Category: History and remembering

City of Oakland Declares Humanist Hall a Neighborhood Nuisance

Gentrifying neighborhood threatens historic venue’s survival, according to staff.

Celebration at Humanist Hall. Photo courtesy of Humanist Hall.

By Tulio Ospina

Humanist Hall, a non-theistic church that has been a cultural resource for under-served communities in Oakland since 1941, has been designated a public nuisance by the City of Oakland, based on complaints of neighborhood residents.

According to the staff at the hall, located at 390 27th Street between Telegraph Avenue and Broadway, recent gentrification in the area around the venue has led to new residents repeatedly filing complaints against its hours of operation, noise levels, presence of children outdoors and patrons “loitering” outside the building.

Humanist Hall at 390 27th St. in Oakland has been in operation since 1941. Photo courtesy of the East Bay Express

Humanist Hall at 390 27th St. in Oakland has been in operation since 1941. Photo courtesy of the East Bay Express

After nuisances are reported, the city can impose penalties such as fines and evictions if the annoyances continue. Since June of this year, Humanist Hall has been fined $4,000 due to noise complaints—$1,000 per offense—a sum that could put the hall out of business.

“We host a lot of cultural events for people who otherwise couldn’t afford them,” said David Oertel, Humanist Hall president, pointing out that the church hosts community events, which include Mexican family occasions—such as quinceañeras and baptisms—transgender weddings, cultural dances, barbecues and political meetings.

Once a year, the Humanist Hall hosts a voodoo festival that brings international patrons to Oakland from as far away as Trinidad and Puerto Rico, said Oertel.

The Humanist church is not a profit-seeking entity but is dedicated to offering its space to support the political, spiritual, cultural and ethnic values of minority communities, he said.

Greg Minor, assistant to the city administrator, states the city has had issues with the venue for the past 10 years, mostly due to noise levels during the day and especially after curfew.

With regard to steps to mediate or encourage conflict resolution between the neighbors before resorting to punitive measures, Minor responded that mediation is a usual first step for the city in these situations.

Nonetheless, he was unsure what steps had been taken in this circumstance because he has only been working in his current position for a short time.

Minor said complaining residents have been unwilling to speak publically with the press for fear of retaliation.

Oertel said he has not been able to talk to those who have complaints, claiming they have been secretive and aloof and “not very interested in being in a community with the people who they are in the community with.”

Humanist Hall entered into a settlement agreement with the city last month and agreed to start complying with the city’s conditions in order to avoid paying the fines.

Oertel claims that obeying every regulation has been difficult for the church.

“One of the agreement’s conditions is that we have to report to the city the expected number of guests that will be attending each event,” said Oertel. “But a lot of these people come to family occasions and bring their extended families and we end up with a hundred people.”

Last week, the organization launched an online petition calling on Mayor Libby Schaaf to “encourage condo owners and renters to respect the social norms of the neighborhood – our neighborhood – that they have moved into.”

“Apparently, one homeowner complaining to the city is enough to shut down Humanist Hall, even though 20,000 people per year who use our hall would have to go without it,” says the petition.

Within a week, the online petition has garnered over 1,600 signers.

McClymonds High’s Original Warriors Celebrate 100th Anniversary

McClymonds graudates

McClymonds graudates

By Ken Epstein and Ashley Chambers

McClymonds High School, the school of champions and home of the original Warriors, is celebrating its 100th anniversary next week with a series of events that honors generations of graduates and recognizes the continuing importance of the school in the West Oakland community.

The celebration will feature Joe Ellis, who played in the NBA for the Warriors, who will be master of ceremonies; and keynote speaker Ben Tapscott, former McClymonds coach and teacher.

President Obama awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bill Russell

President Obama awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bill Russell

A special honoree will be Inez Gray-Harvey, 100 years old, who graduated from the school in 1933.

The Oakland Post will be honored at the celebration for its long-term commitment to the Oakland community.

A free meet and greet for members of the extended McClymonds family will be held Friday evening, July 24, at 6 p.m. at the E-One Entertainment Club at 200 Hegenberger Road in Oakland.

McClymonds band

McClymonds band

A free memory tour of McClymonds High School, including the gym, library and cafeteria, will be held Saturday morning, July 25, 10 a.m., at McClymonds High, 2607 Myrtle St.

The main event, which is already sold out, will feature dinner, live music and a program at the Sequoyah Country Club on Saturday, July 25. A souvenir book, “McClymonds High School’s First 50 Years,” will be distributed to guests.

The “School of Champions,” started in 1915 as a summer school, was named after former OUSD Superintendent J.W. McClymonds. In 1927, McClymonds transitioned into a standard school for both junior high and high school students.

McClymonds Warriors recognized in Sacramento

McClymonds Warriors recognized in Sacramento

It was first located at 14th and Myrtle, now the site of West Oakland Middle School. The school moved to its current building on 26th and Myrtle in 1957.

Initially, student enrollment at McClymonds was predominantly white, according to George Randolph, class of 1960, and Tina “Teague” Dright, class of 1961. Students of color began to attend the school in the 40s and 50s during the Great Migration of African Americans to the area after World War II.

img_19712“A lot of people that came through those doors have gone on and done great things in the world,” said alumnus George Randolph. “The spirit that came out of those people, we see it in what they’re doing now.”

McClymonds has a long list of notable graduates, including:

Lionel Wilson, a superior court judge and Oakland’s first African American mayor;

Ron Dellums, former U.S. Congressman and mayor of Oakland;

Nicholas Petris, State Senator;

School board members James Norwood, Sylvester Hodges, Lucella Harrison and David Anderson;

Mayor Lionel Wilson

Mayor Lionel Wilson

Many professional athletes, among whom are Bill Russell, NBA Hall of Fame; Frank Robinson, MLB player, Hall of Fame; Curt Flood, MLB player; Vada Pinson, MLB player; and Jim Hines, Olympic Gold medalist, 100-meter dash record holder.

In the field of music, graduates include jazz musician Pete Escovedo, MC Hammer, Grammy award-winning rapper, and musician Yancie Taylor.

“The events will be fast paced, but there will be plenty of time to talk and reconnect,” said Sylvester Hodges, class of 1960, who is part of the group that has been organizing the celebration for the past year.

Also at the Saturday night celebration, guests will be asked for a resolution calling on the Oakland Unified School District to promise to never change the name of McClymonds High School, no matter what reforms or redesigns the district adopts in the future, said Hodges.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 18, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Screening of Cuban Film on Assata Shakur

Gloria Rolando at work. Photo courtesy of Tarnel Abbott.

Filmmaker Gloria Rolando at work. Photo courtesy of Tarnel Abbott.

The Richmond, California, Regla Cuba Friendship Committee will present two feature films, including one on former Black Panther Assata Shakur, by prize-winning Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando, Saturday, June 13, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, 339 11th St. in, Richmond.

Walter Turner, KPFA host of Africa Today, will present a Cuba update.

Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur

Rolando’s film “Eyes of the Rainbow,” deals with the life of Assata Shakur, the Black Panther and Black Liberation Army leader who escaped from prison and was given political asylum in Cuba, where she has lived since 1984.

The documentary is in English.

The second feature, “Reembarque,” Reshipment, is Rolando’s latest film, portraying a forgotten chapter in Cuban history. The movie tells the story of the forced repatriation of Haitian immigrants in the early 20th century.

The film has received international praise for historical research and brilliant portrayal of Cuban/Creole culture. The film has English subtitles.

The suggested donations $15, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Priority Africa Network will co-sponsor the program.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, May 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

State of Black Oakland (SOBO) Holds “People’s Assembly”

State of Black Oakland, March 28. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

State of Black Oakland, March 28. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

By Rasheed Shabazz

Hundreds of Black activists, educators, entrepreneurs, healers and artists convened last weekend for “a People’s Assembly” to discuss and strategize solutions to improve life for Black Oakland.

The enthusiastic daylong “State of Black Oakland (SOBO) gathering was held Saturday, March 28 at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland.

The assembly was a “listening space” where a coalition of Black-led organizations called on attendees to discuss what needs to be done to improve the lives of f Black people in the city.

Over a quarter of Oakland’s Black population left the city since 2000. Organizers wanted to bring Black people together to build on Oakland’s unique contributions to the Black Power Movement.

“It’s really important to remember that Oakland was the epicenter of the Black Power Movement on the West Coast,” said Liz Derias, co-convener of SOBO and an organizer of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

One of the discussion circles at the State of Black Oakland, which was held at Geoffrey's Inner Circle on March 28. Ovr 500 peeople attended the day, according to event organizers, to discussion solutins to the challenges facing Black residents of Oakland. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

One of the discussion circles at the State of Black Oakland, which was held at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle on March 28. Over 500 peeople attended the day, according to event organizers, to discuss solutions to the challenges facing Black residents of Oakland. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

The legacy of the Black Panther Party and other Black “do-for-self” organizations was evoked throughout the day.

“We say Black Lives Matter, but we have to have some Black Power to enforce it,” said Community Ready Corps (CRC) Founder Tur-Ha Ak. The assembly focused on CRC’s Nine Areas of Self-Determination: economics, politics, education, health, family, media, art, traditions and ways, and self-defense.

The common thread between all of the areas was Black self-determination.

During three facilitated sessions, attendees joined smaller discussion-circles to talk about solutions in the nine areas. Within the circles, participants discussed their experience within that area and explained what “self-determination” looked like within that context, and shared potential solutions.

In the area of economics, attendees talked about past and possible solutions, such as a Black business listing, food and housing cooperatives, changes in Black consumer spending and workforce training for the tech economy.

The media session, facilitated by Cat Brooks, co-chair of the ONYX Organizing Committee, discussed the need to challenge negative images of Black people in media and the need for Black ownership of media outlets and cultural spaces.

The self-defense session focused on broadening the notion of what self-defense means. “Self-defense is not only individual or physical, but it is collective and connects to all the other areas”, Ak said.

Participants discussed the need for Black people to protect themselves from what CRC defines as “primary predators”  – white supremacy – and “secondary perpetrators” – so-called ‘Black-on-Black crime’.

Organizers noted that this first “State of Black Oakland” builds on a history of collective convening of Black people in the Bay Area to assess the status of Black folk.

During the 1970s, annual “State of the Race” conferences regularly convened in the Bay Area following the 1974 Pan-African Congress in Tanzania.

Reflecting on SOBO, Oba T’Shaka, professor emeritus of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University, said, “It’s very positive. It builds on the Black Lives Matters Movement and is pulling in people from different walks of life.” He added, “The democratic way has been consistent with our culture.”

Organizers see this assembly as part of a process to develop a Black “People’s Agenda.” Event organizers did street outreach in the weeks ahead of the event to get input from Oakland residents. The plan is to host two more assemblies this summer, in West Oakland and East Oakland, analyze the information within the nine areas, and develop an agenda.

SOBO was organized by a coalition of organizations, including Eastside Arts Alliance, Black Organizing Project, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, African American Studies at Merritt College, Onyx Organizing Committee, the Community Ready Corps, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and Race for the Times.

For more information about SOBO, visit Facebook.com/sobo2015 or email stateofblackoakland@yahoo.com.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 3, 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)