Category: LGBT

“Unite Against Hate,” Say East Bay Leaders

East Bay leaders speak at a press conference Tuesday, prolcaiming that local communities are united against against hatred and bigotry and committed to nonviolence. Left to Right: Supervisor Keith Carson, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond and Assemblyman Rob Bonta. Photo by Ken Epstein.

 

By Ken Epstein

Congresswoman Barbara and other East Bay political leaders held a press conference at Berkley City Hall Tuesday to condemn hatred, bigotry and violence as local communities prepare for white supremacists rallies planned for Saturday in San Francisco and Sunday in Berkeley.

“President Trump has emboldened white nationalists, but we must hold steadfast to our progressive values as a community, regardless of the challenges,” said Congresswoman Lee.

“We cannot allow anyone, certainly not the president, to roll back the clock on progress. We must stand united against hate,” she said.

Growing up in the South, she said, “I have seen the kind of world these demonstrators want to create.”

Joining Congresswoman Lee at the press conference were Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and District Attorney Nancy O´Malley.

Some protesters are planning to confront the white supremacists in downtown Berkeley. Others are calling for a rally, supported by labor, faith-based organizations and Democratic clubs, in another part of Berkeley to demonstrate the Bay Area’s commitment to oppose racist terrorism.

Berkeley Mayor Arreguín urged people not to to confront the white supremacists.

He underscored the city´s support for free speech for all points of view but drew a distinction between those who want to express themselves and those who come to town seek to terrorize the community.

“We are working to keep our public safe,” he said. “We are not going to allow bigotry and hate in our community.”

Organizers of the rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley claim they are not white supremacists, but according to Mayor Arreguín the discussion on social media about the events indicates otherwise.

Senator Skinner announced she is introducing a bill to strengthen California´s anti-hate crime laws calling on local, state and federal law enforcement to treat white supremacists as terrorists and direct law enforcement to use all available options to prosecute members of these groups.

“If their intention is to terrorize our communities, it makes sense to prosecute them as terrorists,” she said.

Local branches of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement distinguishing between free speech and marching with guns and other weapons with the intent to commitment violence.

“Thee ACLU of California fully supports the freedom of speech and expression, as well as the freedom to peacefully assemble,” the statement from directors ACLU’s Northern California, Southern California and San Diego chapters says.

“If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution. The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.”

A large coalition of groups and individuals is holding a “Bay Area Rally Against Hate,” which is not organized to physically confront the white supremacists.

According to the rally announcement, “fascists and white supremacists are meeting in Berkeley to try to intimidate us and incite violence. We’re meeting near UC Berkeley campus, blocks away and on the other side of the downtown, to speak to each other about the world we want. Join us, bring snacks, bring signs.”

The rally, hosted by Unite for Freedom Right Wing Violence in the Bay Area, will be held Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Crescent Lawn, Oxford and Addison streets at UC Berkeley.

Published August, 25, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

City of Oakland and Local Businesses Must Hire Oakland Now, Say Community Leaders

Speakers at the Post Salon on jobs for Oakland residents were ( L to R): Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Couuncil; Alicia Contreras, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Citizens' Foundation; Margaret Gordon, co-founder of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP); Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember: and Caroll Fife, OaklandWORKS. Photo by Ken Eptein

Speakers at the Post Salon on jobs for Oakland residents were ( L to R): Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Couuncil; Alicia Contreras, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation; Margaret Gordon, co-founder of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP); Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember: and Caroll Fife, OaklandWORKS. Photo by Ken Eptein

By Ken Epstein

A seemingly declining jobless rate masks the actual reality in Oakland where 19 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty, and many Oaklanders are being forced out of the city due to a lack of decent paying jobs, combined with out-of-control rent increases.

The issue of joblessness and what city government and local businesses can do right now to hire Oakland was the subject of a recent Oakland Post Salon, where a panel of community leaders discussed how residents can push for solutions to the continuing unemployment crisis.

“We need to call on every employer in the city to hire people from Oakland – an Oakland opportunity challenge so every business can be proud to say, ‘We hire Oakland,’” said Carroll Fife, a member of the OaklandWorks coalition and one of the speakers at the Sept. 27 Post salon.

The opportunity challenge, backed by a growing coalition of organizations, will encourage Oakland’s businesses and restaurants to hire Black and Latino residents and follow up with meetings with owners, as well as public protests, if necessary.

OaklandWorks also wants the city to enforce its local hiring policies on city-funded construction projects. Such a policy was passed during the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums but never implemented by city staff.

“We have a 50 percent local hire ordinance – We want contractors to recognize those priorities,” said Fife.

Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Council, moderated the panel and pointed out the realities of joblessness in Oakland.

“We’re talking about the lost, the last, the lonely and the left out – homeless people, the formerly incarcerated, displaced workers, younger and older workers who face age discrimination, those displaced by technology, those who face the barriers of physical limitations and immigrants,” said Cobb.

“All these groups represent the absolute urgency of what is happening and what is not happening,” she said.

Oakland’s official unemployment rate is 12.5 percent, higher than many other places, but the real unemployment rate is probably double that amount, because there are many people who stopped looking for work and are no longer counted, according to Cobb.

“Unemployment for African American youth and Latino youth is off the charts,” she said.

She said federal funding for job training and placement has been declining, but Oakland, unlike nearby cities, fails to invest any funds from its budget to support the programs that are carried out solely by nonprofit service providers.

Compounding the problem, Cobb said, the city spends one-third of its federal job funding for administrative overhead – to pay for city staff instead of putting the money onto the street to help the unemployed.

Another speaker, City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, said creating jobs for Oakland residents needs to be a city priority.

“Our job is to lift up those who are struggling,” she said.

Kaplan said she authored a resolution that requires a Disparity Study, which will show what companies are receiving City of Oakland contracts. Though the resolution was passed and funded a year ago, the study still has not been completed, she said.

“We still need the administration to actually complete the Disparity Study,” she said.

The last Disparity Study, completed over seven years ago, showed, “When (city) contracts go out, they overwhelmingly go out to a handful of white-owned, male businesses, (not) anyone outside the favored few,” said Kaplan.

Kaplan supports removing the oversight of federal job funds from the city, to hire an outside agency that will carry out the oversight more effectively and efficiently.

“Federal money for job training needs to be used for job training, not for administrative overhead,” she said.

Speaker Alicia Contreras, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation, emphasized the common fight of Blacks and Latinos, immigrants, people with disabilities and LGBT workers.

“We have to break barriers,” she said. “When we get all these minorities together, we are not a minority any more. We are a majority. We are all connected. That is the key for Oakland to move forward.”

Margaret Gordon, co-founder of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), said West Oakland residents had been promised jobs on the Oakland Army Base development, but they have not materialized.

“We still have to have a mechanism to connect the jobs to those who are most in need of those jobs,” said Gordon.

For more information, go to Oakland-WORKS on Facebook.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 10, 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)

Opinion: Oakland Needs Office of Race and Equity

“Allow ourselves to become comfortable with being uncomfortable”

 By Desley Brooks

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

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

Support Grows for City of Oakland Department to Address Racial Inequality

By Ashley Chambers

A number of community leaders are speaking out in support of a new city department designed to decrease inequities and racial barriers in city policies and operations, such as housing, development contracts, employment, and education.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

The proposal to create a Department of Race and Equity in the City of Oakland, developed and led by Councilwoman Desley Brooks and supported by several councilmembers, seeks t address some of the main issues are frequently being raised by Oakland residents: gentrification and the lack of affordable housing, jobs at city-funded projects and access to city contacts, environmental and air quality, as well as other health conditions in minority and disenfranchised communities.

“We think about gentrification and displacement, and we think about the role that the city plays in perpetuating the invasive class remake of our city,” said Robbie Clark, housing rights organizer with Causa Justa: Just Cause.

“We know that a department like this is at the core of the types of change that we need to see on a local level to stop that tide of displacement and to stop gentrification from continuing to happen,” Clark said.

The department would answer directly to the City Administrator and would be implemented as soon as December of this year – if approved by the City Council.

The department would provide education and technical support to city staff and elected officials to address systemic racism in city operations “with a focus on how the city does business, including human resources, contracting, access, funding and decision-making,” according to the proposal.

“The city spends enormous amounts of money on development in Oakland. Twenty-eight percent of the people who live in this city are African American, yet they get only five percent of the hours on those jobs,” said Kitty Kelly Epstein, an education professor and member of OaklandWorks.

“What happens when you don’t have anything specifically devoted to dealing with an issue as major and primary and hurtful as racism in this society is, people get afraid to bring it up,” Kelly Epstein said.

“If we do the work of actually allocating and designating a department to that work, then people won’t be shut down when they want to bring up the fact that there is great inequity,” she said.

There is the notion that there are two Oaklands, residents have said: one has access to minor investment from the city, declining jobs and parks and schools that are closing operating limited resources. The other Oakland has access to better schools, parks, greater investments that benefit the community and more responsive government.

Imagine East Oakland’s Havenscourt neighborhood compared to the Glenview. Some neighborhoods require a bus ride or long drive to complete such daily tasks as grocery shopping or going to the bank.

“There’s no way that a city should be able to develop, do any type of business and not represent the citizens that live right there,” said Esther with Communities for a Better Environment (CBE). “It’s time for all of us to step up, be responsible and understand that we need to start leading with our hearts before our pockets.”

“There is an urgency with respect to people of color being able to have equal participation in this city,” said Councilwoman Brooks.

In response to inquiries of how much it will cost to operate this new department, Brooks said, “Think of the costs that communities have suffered for far too long not being able to participate fully in the government that they pay into. When do they get that return in dividends?”

“We will have to look like we have looked for other things that have been unbudgeted and find a way to make this happen. I would hope that we don’t just look at the dollars and cents, but we will look at truly moving a full community forward,” said Brooks.

Some of the organizations supporting the Department of Race and Equity are Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), ONYX Organizing Committee, and People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO).

The proposal will go to the City Council on March 31.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Coliseum City: What Are the Benefits for East Oakland Residents?

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

By Ken Epstein

A number of community members spoke at a public hearing this week at the Planning Commission, raising concerns about how East Oakland neighborhoods and businesses will be impacted by a city proposal to clear the way for the massive development called Coliseum City.

This development seems like a “formularic corporate development…. this is like an alien space city,” dropped into East Oakland, said Nehanda Imara, a community organizer for Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) who lives about a mile from the proposed development.

“It’s a beautiful project, but it doesn’t seem like it includes the people who live on the outside,” she said. “We’d like some of the benefits surrounding the project,” including jobs, better air quality and affording housing.

Artist's drawing of Coliseum City

Artist’s drawing of Coliseum City

The development project has the potential to go in different directions, Imara said. “It could be connected to the community, or it could be disconnected from the community.”

The city’s proposal, contained in the Coliseum Area Specific Plan and several volumes of documents in an Environmental Impact Report, is designed to establish new land use and zoning regulations that will guide development in the area around the Oakland Coliseum and the Oakland International Airport for the next 25 years.

The draft plan was released on Aug. 28 and the final plan was released on Jan. 30. – developed by city staff and consulting firms for the past few years.

The timeline calls for the specific plan to be discussed at a couple more community meetings and then approved by the Planning Commission and forwarded to the City Council for approval in March or April.

The plan has been kept purposely “flexible” or indeterminate because the content of the project ultimately will depend to a large extent on who the developers will be and what they will want to build on the 800 plus acres that include the Coliseum and

Nehanda Imara

Nehanda Imara

its parking lots, the Oakland Airport Business Park across the freeway from the Coliseum and waterfront area along the Bay.

A number of community members complained that public input has been inadequate.

“I attended one of the library meeting to which this document refers. There was no planning done by the community. Staff simply made presentations and answered a few questions,” said Fred Ellis, who represented OaklandWorks Alliance.

“This is unlike the lengthy process which took place in West Oakland,” Ellis continued. “Few East Oakland residents are even aware of these zoning changes or their implications.”

Robert Schwartz, who owns a company at the business park, said he had submitted a letter with his objections to the proposal in October, but city staff never responded.

He said the proposed zoning changes that would allow residential development where the business park is located would cause the market values of the properties to skyrocket, effectively ending the business park.

Local industries and the jobs they produce can only can to stay in Oakland if the city is committed to protecting the industrial zoning designation of the area, Schwartz said.

“This is not a good idea. This is the only business park we have (in Oakland),” he said.

Schwartz asked why the city was in such a hurry to pass the plan and is seemingly reluctant to involve community and business people in the planning process. “You’re talking about a 25 year (development) plan, and all of a sudden it has to be passed in 25 days,” he said.

Senior citizen Carolyn Holloway said the people she knows are concerned they will be forced to move away.

“They feel they will be displaced. They feel they will have to move to Stockton or Sacramento,” she said.

“We don’t really see many benefits for residents,” she said. “What about sidewalks? Or trees?”

Theola Polk said that she and other senior citizens are feeling that Coliseum City offers nothing to people who live in East Oakland.

“We’d like to know if you’ve forgotten us, she said. “Have we been overlooked? When will our area get a facelift?”

Upcoming meetings on the Coliseum Area Specific Plan:

Wednesday, Feb.11, Community Workshop, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. ,81st Avenue Library meeting room , 1021 81st Ave. 

Tuesday, Feb. 17, Business and Property-owners Meeting,  9: a.m. – 11 a.m. OneToyota community meeting room , 8181 Oakport St. 

Wednesday, March 4, Oakland Planning Commission,  6 p.m., in City Council Chambers, Oakland City Hall, One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza).  The Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing to consider certifying the Coliseum Plan Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), and recommending to the City Council adoption of the Final Specific Plan and the proposed new Planning Code and General Plan amendments.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, February 7, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland City Leaders Pledge to Address Issues of Black Lives Matter Movement

By Ken Epstein

Many Oakland residents are saying that the City Council’s public hearing on critical issues that impact African Americans in Oakland is a good first step.

Photo courtesy of  Photo: Pen Harshaw.

Photo courtesy of Pen Harshaw.

Held last Saturday in City Hall chambers, the packed five-and-a-half hour meeting did not result directly in policy proposals. But it did lay out a call for collective action by councilmembers and city staff on key concerns that a number of them are already working individually to address.

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney convened the special hearing on Saturday, Jan. 24, along with Council President Pro Tem Larry Reid.

In an email to community leaders, McElhaney discussed the significance of the hearing.

“The City Council had never undertaken a comprehensive examination of the issues that impact Black lives as we did this past Saturday,” she said.

Lynette McElhaney

Lynette McElhaney

“I want to let you know that thus far, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback,” McElhaney continued. “Our primary audience – the council members and senior administration – felt that they received comprehensive information and a framework through which to direct their efforts.”

McElhaney said she considers this moment to be an unprecedented opportunity for Oakland to take the lead in dealing with these issues.

“To my knowledge, this was the first time that protesters for any cause were given a welcome mat to bring their grievances directly to the policymakers,” she said.” This is a considerable success for the activists who have sought redress for their grievances.”

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Speaking at the hearing, Congresswoman Barbara Lee talked about legislation that Congress can potentially pass, calling on people in Oakland to help create the “street heat” that can make Congressional action a possibility.

“We’ve got to stop this (police violence). It’s time for this to change,” said Lee, calling attention to a bill before Congress that would make it more difficult for district attorneys to use “secret grand jury hearings” to exonerate police accused of killing civilians; and another bill that would stop giving military arms to police departments, “to keep the weapons of war off our streets.”

In an interview with the Oakland Post after the hearing, Councilmember Dan Kalb said he will be working with Alameda County officials to assure that state funds for reentry programs reach the formerly incarcerated for whom they are intended.

Dan Kalb

Dan Kalb

He also said he would work with the citywide police accountability coalition to develop a measure to create a civilian police oversight commission in Oakland, somewhat like what already exists in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“I want to work on something (now) so that we will be ready to put a measure on the ballot (for the next election),” Kalb said. “I think other council members feel the same way.”

Councilmember-at-large Rebecca Kaplan said, “California continues to lead the world in prison spending and destroys lives, families and communities, without adequately funding real prevention and re-entry services.”

“(Therefore), we have work to do,” she said, calling for the city to adopt policies “to hire more Oakland residents and a more diverse group to our police force. We need to stop arresting and prosecuting people for minor nonsense and end the disparities in sentencing, and the costly war on drugs.”

Photo courtesy of Laura Ming Wong.

Photo courtesy of Laura Ming Wong.

In addition, she said, “We need to take seriously our job creation efforts and the non-profits who administer programs that create jobs, provide economic access and work force training. There’s been a long history in Oakland, and throughout the nation, of destroying black-owned business.”

Kaplan said the city should move ahead on conducting a “legally required disparity study, and take action to make sure local minority-owned businesses get a fair shot at contracts and jobs, and that we truly build a future that values Black lives.”

New Councilmember Abel Guillen said he will be looking at ways to address racial profiling in Oakland, “the

Abel Guillen

Abel Guillen

disproportionate numbers of African Americans and Latinos who are stopped by police.”

In addition he said that as the city hires more police, “We have to make sure that those people that we hire are reflective of the local community.”

The council’s discussion of the issues and proposals for council action will continue at the Feb. 3 City Council meeting.

Next Week, Part II, City Leaders Respond to Issues of  Black Lives Matter Movement

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 31, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Community, Black Friday 14 Tell City Council: “The People Have Had Enough”

Standing at the podium during the City Council's public hearing were (L to R): Karissa Lewis, Black Radical Farmer, Black Friday 14; Robbie Clark, Black Friday 14, Black Lives Matter; Mollie Costello, Black Friday 14, Alan Blueford Center for Justice; Nell Myhand, Black Friday 14; and Cat Brooks, ONYX, Black Power Network, Black Friday 14. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Standing at the podium as Cat Brooks spoke at the City Council’s public hearing were (L to R): Karissa Lewis, Black Radical Farmer, Black Friday 14; Robbie Clark, Black Friday 14, Black Lives Matter; Mollie Costello, Black Friday 14, Alan Blueford Center for Justice; Nell Myhand, Black Friday 14; and Cat Brooks, ONYX, Black Power Network, Black Friday 14. Photo by Ken Epstein.

 

By Ashley Chambers and Ken Epstein

Oakland has the chance to become a model for cities across the country on how city government can effectively respond to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to activists and City Councilmembers.

In a special City Council hearing on Saturday, Jan. 24, community members addressed elected officials demanding that they prioritize concerns of the community, including a stop to racial profiling and police violence, an end to marginalizing of communities of color in jobs and economic development and a halt to the gentrification that is

Regineé Hightower from the Black Organizing Project,

Regineé Hightower from the Black Organizing Project,

displacing so many low-income Oakland residents.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing and one of the Black Friday 14 activists facing charges for shutting down BART on the day after Thanksgiving, was the first speaker, standing at the podium flanked by a number of other members of the Black Friday 14.

“The people have had enough. There is a righteous anger that has swept the country,” said Brooks. “We don’t have to apologize for that anger or any of the responses to it.”

She reminded city officials: “This is a national movement, and it is not going (away). It is picking up steam, growing every day.

Speaking to the possibilities facing the movement in Oakland, she said, “We have an amazing opportunity before us to be a model for the rest of the country,” she said.

Oakland Chief of Police Sean Whent speaks at hearing“There must be a specific accepting and addressing of the crimes against the people. We are demanding accountability and community control of every step of this process,” she said.

Pastor Michael McBride, who has been on the frontlines of the Black Lives Matter movement and stood with activists in Ferguson, MO, spoke about the need for government action to “heal our communities” and “restore the public trust.”

“Our executive leadership in this city and county must remove the structuralized racism that pervades the City of Oakland, the police department, and the Oakland Unified School District,” said McBride. “Our clergy must face head-on the complicity and apathy that characterizes our congregations and religious institutions.”

Although the Oakland Police Department has gone for the last 20 months without an officer-involved shooting, McBride added, “We must admit that the history of unconstitutional policing is part of our social memory and identity as a city and still requires much healing and reform.”

Speaking on a panel, Oakland Police Department (OPD) Chief Sean Whent said, “We have made significant changes, (but) I don’t know if it were not for the lawsuit (that put OPD under federal court oversight), if it would have changed. We are absolutely committed to policing that is constitutional and progressive and seen as legitimate by the people who (the department) serves. “

Pastor Michael McBride

Pastor Michael McBride

“We can build a (better) relationship long term, and we can all live in a safer community,” Whent said.

Student Regineé Hightower, with the Black Organizing Project, talked about ending the “school to prison pipeline.”

“We don’t have enough teachers who reflect our community,” Hightower said. “There is too much investment of police in schools. We don’t want police in our schools at all.”

Karissa Lewis, one of the Black Friday 14, said, “I think that everybody on this panel (and city councilmembers) can be doing their part to look at how they are criminalizing young Black and Brown folks…We all have a part to play in shifting the way that police criminalize us.”

Referring to the people in the movement, Lewis said, “We are going to be in the streets until folks are ready to confront the issue around the war on Black folks.”

Robbie Clark, a member of the Black Friday 14, said: “We have to be clear about what it means when we’re talking about Black Lives Matter. We’re talking about all Black lives – Black women, queer lives and formerly incarcerated lives.”

“When we talk about state-sanctioned violence, it’s also about what (violence) looks like economically, state-sanctioned economic violence.”

She also said that racism included the way that rents are raised illegally and Oakland residents are pushed out of their homes through gentrification.

“The gang injunctions…and increased policing in an area are part of the displacing of Black people from Oakland,” Clark said. “(These issues) are all interrelated and connected.”

“We need to continue to make sure community residents are part of the dialogue and decisions, especially when we talk about economic development,” Clark said.

Rashidah Grinage of PUEBLO praised the activists in the streets. “Without your work, we wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

Grinage said that despite a succession of mayors, city administrators and police chiefs, OPD remained impervious to change for over a decade.

To guarantee that there is oversight, she said, the city needs an independent civilian police review commission with power to discipline officers and whose rulings are not reversible by arbitration.

In addition, the commission must be instituted by a charter amendment so that it cannot be undone “by future councils or future mayors,” she said.

The discussion of these issues will continue at the City Council meeting Feb. 3.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)