Archive for December, 2014

Police Chief Stands Up to Rank and File Officers’ Criticism

“I would do it again,” says chief who held “Black Lives Matter” sign

Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus stands with demonstrators on Macdonald Avenue during a demonstration in Richmond, Dec. 9.. Photo biy Kristopher Skinner, AP.

Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus stands with demonstrators on Macdonald Avenue during a demonstration in Richmond, Dec. 9. Photo biy Kristopher Skinner, AP.

 

Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus set off a storm of protests – including from some rank and file members of his wn department, when he held up a “#Black Lives Matter” sign at a local protest  last week.

He told the SF. Chronicle this week that he wouldn’t hesitate if placed in the same situation.

“Sure, I would do it again, but I would like to be a little better prepared for the fallout,” he said Monday.

The police chief said he and about a half dozen other members of his command staff were at a community center when the protest began Dec. 9, and that a woman he was chatting with “on issues of the day” asked if he would hold the sign.

“I looked at it for a minute and realized this is actually pretty innocuous,” Magnus said. “That ‘black lives matter’ is something that I would think that we should all be able to agree upon. All lives matter.”

Richmond Police Officers Association attorney Alison Berry Wilkinson told the Oakland Tribune Friday that by participating in the protest while in uniform, Magnus broke the law he is charged with upholding.

“The Richmond Police Officers’ Association does not tolerate or condone illegal actions by any member of the department, including the chief,” Wilkinson wrote in an email. “By violating the law and then claiming the ends justify the means, the chief dishonored the department.”

California government code 3206 reads, “No officer or employee of a local agency shall participate in political activities of any kind while in uniform.”

Union president Hector Esparza did not respond to calls and an email seeking comment. Three Richmond police officers, who declined to give their names for fear of retribution, said the rank and file is divided over the chief’s actions.

O the police department’s Facebook page, Magnus characterized his actions as an apolitical gesture to build better relations between his department and minority communities.

“This wasn’t intended to be a ‘political’ statement or a way of suggesting any other lives (regardless of a person’s race) are unimportant to us,” Magnus wrote. “It was an important commitment of goodwill to acknowledge that we understand many minority individuals don’t trust the police and that we want to change this.”

San Jose Cop on Leave After Posting Twitter Death Threats

Phillip White, a 20-year veteran police officer, is shown here in October teaching a class of fifth graders in San Jose. Photo Courtesy of the San Jose Mercury.

Phillip White, a 20-year veteran police officer, is shown here in October teaching a class of fifth graders in San Jose. Photo Courtesy of the San Jose Mercury.

San Jose police officer Phillip White was put on leave Monday after posting a series of death threats to Black Lives Matter protestors on his personal Twitter account.

An online petition at change.org that demanded his firing had received 5,000 signatures in less than a day. Menlo College, where the officer was an assistant basketball coach, cut ties with him.

The 20-year veteran officer’s most racist tweets read, “Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter” and “By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.”

Demonstrators marched on San Jose police headquarters Thursday to demand the city fire Officer Phillip White. Photo courtesy Jennifer Wadsworth, San Jose Inside.

Demonstrators marched on San Jose police headquarters Thursday to demand the city fire Officer Phillip White. Photo courtesy Jennifer Wadsworth, San Jose Inside.

The officer was rebuked by San Jose police Chief Larry Esquivel, who said in a statement that White’s posts do not reflect “the thoughts or feelings” of those on the force.

The police union spoke out against the posts but did not mention White by name.

“Offensive, disrespectful and inappropriate social media comments have no place in the public discourse surrounding the tragic loss of life from recent officer involved incidents,” according to a statement. “We condemn these comments.”

Mayor-elect Sam Liccardo said he would support firing White

“(He) undermines everything that our officers are working to accomplish in our police department to build relationships with trust in our community, and I’d support the chief taking any and all disciplinary actions, including termination, to ensure this kind of conduct does not continue,” he said.

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

black lives matter milwaukee protest

By Katie Valentine,ThinkProgress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oakland Protesters Blockade Police Department

Monday's protest was organized by black organizations including The Blackout Collective, #BlackBrunch and #BlackLivesMatter. Photo courtesy of the Blackout Collective.

Monday’s protest was organized by black organizations including The Blackout Collective, #BlackBrunch and #BlackLivesMatter. Photo courtesy of the Blackout Collective.

By Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams

Bearing a banner declaring “Black and Breathing,” protesters surrounded and temporarily blockaded the Oakland Police Department headquarters on Monday morning while shutting down a nearby freeway entrance to demand “an immediate end to the war on Black people.”

“We fight for justice for every single Black life that has passed at the hands of police, but we must also stand up and shut down for the Black and breathing who are at risk of the same fate,” said Deirdre Smith, one of the organizers of the action, which was led by the all-black organizations the BlackOut Collective, #BlackBrunch and #BlackLivesMatter.

Chaining themselves together, demonstrators blocked four sets of doors to the Oakland Police Department while approximately 30 black protesters held the space in front of the station. Meanwhile, others shut down a major intersection leading to a freeway close by, causing significant traffic disruption.

At one point, a demonstrator scaled a pole to replace an OPD flag with one memorializing Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Alex Nieto, Renisha McBride, and Michael Brown—all people of color, almost all of them black, killed by police or vigilante violence. A group of people locked together at the base of the pole to prevent the alternate flag from being taken dow

At the time of publication, organizers announced that they had reached their goal of maintaining the blockade for 4 hours and 28 minutes. “The 4 hours honor the memory of Michael Brown, whose body lay in the streets of Ferguson for more than 4 hours after he was killed by a police officer,” explains a joint statement.
“The 28 minutes highlight the startling fact that every 28 hours a Black person is killed by police, security or vigilantes in this country.”Protesters say that now is the moment to take a stand against this deadly status quo.”This action is part of a larger, sustained effort to disrupt business as usual in the tradition of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Woolworth counter sit-ins,” said Jeralynn Blueford, the mother of Alan Blueford who was killed by an Oakland police officer in 2012.”We didn’t get an equal seat on the bus or at the lunch counter because we said ‘please,'” Blueford continued. “We got our seats because of our highly organized and effectively sustained protests and boycotts, disrupting business as usual. We hold this space today as a demonstration of Black peoples’ right to exist and to thrive, just like anyone else.”

“We fight for justice for every single Black life that has passed at the hands of police, but we must also stand up and shut down for the Black and breathing who are at risk of the same fate,” said organizer Deirdre Smith. (Photo: BlackOut Collective)

Common Dreams spoke over the phone with Alex Tom, a protester with the Asian solidarity group #Asians4BlackLives, which, along with the white ally group Bay Area Solidarity Action Team, helped organize Monday’s action under the leadership of black organizations.

“This was a really important action because it was bringing all communities together to show that fighting for Black lives should not just be the job of Black people,” Tom declared. “It is important for us as Asians to put our bodies on the line and shut down institutions like the OPD that perpetrate the war on Black people.”

Felicia Gustin of the Bay Area Solidarity Action Team told Common Dreams, “We are part of a national movement to say B46TOhxCEAARYPPBlack lives matter. As white activists, we want to stress that white silence means violence. We as white people have to join with black communities to end violence against Black communities in this country, making sure to do that under their leadership with accountability to them.”

At least 27 people were arrested at the action, and participants are urging support for those detained.

Monday’s protest comes on the heels of massive demonstrations in New York City, Washington, D.C., and across the country over the weekend amid a groundswell of anger and mobilization in response to institutionalized racism in the U.S. and police killings of unarmed black people and other communities of color—including in Oakland.

According to data obtained by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, the Oakland Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and BART police have killed at least 78 people since 1970. Of those 74 percent were black and 99 percent were people of color.

The organizers of Monday’s action have been in close touch with protesters across the country, including in New York and Ferguson, and have explicitly endorsed a series of demands which emerged from the organization Ferguson Action, including: “an end to all forms of discrimination and the full recognition of our human rights” and “an immediate end to police brutality and the murder of black, brown and all oppressed people.”

“There is a war on Black people in America and police are the militarized force leading it,” said Wazi Maret David, an Oakland resident and violence prevention educator. “We are here today to bring our demands to OPD’s front door, to stake claim on their space, and to bring an end to state-sanctioned violence against all Black people.”

Courtesy of Common Dreams, December 15, 2014 (http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/12/15/demanding-end-war-black-people-oakland-protesters-blockade-police-department

Growth Is Exploding in Oakland, Say Developers

 Local business people packed into the grand ballroom in Oakland Marriott City Center last Friday to hear Mayor Jean Quan, Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf and a panel of five major Bay Area developers talk about the development free-for-all that is beginning to unfold in Oakland.

The event, called “Oakland Structures,” was sponsored by the San Francisco Business Times at a cost of $70 a head and was billed as offering insight on the big changes that are coming to the city.

“Investors are converging on Oakland in unprecedented numbers, and it’s a pivotal time for the city. Oakland can no longer be considered to be on the ‘verge,’” according to the announcement for the event.

Claremont Lanai Tower (rendering)

Claremont Lanai Tower (rendering)

Remarkably for Oakland, African Americans and Latinos were absent from the speakers’ platform and few in number in the ballroom.

Beside the present and future mayors, speakers included Michael Ghielmetti, president of Signature Development Group, which along with a major Beijing investor, is building 3,100 units of market-rate housing on the Embarcadero in Oakland; and Floyd Kephart, chairman of the Renaissance Companies, Inc., who hopes to build the massive Coliseum City project near the Oakland Airport.

Other Bay Area developers who shared their views on Oakland’s future and their projects were Michael Cohen, co-founder and principal of the Strada Investment Group; Phil Kerr, president of the Northern California City Ventures; and Scott Smithers, managing principal of Lane Partners LLC.

“We are hungry for development after winning the Nov. 4 election,” said Mayor-elect Schaaf, in an interview with the SF Business Times a few days after the election.

“However, we also have tremendous needs. We are an old city, and we have incredible deferred maintenance,” she said, emphasizing developers have to expect to pay city fees.

She told the developers at the Business Times event that her goal is to create “predictability and clarity” for development projects in the city, hire “kick-ass (staff) who get things done” and make the City of Oakland “the least irritating government possible.”

Uptown Station, formerly the Sears building (rendering).

Uptown Station, formerly the Sears building (rendering).

Floyd Kephart said that he represented a number of investors who want to build the Coliseum City project, which has been proposed but not yet approved by the city.

The project has already stirred concerns among city residents – some who want to assure that jobs and housing go to local people and others who say that the project as proposed would create a destructive, not constructive, presence in the city.

“I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know it’s coming,” said Kephart, who said that he and the financiers he represents would like to go ahead with the full project that has been proposed by city staff and consultants.

“We don’t know exactly what form it will take,” he said, but the city has created a great proposal. “We’re not trying to change that. We’re trying to implement that.”

As proposed, the huge complex would contain new stadiums for up to three teams, 1.9 million-square-feet of retail and office space, several hotels and restaurants and

Brooklyn Basin (rendering)

Brooklyn Basin (rendering)

entertainment.

“All of us (financiers) live on demographics” who base their decisions looking at the trends, Kephart said. “I represent 40 private equity hedge funds. Private capital goes where the opportunities are.”

“There is no doubt that capital is coming here,” he said. ”The question is whether it will build the future “ that Oaklanders want.

This development is going to take time, Kephart said. “It’s a process, and it never comes out the way” people expected it would be at the beginning of the process.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 15, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Housing Issues Will Be a Priority for New District 2 Councilmember Abel Guillen

By Ken Epstein

Abel Guillen, recently elected as the District 2 representative on of the Oakland City Council, has already begun reaching out to fellow councilmembers as he prepares to take office in January.

Abel Guillen

Abel Guillen

“During the campaign I met with Desley Brooks, Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo” sai Guillen in an interview with the Post . “My goal is to meet with all the council members. I’m meeting with Rebecca Kaplan this week.”

He plans to plunge from day one into the issues that affect his district and the community as a whole

“Housing is a big issue,” said Guillen.” I will champion efforts citywide to create more affordable housing options linked to public transit programs,” he wrote in his campaign literature.

Among the complex housing problems facing councilmembers and Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf are the need for homes for the thousands of new people moving into Oakland, raising rents and continuing foreclosures that are driving many people out of the city and the pressure to provide space for high-price condominium developments that most people in Oakland cannot afford.

The New Brooklyn Basin development is being built along the Embarcadero, bringing 3,100 market-rate units and many new voters to Guillen’s district.

District 2 incumbent councilmember Pat Kernighan did not run for reelection. The district includes Chinatown, Crocker Highlands, San Antonio, Grand Lake and East Lake neighborhoods.

Guillen said he will also focus on basic city services – public safety and repairing streets – potholes become a greater problem during winter months – and graffiti and blight removal.

Prior to his election, he served on the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees. He is a professional financial advisor, working with school districts and other public agencies to secure bond funding to build schools and other structures.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 12, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Schools’ Superintendent Calls on Educators to Understand the “Urgency of Now”

By Ken A. Epstein

Oakland Unified School District’s new superintendent Antwan Wilson has released a statement urging educators to look at how their work will be affected by the “Black Lives Matter” movement that is sweeping the country.

"The Urban Dreams curricular materials provide students an opportunity to read texts that provoke debate,” said Supt. Antwan Wilson.

“The Urban Dreams curricular materials provide students an opportunity to read texts that provoke debate,” said Supt. Antwan Wilson.

“Every so often in life, you encounter defining moments; events that contain echoes of your past, underscore the urgency of the present, and clarify the future,” he wrote.

“ Recent weeks have provided not just one, but a series of such moments,” which are a “testament to the disposable nature of Black life in this society,” he said.  He mentioned his own experiences with “the injustice of police harassment,” first as a teenager and then last year as an assistant superintendent for Denver Public Schools.

“My title did not protect me; the privilege of my position was insignificant next to the color of my skin,” said.

“Unlike Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Gardner, however, my brush with discrimination did not cost me my life. I survived. This is what passes for consolation.”

That unarmed men and children have been “ killed at the hands of those appointed to protect and serve is maddening. It’s a call to action for anyone who cares about equality or who believes that the ideals of this country must be demonstrated in actions as well as in words.”

“As educators, the challenge is to help our children direct this fear and anger in a way that helps them fight injustice—while remaining alive,” Wilson wrote. “We must give our students the knowledge, the support, and the tools to maximize their chance at that most basic of conditions, survival, so they can reform society to the point where these lessons are no longer necessary.”

He added that there was a time when he was “deeply distrustful of all law enforcement.” But over the years he has met and worked with “many excellent police officers.”

“These are impressive public servants, men and women performing an incredibly difficult job with little acclaim,” he wrote. “Police officers deserve our respect. Those who abuse the public trust deserve our condemnation and must be held accountable.”

He recalled the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

Antwan Wilson is Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District.

For the full text of Wilson’s letter, go the Op-Ed section at postnewsgorup.com.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 12, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

Black Students at Alameda’s Encinal High Hold Silent Protest

Members of the Black Student Union at Encinal High School in Alameda Held a silent vigil last week.

Members of the Black Student Union at Encinal High School in Alameda Held a silent vigil on Dec. 10.

Special to the Post

The Black Student Union (BSU) at Encinal High School in Alameda on Wednesday held a “Black Lives Matter” silent protest and lunchtime forum to stand in solidarity with the nationwide protests against grand jury decisions in the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and Eric Garner in New York City.

“We believe there is a national, systemic bias regarding who lethal force is used against and how police-involved shootings are prosecuted,” said a written statement released by the BSU.

“These verdicts do not have to polarize our nation nor our (Encinal) community into a White vs. Black standoff,” according to the statement. “The diverse groups of people protesting in Oakland, Ferguson, New York and elsewhere, prove that citizens of all races and walks of life have a stake in the conversation about the often toxic relationship between law enforcement and communities of color.”

The protesters wore black and stood in silence, symbolizing “the silenced voices of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Andy Lopez, Michael Bell, Oscar Grant and many others,” the statement said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 11, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Rashidah Grinage Passes the Torch at PUEBLO Celebration

John Yuasa Takes Over as Executive Director

Rashidah Grinage symbolically passes the torch to John Yuasa at PUEBLO's 25th anniversary celebration Saturday, Dec. 6 at La Furia Chalaca restaurant in Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein

Rashidah Grinage symbolically passes the torch to John Yuasa at PUEBLO’s 25th anniversary celebration Saturday, Dec. 6 at La Furia Chalaca restaurant in Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein

 

 By Ken Epstein

Rashidah Grinage is stepping down after seven years as executive director of People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO) in order to focus full time on PUEBLO’s campaign to “establish effective and independent oversight of police in Oakland.”

“We will have been working on this for 20 years already, and we will not relent, and we will not be deterred,” said Grinage, speaking at PUEBLO’s 25th anniversary celebration in Oakland last Saturday.

Isaac Taggart

Isaac Taggart

With a national spotlight on the lack of police accountability she said, now is a good time to redouble efforts to establish civilian oversight of police and “promote restorative justice alternatives to the criminal justice/law enforcement practices of arrest and incarceration – especially for juvenile offenders.”

Replacing Grinage as executive director is John Yuasa, a graduate of Hasting College of Law and former executive director of Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation.

City Councilmember Noel Gallo was honored at the Saturday night event for his community leadership. He was recognized for his years as a school board member who improved educational opportunities for children and his courageous support as chair of the city council’s Public Safety Committee for a community-based police reform initiative.

While PUEBLO is most known for its work on Oakland-related issues, the anniversary celebration recognized a number the group’s other programs.

Cocina de PUEBLO teaches young people how to plan and prepare delicious, health, culturally appropriate meals using fresh, affordable ingredients. The 16-week, hands-on program teaches safe food preparation, healthy menu planning, food sources, nutrition, and marketing and promotion.

The K-5 Garden Education project at Madison Park Academy takes all of the school’s 300 students on weekly visits to an outdoor garden classroom to study science and nutrition, maintaining a garden and managing food scrap composting.

The Balancing the Inner Outer Reentry, headed by Isaac Taggart, serves Black and Latino men who live in Oakland, ages 19 and older, who were formerly incarcerated at Santa Rita jail or San Quentin Prison.

“We recruit them while they are incarcerated, one to three months pre-release,” said Taggart. “They will get case management services and assistance in developing their transitional plan in preparation for being released.”

Post-release clients will participate in restorative justice healing circles and have a mentor, as well as help in implementing an employment and educational plan, he said.

Oakland Street Academy’s Students, Jesse Jackson Say, “Black Lives Matter”

 After dialoguing for nearly an hour about police violence against people of color and methods for change, students at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland and Rev. Jesse Jackson chanted together, 'I am somebody. Respect me. Red, yellow, brown, black and white; I am somebody. We're all precious in God's sight.' Photo by Ashley Chambers.


After dialoguing for nearly an hour about police violence against people of color and methods for change, students at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland and Rev. Jesse Jackson chanted together, ‘I am somebody. Respect me. Red, yellow, brown, black and white; I am somebody. We’re all precious in God’s sight.’ Photo by Ashley Chambers.

 

By Ashley Chambers and Ken Epstein

In an impromptu visit to Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland on Tuesday, Rev. Jesse Jackson sat down in a circle with students to discuss police violence against people of color and how today’s movement for racial justice can spark change.

Teacher Maya Semans and Principal Gina Hill were attending a fundraiser for their school at Pican restaurant in Oakland Monday night when they noticed Jesse Jackson having dinner elsewhere in the restaurant.

They invited him to come speak to students at the school, and he agreed to come the next day.

Student Lamar Miller speaks to media at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Photo by Ken Epstein. Student Lamar Miller speaks to media at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Student Lamar Miller speaks to media at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland with Rev. Jesse Jackson. Photo by Ken Epstein.

The students talked about their feelings about being harassed by police and police violence experienced by friends and family members.

Some spoke about the lasting pain and fear they feel about the killing of Oscar Grant, who was shot by a BART police officer at the Fruitvale BART station on New Year’s Day in 2009.

Weighing heavily on the discussion was the statistic that has gone viral since the Ferguson, MO protests began: Every 28 hours, police in the U.S kill an unarmed Black person.

“I don’t like to think about what’s happening in this city, even though it comes to my attention that its happening all across America, all across the world matter of fact,” said ninth-grader Lamar Miller, reflecting on the shooting of Oscar Grant. “Its not okay. I don’t like to think of the city that I grew up in as just violence and destruction.”

Rev. Jackson praised the students’ energy and insight, saying, “Life is connected – history is unbroken. This is not a new struggle. Each generation has had its own fight.”

Discussing the need to be willing to face society’s hostility, he pointed out that people began to love Martin Luther King Jr. only after his death, not when he was still alive and fighting for justice.

“People have a way of loving martyrs when they’re dead,” Rev. Jackson said. “But he died a very hated man.”

Young people are so strong and are coming together because they have been hurt so much, said a young man named Tyheir Bolden. “We won’t take no for an answer,” he said.

Rev. Jesse Jackson led students and teachers in a chant, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein. Rev. Jesse Jackson led students and teachers in a chant, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein

Rev. Jesse Jackson led students and teachers in a chant, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein.

“This is the 21st Century. Why are we still having racism?” Asked a young woman named Mika.

“We have a lot of anger in us. The older generation says we are crazy or stupid. But we have so much anger,” said Alysia Oliver.

“We’re really the voice that you guys need to hear,” said Oliver, a 10th grader, who feels the recent movement should be more inclusive of younger people.

Jackson said he was impressed with the teachers at Street Academy who regularly engage students in constructive dialogue around these issues.

“Don’t self degrade; don’t diminish yourself,” Jackson said to students.

“Where there is life, there is hope. Where there is life, there is responsibility. Where there is hope, there is nothing you cannot achieve,” he said.

The Emiliano Zapata Street Academy is an Oakland public school. It is located at 417 29th St. in Oakland and can be reached at (510) 874-3630.