Archive for July, 2015

Flag Raised at Cuban Embassy in Washington

A Cuban honor guard prepares the Cuban flag for Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, center right, before he raises the Cuban flag over their new embassy in Washington, Monday, July 20, 2015.  AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool.

A Cuban honor guard prepares the Cuban flag for Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, center right, before he raises the Cuban flag over their new embassy in Washington, Monday, July 20, 2015. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool.

By Tulio Ospina

Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US have been officially restored after 50 years. In a historic ceremony on Monday, the Cuban flag was raised to mark the opening of the Cuban embassy in Washington D.C.

The ceremony was attended by crowds of both supporters of restoring diplomacy and protestors citing alleged human rights violations in Cuba.

Bruno Rodríguez, Cuba’s foreign minister, visited the Capitol for the first time to attend the flag-raising event. At the ceremony, he stressed the necessity of the US to completely lift its trade embargo and return the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay to Cuba for full diplomacy to exist.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who has been working on US-Cuban policy since 1977, voiced similar concerns after the flag-raising ceremony, stating that while the historic embassy openings are a vital step forward, “much work remains.”

“Congress must act now to lift the travel ban and end the failed embargo. It’s past time for Congress to repeal these Cold War relics and chart a new path forward for our two nations,” said Lee.

Diplomatic ties were severed in 1959 after the Cuban Revolution when Fidel Castro’s government nationalized US property in Cuba. Fearing Communist insurgencies would spread throughout Latin America, the Eisenhower administration tightened its embargo of Cuba and froze all relations.

During the following decades, relations only worsened following the failed counterrevolutionary Bay of Pigs attack by the US and the tensions of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Last Monday, the US embassy in Havana also became functional but will not be officially designated as an embassy until Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Havana later this summer.

He will have been the first US secretary of state to visit Cuba in 70 years.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, July 25, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Hidden Geniuses Say, “Yes We Code”

Joe Brooks, of the Brotherhood of Elders Network, speaks during a town hall on technology and opportunity in Oakland, alongside Muhammad Abdulla and DeVon Franklin. Photo by Hasain Rasheed.

Joe Brooksof the Brotherhood of Elders Network speaks during a town hall meeting on technology and opportunity in Oakland, alongside Muhammad Abdulla and DeVon Franklin. Photo by Hasain Rasheed.

By Rasheed Shabazz

As a young child, Muhammad Abdulla worked as a farmer, planting seeds in Yemen. The work was difficult, but he knew it would define his future.

Upon returning to Oakland, where he was born a decade earlier, he believed the possibilities were endless.

“Anything is possible, if you put in work,” Abdulla said at the recent “Growing Hope in Oakland” town hall, organized by #YesWeCode on June 19 at the David Glover Education and Technology Center.

The 17-year-old coder is one of 20 youth participating in the coding pilot project by Oakland-based Hidden Genius Project.

#YesWeCode is bringing together various groups across the country with the goal of training 100,000 low-opportunity youth to become computer programmers.

The program began with an intergenerational dialogue focused on ways to make tech more diverse and inclusive. With Oakland being just miles away from Silicon Valley, it often seems like a world away.

Joe Brooks, a member of the Brotherhood of Elders Network, said new opportunities for financial independence and Black empowerment do exist in the tech field. While his generation focused on anti-poverty and other social services, the need now is for economic development, especially with people of color slated to be the national majority by 2040.

“We tried to get services, to service our way out of poverty,” Brooks said. He added that the changing technology means both a lot of uncertainty, yet opportunities still exist.

Oakland native, preacher and Hollywood producer DeVon Franklin emphasized the importance of networking and building relationships. As a teen, he quit playing basketball to take a job with OCCUR, the organization which runs the David Glover Education and Technology Center.

As a student at USC, Franklin connected with an old college roommate of David Glover, the late director of OCCUR, who was a screenwriter. This connection led to an internship and a decade-long relationship with actor Will Smith. Franklin started his own production company, Franklin Entertainment, in 2014.

Too often Black entrepreneurs lack funding and other resources, said Monique Woodard who started “Black Founders,” a start-up dedicated to helping Black entrepreneurs get funding. She added that Black culture is popular in tech, though the Black cultural architects are excluded.

“Tech loves Black culture, but there are few of us in tech,” Woodard said. When Black entrepreneurs can successfully create viable products, get clients or users, gain funding and grow, and sell their businesses, they could then reinvest in other entrepreneurs, she said.

The panel continued with a life broadcast of MSNBC’s show, “The Cycle,” hosted by Touré.

The town hall was a part of the partnership between #YesWeCode, Hidden Genius Project, the David Glover Education and Technology Center and the Brotherhood of Elders Network, an intergenerational network of Black men focused on helping Black boys and men thrive.

 Courtesy of Oakland Post, July 25, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Eastlake Community Group Says “Fight Continues” to Stop E. 12th Street Luxury Tower

A coalition of protesters opposing the E. 12th Street luxury tower shut down the Oakland City Council meeting on May 4. Photo courtesy of ABC7

A coalition of protesters opposing the E. 12th Street luxury tower shut down the Oakland City Council meeting on May 4. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

By Ken Epstein

A group of neighbors who are leading the fight against the luxury apartment tower by Lake Merritt – Eastlake United for Justice – is saying it is determined to keep public pressure on the City Council to ensure that “they are making a is a sincere effort to secure low-uncome affordable housing on E. 12th St.”

Members of the Eastlake group said they were heartened by the city’s decision to issue a “Notice of Intent and Offer to Convey Property,” dated July 14, which implies that the city “has decided to comply with the law and put the parcel back out to bid, as the community has demanded from the very beginning,” according to the East Lake group’s media release.

But at the same time, “the fight continues,” the news release said, because they find a number of reasons for concern that the city is not seriously seeking affordable housing proposals to develop the parcel.

Complicating the process, the new notice is not a formal “Request for Proposals,” the usual way the city seeks applicants to purchase or lease property.

In addition, the press release said, “The city’s notice to developers does not mention an affordable housing requirement or priority. It gives just 60 days for proposals to be developed and submitted. And the notice was quietly distributed to a very limited list of agencies including very few housing developers and a handful of agencies that do not develop housing

“This looks like an attempt to comply with the bare minimum of the law to avoid a lawsuit, then hand the parcel back to UrbanCore for a luxury tower,” the news release said.

Asked about the new offer and the still existing proposed agreement with UrbanCore, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney told the Post on Wednesday, “I have no comment on this project.

According to Councilmember Abel Guillon, who represents the district where the proposed project would be built, “The 60-day notice is not a cover for anything. It is merely an extra step of due diligence,”

He added: “I think the city’s practice is to consider all proposals, solicited and unsolicited.  The next step will depend on the nature of any responses the city receives to the notice.”

Guillen said the City Administrator and City Attorney will be reporting back to the council on the. parcel and its potential development.

Also questioned about the new project and why he city had not issued an RFPP was Patrick Lane, city Development/Redevelopment Program Manager of the Department of Economic and Workforce Development.

“It is what it is,” Lane told the Post. “It is letting people know there is an option for the site.”

He said the contract withi UrbanCore had not been passed by the City Council because the final vote had been postponed.

Lane said he had referred the Post’s questions to the City Attorney last week but had not received a reply.

The Post had asked: How will offers be prioritized? Will offers to build affordable housing be privileged? What is the city going to do with the agreement with UrbanCore , which was already approved by council at the first of two meetings?

Will UrbanCore have a priority for consideration under this notice?

The city had sent out its new offer to 18 agencies including the CA State Parks Department, AC Transit, P.G.& E., CALTRANS, the Oakland Unified School District , the East Bay Regional Parks District., Port of Oakland , BART and East Bay Municipal Utilities District.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 25, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

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.

Health Dangers of Coal Spark Local Debate

Operators at the Spring Creek Mine near Decker, Mont., apply a topper agent as rail cars are loaded with coal to reduce the amount of dust and coal lost during transportation.Photo courtesy of Jo Dee Black, Great Falls Mont.Tribune

Operators at the Spring Creek Mine near Decker, Mont., apply a topper agent as rail cars are loaded with coal to reduce the amount of dust and coal lost during transportation.Photo courtesy of Jo Dee Black, Great Falls Mont.Tribune.

By Tulio Ospina

As hundreds rallied at Oakland City Hall Tuesday protesting possible coal shipments through the developing Oakland Army Base, health concerns were one of the key issues that people raised.

In particular, the effects of exporting 5 million tons of coal per year on the respiratory health of West Oakland residents—who already suffer from some of the highest asthma rates in Alameda County—have been at the forefront of the debate.

According to experts, Alameda County has the third highest asthma-related hospitalization rates of all California counties and 24 percent of children in West Oakland suffer from asthma.

This health disparity has been mostly attributed to a combination of urban poverty, lack of routine healthcare and diesel pollution caused by constant cargo ship and truck traffic.

Dan Jaffe, professor of atmospheric and environmental chemistry at the University of Washington-Bothell, says that after years of studying the impacts of coal in the atmosphere, he believes there are environmental reasons to be concerned.

Regardless of whether coal dust is ever exposed to California air, the west coast of the U.S. would be contributing to its own air and sea pollution by shipping coal to Asia, where dust, ozone smog and mercury would be carried over on westerly winds.

“Pollutants can be transported in 7 to 10 days at high elevations and then touch down here in the US to contribute to the pollution that we breathe,” said Jaffe. “The amount of ozone coming from Asia can cause cities to go beyond their own ozone standards.”

Jaffe also claims that the majority of human-produced mercury found in seafood consumed by the United States comes from Asian coal burning.

The Sierra Club, a leader in the anti-coal fight, has taken a strong position on the carbon fuel’s health dangers.

“Transporting the coal via rail car to the port will increase train traffic and pollution in an area already overburdened by bad air,” according to a press release from the Sierra Club’s Bay Area chapter.

“Each open-top rail car of coal can lose up to one ton of dust between the mines and the port, resulting in the release of 60,000 pounds of toxic fine particulate matter in communities near the rails,” the press release said.

According to Brian Beveridge, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), coal dust contains carcinogen and is most likely the cause of black lung and can lead to respiratory ailments such as asthma and lung cancer.

However, supporters of a coal deal claim shipping coal out of Oakland will not harm residents or workers, citing proposals to transport the coal in sealed cars and load cargo ships in ways that limit coal particles being released into the air.

In a statement released Thursday, Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami emphasized that no commitment has been made yet to transport any particular commodity through the bulk export terminal.

Tagami said that with whatever commodity shipped through Oakland, all rail transport “will occur utilizing newly designed covered rail cars and other measures to minimize and potentially eliminate fugitive dust issues.”

Dr. Washington Burns, executive director of the Prescott-Joseph Center and founder of the mobile asthma clinic, called the Breathmobile, says he is neutral on passing coal through Oakland but supports the export if the promised physical protections are fully implemented.

(To read Phil Tagami’s July 23 statement, go to http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2015/07/23/op-ed-developer-phil-tagami-responds-debate-coal-transport-army-base/)

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

“No Coal, No Way,” Say Protesters

Protesters rally to stop the coal shipments from Utah to the Oakland Army Base, for export to Asia. Photo courtes of Oakland Elects.

Protesters rally to stop the coal shipments from Utah to the Oakland Army Base, for export to Asia. Photo courtes of Oakland Elects.

By Ashley Chambers

A coalition of environmental groups, concerned residents and local leaders held a rally on the steps of City Hall Tuesday demanding, “No coal in Oakland,” opposing a potential project to export the fossil fuel from the Oakland Army Base.

“When City Council Oakland made plans to boost our economy for the public benefit, then public health and safety must be a primary factor in these decisions,” said Margaret Gordon, co-founder of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), speaking at the protest.

“For all the citizens of Oakland, we hope that our public officials will stand by this policy and put an end to this dirty, backroom deal,” she said.

The plan to bring coal to Oakland has become public in the last few months, after Phil Tagami’s California Capital Investment Group (CCIG) became involved in a $53 million investment with four Utah counties with the potential of transporting coal by train and exporting up to 5 million tons of the commodity from a terminal at the Oakland Army Base.

Citing dire health and environmental risks to West Oakland and other parts of the city, local environmental groups including the Sierra Club, WOEIP, 350 Bay Area, and Communities for a Better Environment have called for keeping fossil fuels out of Oakland.

Youth added their voices to the protest, talking about the damaging impacts a coal terminal on already overburdened communities.

“Not all of us have the resources to live a healthy life, but exporting this coal in the city is allowing pollution to happen, making it difficult for a future,” said Allyson Dinh, 16, with the Summer Climate Justice Leadership Academy, speaking at Tuesday’s rally.

“The color of our skin, where we live or how much we make should not dictate if we get to live a long, healthy lifestyle,” she said. “I deserve to live better, we all do.”

Community members called on the City Council and the mayor to do everything in their power to stop the coal terminal.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 24, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Young McClymonds Warriors Tour South Africa

McClymonds High School's "Culture Keepers" left Monday on a flight to Johannesburg to tour South Africa. Photo by Jumoke Hinton.

McClymonds High School’s “Culture Keepers” left Monday on a flight to Johannesburg to tour South Africa. Photo by Jumoke Hinton.

By Post Staff

A group of young women from McClymonds, their mentors, and teachers – known as “Culture Keepers” – left Monday from the San Francisco International Airport for a tour of South Arica.

The travel program is designed to help students “collectively gain a better understanding of who African American women are culturally; expand our roles as global citizens, and to build an intergenerational, transnational understanding of what it means to be Black women and girls,” according to Kharyshi Wiginton, the primary organizer of the trip.

“We plan to use our knowledge and experiences to educate our families and communities. In short, the ultimate goal of this project is community transformation,” she said.

Many community supporters have stepped forward ensure the young women have the opportunity to travel abroad and experience South African culture.

“Exposure to foreign culture can help youth challenge their thoughts, beliefs, and personal comfort zones, which is a catalyst for growth,” said educator and organizer Carroll Fife.

Participants in the tour include: Kierra Bassette-Cotton, Jonae Scott, Dana Nicole Williams, Reginae Hightower, Axia Fuller, Leahnna Smith, Fanae Clark, Nakaya Laforte, Alexis Hill and Cierra Marzette.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 23, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

The San Francisco Foundation Donates $34 Million to Oakland Nonprofits

Huge grant will mean jobs, training and affordable housing

(L to R): Dominique Parker, Renelle Malone, Kiyle Adams, Regina Jackson, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Destin Colbert and Fred Blackwell at the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

(L to R): Dominique Parker, Renelle Malone, Kiyle Adams, Regina Jackson, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Destin Colbert and Fred Blackwell at the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina

The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) announced on Tuesday that it is donating $34 million dollars to a number of Oakland nonprofit community organizations, a gift of an anonymous donor.

TSFF, now headed by Fred Blackwell, former Oakland City administrator, is one of the largest community foundations in the country and gives out millions of dollars every year through grants and fellowship programs.

According to Jane Sullivan, the foundation’s vice president, this is the first time TSFF has made a donation of this scale.

“The foundation wanted to invest heavily in Oakland’s key organizations and infrastructure,” said Sullivan. “We know people in Oakland are being displaced and being withheld from tech opportunities. We are looking to help create the opportunities for those in Oakland that need it the most.”

The grants are estimated to result in 731 new affordable housing units being built, 2,502 new jobs created and ultimately 62,570 people served.

The foundation made the announcement of its awards at a well-attended press conference at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), which provides support under-served youth in poor neighborhoods and one of the recipients a large donation.

Having recently made renovations and additions to their facility—including a more expansive wellness center, a dance room, and martial arts dojo—EODYC will use its $1 million grant to pay off the debt it accrued with one-third of what it is receiving from TSFF, said Regina Jackson, president of the center.

“With the $ 2 million grant we acquired from the foundation, Asian Health Services is devoted to expanding access to health services for underserved communities, newly-arrived immigrants and sexually exploited minors,” said Sherry Hirota, CEO of Asian Health Services.

“This includes establishing school-based clinics that help address issues of trauma that so many of youth experience in Oakland.”

The Unity Council received $3 million in support of building the second phase of the Fruitvale Transit Village, which will develop 270 units of housing in Fruitvale, 80 of which will be affordable housing.

Other beneficiaries included:

The EastSide Arts Alliance, which received $1 million to secure its building;

Urban Strategies Council, which was awarded $1.2 million to pay for CEO transition and low-income housing development;

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which received $1 million to support its Restore Oakland/Restaurant Opportunity Center;

Destiny Arts Center, which was awarded $1.3 million to eliminate the organization’s debt service, expand its work with incarcerated youth at the Alameda Juvenile Justice Center and increase participation of LGBTQ youth in the organization’s “Moving the Movement” program; and

A $4 million grant, which will support seven Oakland based high-tech programs: Black Girls Code, David Glover Center, Hack the Hood, Hidden Genius Project, Qeyno Labs, #YesWeCode and Youth Impact Hub – designed to ensure that a diverse workforce is available for technology employers.

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

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)

Churches Fight Terror with “Week of Righteous Resistance”

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

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

By Tulio Ospina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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