussion” is a prime method for teaching English;

English Language Development teachers tend to be newer and have less in-service training than other teachers to prepare them to understand their students’ needs and the cultural context in which the children live.

According to the Stanford study, 30 percent of OUSD students are English Language Learners, and 49 percent speak a language other than English at home.

The district’s demographics last year, when the study was done, were 38.1 Latino, 30.6 percent African American, 14.1 percent Asian and 11.8 percent white.

The complaint was filed Tuesday by the Latino Education Network, the Educational Coalition for Hispanics in Oakland, (ECHO), which has been active in the city for more than 20 years, and the Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation, founded in 1965.

At press time, the school district had not responded to the Post’s request for a comment.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 19, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

City Council Approves Sale of Land for Lake Merritt Luxury Apartment Tower

Protesters stayed late Wednesday night to oppose the sale of the East 12th STtreet property. Photo by Ken Epstein

Protesters stayed late Wednesday night to oppose the sale of the East 12th STtreet property. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland City Council voted Wednesday night to go ahead with the hotly contested sale of a one-acre parcel of public land to a local developer and his out-of-state partner to build a luxury apartment tower at East 12th Street next to Lake Merritt.

After several hours of debate on both sides, the vote went quickly, 6-0, with one abstention, in favor of the sale.

Voting in favor were Councilmembers Abel Guillen, Desley Brooks, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Larry Reid, Annie Campbell Washington and Noel Gallo.

Dan Kalb abstained, saying he liked the deal but was not sure it was legal. Rebecca Kaplan was absent.

In the last week, Brooks joined the negotiations between Guillen and the development team, securing an additional $8 million from the developers for the city to use sometime soon to build affordable housing somewhere in the Eastlake/San Antonio area.

Councilmembers supported the arguments of city staff, who strongly urged the council to approve the deal, calling it a win-win for Oakland that includes sale of property for $5.1 million, $700,000 in community benefits, in addition to the $8 million.

Speaking at the meeting, construction workers, union leaders and trainees from the Cypress Mandela Training Center in West Oakland said they wanted to work. A representative of the Oakland NAACP said the organization supported the project.

Several speakers said this project is one of the few that has gone to African American developers. Black contactors and developers for the most part never win city contracts, they said, and it is these businessmen who provide jobs for Black workers.

Opponents of the deal argued that the issue was not about obtaining community benefits to move away but to maintain an existing community that is in the process of being displaced to make way for the wealthy who are willing to pay whatever landlords charge in order to live by the lake.

Furious at the council’s vote, Eastlake neighbors and their supporters shouted:

“Shame, shame, shame! We reject this luxury tower on public land! We reject the violent displacement of Black and Brown people from Oakland!”

Some representatives of the neighborhood group are saying they will fight the property sale in court.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 19, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)