Category: Equal Rights/Equity

Oakland Is Losing Its Racial, Age and Economic Diversity, Says New Report

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

By Ken Epstein

Oakland is a city facing the loss of its racial, age, economic, cultural and social diversity, driven by the loss of affordable housing and a huge wealth gap, according to a new report produced by the City of Oakland.

The racial gap in household income is stark, with whites earning about double that of African Americans and other people of color.

Margaretta Lin

Margaretta Lin

Median household income of white families between 2008 and 2012 stood at $81,159. African American household income was $35,050, down from $42,975 in 2000.

The median income for Asian Americans between 2008 and 2012 was $45,238, down from $46,323 in 2000.

Latino families earned an average of $44,455, down from $53,341 in 2000.

The report, “Housing Equity Road Map,” cited a recent national study by the Brookings institution, which found that Oakland has the 13th highest income inequality in the nation, improving from 2012 when it ranked number seven.

In terms of housing affordability, Oakland has been first or second in the nation for the highest rent increases for multiple consecutive quarters.

Oakland’s median rental market list price is $2,200, and the median home sales price is $438,900, according to the report, which cited Zillow.

Renters who earn Oakland’s median income have to pay over 70 percent of their income for housing costs in order to afford a median rental-listing price in the city.

The rising cost of housing by itself is causing increased levels of poverty in Oakland and throughout California, according to Margaretta Lin, a primary author of the report and director of Strategic Initiatives for the city’s Housing and Community Development Department.

Economic growth will not solve but actually contributes to the city’s affordable housing crisis, the report found

Between March 2013 to March 2014, 17,000 new jobs were added in the East Bay, and 143,000 new jobs are forecasted by 2020, the report said. The growth in jobs is bipolar, mostly in the high wage professions and in the low wage sector.

“However, housing production is not keeping pace with the escalated demands, nor is sufficient housing being produced that is affordable to many existing residents and the growing lower-income workforce,” according to the report.

“Lower-income seniors, persons living on disability income and homeless people face nearly insurmountable barriers in finding housing that is affordable,” the report said.

Demographic changes in the city have been dramatic.

The number of children and youth in Oakland has declined 16.7 percent from 2000 to 2010, compared to 3.9 percent in Alameda County.

There continues to be a steady decline of the city’s African American population, 24 percent, 33,502 residents, between 2000 and 2010. Since 1990, the city has lost 54,003 Black residents.

During the foreclosure tsunami, Oaklanders lost their homes and their family nest eggs. In East Oakland, home ownership declined by 25 percent between 2006 and 2013.

Over 11,000 homes were foreclosed.

The City’s Council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee will schedule a special full council meeting to discuss the  report, “Oakland Housing Equity Roadmap,” including recommended policy strategies, which is available at

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 14, 2015 (


“Path Not Found” – Report Says Low-income Students Lack Computer Access

By Nikolas Zelinski

The Level Playing Field Institute (LPFI) has released a report titled a “Path Not Found” that chronicles the lack of computer classes available to lower-income students and students of color in California high schools.pathnotfound_report_main

The report finds “the higher a school’s percentage of underrepresented students of color, the lower the likelihood of a school offering any computer science courses whatsoever.”

Nearly 75 percent of high schools with the highest percentages of underrepresented students of color offer no computer science courses, and 75 percent of high schools with the highest numbers of low-income students offer no computer science courses.

This is during a time when the tech industry is booming, and the country’s demographics are shifting. “Last fall, for the first time in history, students of color made up the majority of first graders nationwide,” according to the report.

This disparity is currently demonstrated by Google’s diversity data released last year. Combined, African Americans and Latinos only comprise five percent of the technical workforce. Other major tech companies show similar statistics.

Mitch Kapor

Mitch Kapor

Nationwide economic projections indicate that there will be more than 1.3 million job openings in computing and mathematical occupations by 2022.

During a press conference for the report, Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Corporation said, “All of my experience in the tech industry leads me to believe that no great startup can come into existence without skilled software developers. Because they’re the people that transform the visions and design into working code. Software developers are completely essential to the innovation economy.”

Kapor continued, “Even here in Silicon Valley, our schools are woefully behind in preparing the next generation to acquire these skills. We’ve seen time and time again, that students who are not born into privilege are at a disadvantage compared to their more privileged peers.”

According to Dr. Julie Flapan, executive director for the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools, “Upper-income schools have what we call preparatory privilege. Students who have exposure to computers at home, after-school coding classes, or summer robotics camps, are better prepared for the advanced placement (AP) courses that are already offered at their schools.”

“This is why it’s important to expand introductory level courses across the state, to ensure that all students have equal exposure to computer science,” Flapan concluded.

Some success in achieving demographic equality includes a program recently trialed in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), in partnership with the University of California Los Angeles, and the National Science Foundation.

The equity focused curriculum called “Exploring Computer Science” shows participation directly mirrors the overall demographics of LAUSD. The course utilizes interest-based learning at its core, and uses that concept to teach web design, and coding.

To ensure computer access for underrepresented students of color, and underprivileged students, the “Path Not Found” report lists some key strategies.

One of the solutions is to make computer science count as either a mathematics course, or science high school graduation requirement.

Other methods include expanding access to in-school and out-of-school programs designed to develop computing interest among underrepresented groups; while emphasizing hands-on projects, field trips, extracurricular activities, and mentorship programs.

Also, ensure that funding prioritizes programs serving low-income students of color and other underrepresented groups.

Many members of the press conference panel explained that role-models who look like the students they are teaching is one of the biggest factors to success.

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, May 24, 1015 (

Complaint Against Oakland Unified for “System-wide Violations of Rights of Children with Disabilities”


By Post Staff

Disability Rights of California has filed a complaint against the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) on behalf of the district’s special education students, alleging that “OUSD’s policies and practices result in system-wide violations of the rights of children with disabilities under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),” according to the nonprofit agency.

“We are moving forward. We asked the state for a mediation process to resolve the complaint, and the state has assigned a mediator,” said Maggie Roberts, associate managing attorney at the disability rights agency, which receives federal funding to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.8954362

The agency is representing 10 named students with disabilities and a class of all special education students in the district. The complaint was filed in March with the California Department of Education.

The complaint alleges systemic failures that include not providing qualified staff; not offering special education programs and services based on disability related needs; and not providing or even budgeting funds to provide individualized accommodation such as curriculum modifications and behavioral supports to students with disabilities in general education classrooms.

disabilityequalityIn addition, the district is not meeting the needs of Limited English families, lacking staff to provide interpretation and translation services to non-English language proficient parents, who receive documents and notices in English rather than their primary language;

Further, the district has failed to provide students with mental health or behavioral needs services in the required least restrictive setting and instead placing them in segregated environments, according to the complaint.

The complaint also says OUSD’s systemic noncompliance with IDEA has a disparate impact on students of color, especially Latino students whose families are not proficient in English.

Of 5,074 OUSD students in Special Education, 1,880 are Latino, and 2,072 are African American. Together, they make up they make up 78 percent in the district’s special education program.

According to the state, about 10 percent of California students receive special education services. Most common are specific learning disabilities, such as reading difficulties, which are connected to students falling severely behind in their classes. Second most common are speech and language impairments.

One of the named complainants, TA, is a nine-year old boy in the third grade with a developmental disability.  Because OUSD did not provide TA with any services for the first seven weeks of this school year, and did not implement his legally required Individualized Education Program (IEP) during the last school year, TA’s mother requested a hearing, the complaint said.

As a result, OUSD agreed to provide the needed services. Four months later, it still has not provided TA with agreed upon services, including behavior support services, individual speech therapy, or a one-to-one aide in his classroom.

Instead, OUSD wants to move TA from his school and place him in a segregated nonpublic school, which would be his eighth placement since preschool, the complaint said.TA’s mother is frustrated by the district’s failure to assist her son, the complaint continues, quoting the child’s mother.

“My son has fallen far behind in school, and his behavior problems have gotten worse. Four months ago, the OUSD finally agreed to provide TA with all of the services he needs. OUSD is still not providing my son with what was agreed to. I don’t know what else to do to get the school district to give my son what he needs.”

According to Roberts, attorney at the agency, Disability Rights California usually files complaints on behalf of individuals. However, in this case, OUSD has long-term violations that are systemic, and district fails to implement changes even after hearings where they promised to institute remedies.

“This is unprecedented,” said Roberts in an interview with the Post, explaining that the agency has asked the state to become involved.

“The state (Department of Education) is ultimately responsible for implementing federal and state laws, and we wanted to make sure the state is aware, that even when cases went to complaint, OUSD didn’t implement settlement agreements.”

Roberts continued, “This is a problem that has been around for a long time. They have found ways to limit the programs. They do not offer services or have plans in place to deliver services.”

As a result of failure to offer adequate services, many of Oakland’s special education students drop out of school or barely graduate. “Many don’t go on to college or community college because they’re not equipped for that,” she said.

There are special education programs that exist, which OUSD could offer, that provide the latest computer technology and teachers equipped with up-to-date teaching methods.

In these programs, children of parents – particularly more affluent parents – do better in school and often go on to college.

“If the state does not do something to do to fix (these issues), and the district doesn’t do anything, then we will we will consider litigation,” said Roberts.

OUSD is well aware of these issues, she said. A 2013 report commissioned by OUSD found widespread deficiencies in its special education program, and is available at

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 23, 2015 (

Mothers Alleges Her Son Was Beaten by Five Officers in Santa Rita

By Post staff

In an interview with the Post, Mary Cook said her son was physically beaten while a prisoner at Santa Rita jail in San Ramon and wants to warn others about what is happening right here in Alameda

Nathan Cook

Nathan Cook


By press time, police and jail officials had no responded to calls for comment.

Nathan Cook, 32, who has had mental problems and was receiving medication for his condition while in jail awaiting trial, was convicted of attempted murder of a police officer, receiving two 25-year sentences.

He is currently housed at San Quentin Prison.

According to Mrs. Cook, she and several family friends saw her son following the beating they said occurred on Jan. 6, 2015 They said he was beaten unconscious, had a black eye and a number of bruises.

Nathan Cook when he was working on the new Bay Bridge.

Nathan Cook when he was working on the new Bay Bridge.

Mrs. Cook, a minister, says she doesn’t want to see anyone else’s child suffer the same sort of treatment. She said she has contacted lawyer, but her case was rejected.

She said has repeatedly tried to get answers, to no avail. The few people who she talked to her refused to comment on the incident.

“I guess this is common place,” Ms. Cook said. “But that doesn’t make it right.”

Nathan Cook was arrested on Jan. 25, 2013 in Oakland after being

Mary Cook

Mary Cook

chased on foot by police. Police reports say Cook shot and wounded a police officer while the officer and his partner were attempting to arrest him.

The officer’s injury was not life threatening, and he was treated and released from the hospital within several hours of the shooting.

Ms. Cook said her son accidentally shot the officer in the leg. He was on drugs at the time and extremely paranoid. He was trying to get to the Fruitvale BART station and had a paranoid episode, stole a bicycle, and when a police officer, who he said didn’t identify himself, chased him, he ran and hid behind a car.

When he shot the gun into a vacant car he hid behind, the bullet ricocheted and hit the officer, according to Mrs. Cook, who also said that her son was not injured in the incident.

Cook was housed at Santa Rita Jail for several years and went to trial in January 2015. Ms. Cook said he went to court on Jan. 6 and when he was returned to a holding area.

She said he fell asleep in the area and was awakened by five police officers who beat him unconscious. She said didn’t take him to infirmary though he was in excruciating pain.

“They had him sign a form that he didn’t need attention,” she said.

Ms. Cook said her son told her that after the incident he couldn’t walk, his jaw wasn’t broken but was severely bruised, and he couldn’t lie on his back for two weeks.

“It was heartbreaking to read the report,” she said. “When the trial started he still had a black eye. We could all see that he had been beaten up.”

Several of Ms. Cook’s friends tried to get answers and to call the jail and police, but said they got no answers about the situation.

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, May 17, 2015 (

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 (

Parents Fight to Keep Bilingual Class for Spanish-speaking Kindergartners

Garfield Elementary School parent leaders (L to R): Nancy Sanchez, gloria Chavez and Pedro Topete. Photo by Ken Epstein

Garfield Elementary School parent leaders (L to R): Nancy Sanchez, gloria Chavez and Pedro Topete. Photo by Ken Epstein


By Ken Epstein

Latino parent leaders have been fighting the Oakland Unified School District for the past five months to preserve the only three classes that offer instruction and support for children in Spanish at Garfield Elementary School in the Fruitvale District that is largely Latino and serves a number of newly arrived Spanish-speaking immigrants.

According to current district data, 196 of Garfield Elementary’s 588 students are Spanish-language English Learners. The school is located at 1640 22nd Ave. near San Antonio Park.

Garfield Elementary School

Garfield Elementary School

Parent leaders began meeting with the school’s principal and started pushing for meetings with district administrators as soon as they learned in January that the district was planning to terminate the school’s only Kindergarten Spanish bilingual class next year as a step toward gradually phasing out the entire K through second-grade program.

At one of the first meetings, “ We asked why do you guys want to remove the program? Our kids need the program,” said parent leader Gloria Chavez.

“They listened to us, they paid attention to us. At the end of the meeting, nothing was resolved,” she said.

Allen Smith

Allen Smith

“We have met five times with different people in the district. We don’t see any support for what we are fighting for,” said Pedro Topete, another of the parent leaders

The parents, Topete, Chavez and Nancy Sanchez, are officers of the school’s English Learner Advisory Committee, which according to the district website, serves to ensure that the needs of English Learners are addressed and as a way for families for whom English is a second language to get in contact and stay involved with the school.

The parent leaders met repeatedly with Principal Nima Tahai; Tahai’s boss Network Supt. Sondra Aguilera; and Nicole Knight, executive director of the English Learner and Multilingual Achievement Office.

Also attending several of the meetings were Boardmembers Roseanne Torres and Aimee Eng.

The last meeting was on April 13 between 50 to 60 parents at the school and Allen Smith, Chief of Schools and part of Supt. Antwan Wilson’s inner circle.

In a letter dated two days after the meeting, April 15, Smith wrote:

“After reviewing all of the information and listening to families at our meeting on April 13, 2015, we have decided not to offer a Kindergarten Spanish Bilingual class this upcoming school year, 2015-2016 at Garfield. We understand that this decision is hard for the families that have been involved in advocating for the program.”

“Although we believe in offering Spanish Bilingual programs in our district, we do not believe that offering a program at every single school is sustainable,” according to Smith.

The district’s rationale for terminating the program constantly changed during the months of meetings with different officials. The parents said that though the argument may have changed, the goal of shutting down their classes has remained constant, making them believe the district is not telling them the truth and is betraying their trust.

At the first meetings, the parents said they were told that the classes were under-enrolled, and they were accused of selfishly wanting something for their children that resulted in larger classes for other students and teachers.

But, under-enrollment turned out not to be the issue. The parents soon learned that staff in the school’s office had been instructed to tell parents who wanted to enroll their children in the classes that they were already full.

Topete contacted 24 parents who wanted to enroll in the program and submitted the list to the district. In response, district staff contracted the people on the list to tell them they could go to another school if they wanted a class with a Spanish-speaking instructor.

These parents were offered the right to transfer to Manzanita Community School, International Community School or an East Oakland charter school.

A number of parents felt that they were being intimidated by the district with threats that they would have to move to another school if they want a teacher who can explain homework and assignments to children in Spanish.

They also said that many of the parents, perhaps most, do not have access to cars. They cannot arrange for their children to arrive on time at different schools.

They say they like Garfield. They are part of a family there, and they contribute to the school. For some parents, these are the only people they know in this country.

According to Smith’s letter, a bilingual K-2 program is not as academically effective as a K-5 program offered at other schools. “Principal Tahai will continue to work with individual families to make the best choice between staying at Garfield or transferring to a Spanish bilingual program,” he said.

Smith did not say which of Garfield’s English Learner students would be eligible to transfer to a bilingual Spanish program and which of those would achieve better academically if they had bilingual instructors – only the parent leaders at Garfield or all of the school’s 196 English Learner students.

Latino educators point out that the student population of OUSD is over 40 percent Latino and growing. The refusal to offer these students appropriate instruction at their neighborhood school, they say, seems to what happens to poor children and immigrant students in the flatlands.

The needs and wishes of affluent parents and their children at hill schools are not dismissed in the same way, according to these longtime educators in Oakland.

The Garfield parent leaders sent a request two weeks ago to meet with Supt. Wilson but have not heard from him.

“There’s a growing feeling of intimidation from the principal and the district,” said parent leader Sanchez. “Parents feel (officials) are retaliating against those who are asking for their rights. So many parents are already holding back from making comments because they are afraid something will happen to their kids.”

Refusing to be intimidated, the parent leaders say they have already filed a discrimination complaint with the district and are making a complaint to the state.

“We are hoping to hear from other parents who are going through similar experiences,” said Sanchez. “We are willing to get together with them and give them support.”

The Garfield parents can be reached by email at

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 16, 2015 (

Protesters Shut Down Council Meeting , Demand Affordable Housing Not Luxury Apartments

Jos Healey was one of the spekers on the bullhorn when protesters  shut down the City Council meeting Tuesday. Photo by Ken Epstein

Jos Healey was one of the speakers on a bullhorn Tuesday when protesters shut down the City Council meeting. Photo by Ken Epstein

 By Ken Epstein

Oakland City Council chambers became ground zero for protests against gentrification and displacement this week as young activists chained themselves together to keep the City Council meeting from taking place, instead holding a rally for several hours in the chambers to voice their anger and frustration with the city’s leadership.

At the close of a public hearing on the proposed city budget for next year, but before the city council meeting could get underway, activists entered the well area behind the low barrier between the council dais and the public.

Some chained themselves together, standing in a line below the shocked council members. Others produced a bullhorn and began speaking about their issues and invited others to speak.

Many members of the audience stood, chanted and shouted in solidarity with the protesters. Police made no moves to intervene, but police and security attempted to keep more people from entering the chambers.

While people spoke, a projector flashed the group’s issues on an overhead screen:

“You can fight city hall,” “Development without displacement;” “A people’s budget, not a policing budget;” and “Public service, not lip service,” the projected signs said.

The focus of the protest was the seeming willingness of most council members to vote Tuesday night to approve the sale of a one-acre, city-owned parcel on East 12th Street across from Lake Merritt to build a 24-story luxury apartment building.

The proposed building includes no affordable housing and will have a median rent of $3,150 for a one-bedroom apartment, making the units affordable only to households that make $120,000 or more a year, according to activists who say the median household income in Eastlake around the proposed building is $38,363.

The coalition against the high rise is led by a neighborhood group, Eastlake United for Justice and includes Causa Justa/Just Cause, East Bay Housing Organizations, Black Seed, SEIU 1021, Oakland Rising, and the Oakland Tenants Union.

Calling for public land to be used only for affordable housing and other public needs, the groups are concerned that the development will lead to displacement of working class residents on the east side of Lake Merritt, as well as the development’s inadequate community engagement process.

At a rally in front of City Hall before the council meeting, members of Eastlake United for Justice and others spoke about their concerns.

Huan Bao Yu spoke at a rally in front of Oakland City Hall Tuesday opposing the E. 12th Street highrise. Mari Rose Taruc held the bulllhorn. Photo by Ken Ken

Huan Bao Yu speaks at a rally in front of Oakland City Hall Tuesday opposing the E. 12th Street highrise. Mari Rose Taruc held the bulllhorn. Photo by Ken Epstein.

“We are here because there are people in there (City Hall) who are trying to sell out our land,” said Josh Healey, also part of the Eastlake group.

“We’ve been here to talk to the mayor and city council, and they haven’t been hearing us,” he said.

Mari Rose Taruc, also of the Eastlake neighborhood group, said, “Oakland is 62 percent renters. We don’t want luxury condos at Eastlake. We want affordable housing.”

Asked Huan Bao Yu, a senior citizens speaking for Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), “Who is (this development) for? “Is it for us? No, it’s to kick us out.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 9, 2015 (


Commentary: Longshore Union Shut Down Port of Oakland to Protest Police Killings

Members of Longshore union ILWU Local 10 and community members march  on May Day, May 1,, from the Port of Oakland to  the Oscar Grant Plaza at Oakland City Hall to protest police murders of Black and Brown people across the country. Photo courtesy of Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography.

Longshore union ILWU Local 10 and community members march on May Day, May 1, from the Port of Oakland to Oscar Grant Plaza at Oakland City Hall to protest police murders of Black and Brown people across the country. Photo courtesy of Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography.


 By Stacey Rodgers

Stacey Rodgers

Stacey Rodgers

On Friday, May 1 – International Workers Day, about 2,000 people came together to march and protest the unjust murders of mainly Black and Brown people in the U.S. at the hands of police.

The event, “Labor Against Police Terror,” drew labor unions and community groups to the Port of Oakland.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 led the day of action marching from the Port of Oakland to Oscar Grant Plaza (at Oakland City Hall).

Thus us the first time in U.S history that a labor union had initiated a protest against the police.

ILWU has a long and proud history of participating in actions against social injustice, starting with its formation during the San Francisco strike of 1934 where two workers were killed by police.

Other actions have included anti-apartheid actions against South Africa, shutting down the Port of Oakland in 2010 in support of justice for Oscar Grant, and protest of Israeli Zim ships.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was made an honorary member of Local 10 just six months before his death.

The impetus behind the May Day 2015 action was the murder of Walter Scott in Charleston, South Carolina.

Scott was related to several Charleston longshoremen of the International Longshoreman Association (ILA) Local 1422.  ILA Local 1422 and ILWU Local 10 have a strong history of solidarity.

Both locals are predominantly Black and have supported each other in actions throughout the years.

In addition, Local 10 has suffered its share of police terror.  In 2012, Jerimiah Moore was killed by Vallejo police, and last year Pedie Perez was killed by Richmond police. Both are families of longshoremen.

During April’s Local 10 executive board meeting, a motion was made to support the Charleston longshoremen in whatever action they choose to seek justice for Walter Scott.

A amendment to the motion was made that ILWU Local 10 hold its monthly stop work meeting on May 1, effectively shutting down the Port of Oakland and march and protest the senseless murders of mainly Black and Brown people by police.

The motion passed at the general membership meeting two days later.

With two weeks to plan and implement the march, the call went out to other unions and community groups. The response was far better than expected.

Several unions joined in solidarity, as did various community groups in and around Oakland.

The rally started at Berth 62 at the port.

The march, led by the Local 10 drill team, began at 10 a.m. wound through the Acorn community of West Oakland and ended with a rally at Oscar Grant Plaza.

The goal of the protest was to call attention to the onslaught of police killings and demand that that killings must stop and those responsible be held accountable.

ILWU recognizes its role in the community and knows that when labor disrupts commerce, the 1% will listen and act when their bottom line is affected or threatened.

Workers, union and non-union alike, must come together to take the lead in these actions and exert their rank and file power and not rest upon elected officials.

For far too long the labor community has been silent on these issues and now is the time to renew our role in making things better.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

 Stacey Rodgers is a member of the ILWU Local 10 Executive Board.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 9, 2015 (


Latinos Underrepresented in Teaching and Other Jobs in OUSD

Supt. Antwan Wilson: “We have to embody the diversity of this community”

Members of the Latino Education Network (L to R): Victor Martinez, steering committee of LEN; Emma Roos, co-chair; Yolanda Schonbrun, co-chair; and Jorge Lerma, lifetime educator. Photo by Ken Epstein

Members of the Latino Education Network (L to R): Victor Martinez, steering committee of LEN; Emma Roos, co-chair; Yolanda Schonbrun, co-chair; and Jorge Lerma, lifetime educator. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

While Latino youth make up 41 percent and still growing numbers of students in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), they are a disproportionately small part of the OUSD workforce, significantly in the classroom, where only 13 percent of the district’s 2,120 teachers are Latino or Hispanic.

A number of Latino high school students and graduates report that they never had a Latino teacher during the years they attended school in the district.

Latino workers are significantly underrepresented in almost every major job classification. The numbers, which were released by the school district to the Latino Education Network (LEN) in September 2014, are stark.

Among 240 custodial services workers, 7.5 percent are Latino; 125 principals, assistant principals and child center administrators, 21.6 percent; 105 members of the staff of the OUSD police department, 10 percent; 130 food preparers and others in nutrition services, 9.4 percent; and 864 teachers, aides and other staff in special education, 10.3 percent.

Among the reasons that these statistics are important is that students need role models they recognize and the ability of teachers and other school staff to deeply understand the needs, family lives and culture of students directly impact the success of children in schools, according to many educators.

Another reason is that the OUSD is the second largest employer in Oakland with 7,664 employees, and its hiring and contracting policies are important to everyone who lives in the city. When the school district does not hire Latinos, it impacts workers and the educational futures of families of children who attend the schools.

According to Victor Martinez, LEN steering committee member, the district for years has claimed to be sympathetic about need to increase the numbers of Latino teachers and other employers, but nothing changes.

“Latino groups have been raising issues for 40 years, and it seems we’re still in the same place,” he said. “We’re not interested in appeasement or window dressing. We’re interested in systemic change, institutional change,” he said.

Says Emma Roos, also a LEN co-chair, “We continue to work with the district, through community advisory committees and finding areas where we can be of assistance.”

“We see small changes, new faces, but nothing dedicated to the urgent needs of Latino students,” she said.

Added LEN member and lifelong educator Jorge Lerma, “Though Latinos are large in number, things are done for us but without us. Latinos are not involved in designing and implementing and bringing their life issues into (educational programs).”

“The Latino community is significantly underrepresented in decision making, and that reflects in academics at the schools,” said Lerma.

Symptomatic and particularly upsetting, said Roos, is that the district has only 28 bilingual aides to help out in the classrooms, and only 14 are Spanish speaking. Roos is also concerned that number of high achieving students who were honored at the OUSD annual Latino Honor Roll dropped this year after going up for several years in a row.

“We’re calling our status a state of emergency,” said Lerma. “They’re calling it ‘unrecognized bias,’ but it’s recognized by us.”

OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson in a public statement pledged to work with Latinos to make changes. “To lift up and meet the needs of our growing Latino community, we have to embody the diversity of this community,” he said.

He said the district is working with the Unity Council´s Latino Men & Boys program “in eight of our schools serving over 200 young men and their families, providing academic support, male mentorship, and health and wellness programs, as well as career development and culturally-based activities.”

In an email to members of LEN, Brigitte Marshall, OUSD Chief Talent Officer, head of the human resources department, wrote about the efforts the district is taking to improve hiring of Latinos.

“Several months ago, I initiated a demographic comparative analysis of departmental staffing from which the demographic imbalance of various district departments could clearly be seen,” Marshall wrote.

“As a result of this, I have started the work of naming the issue with department leaders and working with them to develop strategies to improve their recruitment and hiring practices to ensure progress toward more representative staffing.

“We are challenged by the current limitations of our data tracking capabilities and recognize that the need to be able to demonstrate progress in hiring diversity rests in part in our ability to track the data correctly.”

Roos said she was glad the district was seeking to improve data collection, “But if legal, moral and educational issues are once again trumped by technical glitches, we are all lost.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 16, 2015 (


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 (