Category: Against White Supremacy

‘BBQing While Black’ Leader Kenzie Smith to Become Park Commissioner

Kenzie Smith (left) and Onsayo Abram at last Sunday’s “BBQing While Black” event at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

By Post Staff

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan announced this week that she is recommending Kenzie Smith, one the two men who was racially targeted for “BBQing while Black” at Lake Merritt, for a seat on Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission.

“He has a deep commitment to the Oakland community and a track record of public service and philanthropy,” she wrote in a statement that was released Tuesday.

Before the appointment is final, Kaplan’s recommendation must go to the mayor for approval.

Smith is a lifelong Oakland resident, community activist and founder of Dope Era Magazine. He wants to start a nonprofit to hire young people during the summer, including keeping the Lake Merritt park clean.

The Advisory Commission consists of 11 members appointed by the mayor and council. As a member of the commission, Smith would help make sure “regulations for use of our parks are clear and fair,” said Kaplan.

Smith is looking forward to an opportunity to make policy for the parks. He told the East Bay Express, “I’m not going to let someone else have a ‘BBQ Becky.’”

Published May 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Activist Cat Brooks Joins Race for Mayor of Oakland

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project and now former host of “Upfront” on KPFA, speaks at the ILWU Local 10 May Day rally on May 1, 2018. Earlier that day, Brooks announced live on KPFA that she is now a candidate in the race to become Oakland’s next mayor, challenging the re-election of current Mayor Libby Schaaf. Photo by Sarah Carpenter.

 

By Sarah Carpenter

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, is running for mayor of Oakland.

Brooks was a host of KPFA’s “Upfront,” until the final 10 minutes of Tuesday morning’s show, when she had to take a leave due to her status as a political candidate.
Brian Edwards-Tiekert interviewed Brooks as a guest following the live on-air announcement of her candidacy.

She said she has been asked by many grassroots organizations to run for the office of mayor, and until now she has always said no. “And then I said yes,” she told Tiekert.

“Because my life’s work is centered on the needs of the people,” Brooks said in her prepared remarks on May 1, “I am here to announce—today—on International Workers Day that I am throwing my hat in the ring to challenge neoliberal Libby Schaaf for mayor.”

Brooks described her campaign as one that would minimize police spending (currently almost 50 percent of the city’s general fund) to pay for community programs, specifically related to the housing crisis. She said her campaign would treat homelessness as “the epidemic that it is.”

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, who has been an active in searching for solutions to the city’s housing crisis, responded to the news that Brooks will be in the race for mayor this November,
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said.

Brooks’  May Day announcement coincided with the springtime festival that has since the late 1800s become known as a worldwide celebration of workers’ solidarity,  International Workers Day.

Brooks spoke at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) May Day rally in DeFremery Park, where  renowned actor, director and activist Danny Glover delivered an impromptu speech in support of the longshoreman and their continued social activism.

The ILWU Local 10 shut down all Bay Area ports in 2010 in protest of the killing of Oscar Grant  by an Oakland BART police officer. This year, family members of Sahleem Tindle and Stephon Clark, two unarmed young men who were killed by police,  attended the ILWU May Day march and rally.

Brooks marched alongside the Tindle family down Adeline St. from the docks to DeFremery Park. She, along with the APTP, has been a leader in organizing to bring about the arrest of BART officer Joseph Mateu, who shot and killed Tindle outside West Oakland BART station in January.

Published May 4, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Public Library Discards African American History Books

Oakland Public Library Main

 

By Post Staff

Community activist Assata Olugbala shocked members of the community and council members when she spoke at this week’s City Council meeting, revealing that the Oakland Public Library is discarding Black history books, which could instead be utilized by community organizations and schools in the city.

Discarded library books.

Olugbala held up some of the books that she recovered: Fannie Lou Hamer, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Madam C.J. Walker, Sweet Daddy Grace, Paul Robeson Charles Drew.

Discarded library books. Photo courtesy of John Jones III’s Facebook page.

“This is all I could carry today,” she said. “I have a room full of books from the Oakland Public Library concerning African Americans that have been discarded. You should see the African American children’s books I have in my closet.”

The Oakland Post has contacted Mayor Libby Schaaf, asking if she is going to intervene to save African American Books. She replied, saying she ‘is looking into it.”

Councilmember Desley Book sent an email to the City Administrator expressing the Councilmember’s concerns.

“I watched in horror and disbelief as Ms. Olugbala displayed African American library book after library book that had been discarded. Some of the books she displayed were collectors’ items,” Brooks wrote.

“What we saw was tantamount to a quiet book burning and an erasure of a people’s history from a community.  This is a troubling visual for a city that wants people to support another library tax,” she wrote.

Published May 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

 

 

Opinion: Re-elect Desley Brooks to City Council

Desley Brooks

 By Dan Siegel, Oakland Justice Coalition

Dan Siegel

Desley Brooks deserves another term on the Oakland City Council because she has been a strong, creative advocate for the residents of District 6 and all the people of Oakland.

The only thing toxic about Desley Brooks is the campaign being waged against her by Mayor Schaaf and her allies determined to turn Oakland into Walnut Creek West.

At a time when the City Council majority is afraid to have lunch without the Mayor’s approval, Council Member Brooks has successfully fought for programs that benefit working people in Oakland and attract positive national attention.

In response to the rapid decline in the City’s African American population from almost half to barely a quarter of Oakland’s people, she worked to create the new Department of Race and Equity to ensure that people of color share in the City’s growing prosperity. She created the Cannabis Equity Program to create opportunities for Oakland residents to share in the profits from the exploding marijuana industry.

Desley worked to spur the revitalization of the Seminary Point business district and fought for $13.7 million to renovate the Rainbow Recreation Center.

She has worked hard to bring benefits and services to low income residents, including monthly food distributions and placing washers and dryers in area schools. She was the first to bring a farmers’ market to East Oakland.

Councilmember Brooks takes seriously the problems that are driving lower- and moderate-income people from Oakland.

She is leading efforts to increase affordable housing, including supporting the expansion of the Oakland Community Land Trust to create housing that will be permanently affordable.

She has been a leader in supporting the statewide effort to repeal the Costa-Hawkins law so that cities are free to establish their own rent control programs.

Desley was an early supporter of Oakland’s Living Wage Ordinance and is now focusing on creating good jobs for Oakland residents by increasing the availability of job training programs.  She supports efforts to create a People’s Budget for the City.

Mayor Schaaf has apparently decided that there is no room for disagreement among Oakland’s elected officials and that anyone who challenges her must be purged from City government.  She and other critics of Councilmember Brooks focus on her style and personality, but public service is not a popularity contest.

Voters who study her record and productivity will conclude that no-one on the City Council can match her record of advocacy and accomplishments for working Oaklanders, especially low- and moderate-income people.

Desley Brooks deserves another term on the City Council.

Dan Siegel is a civil rights attorney and co-chair of the Oakland Justice Coalition. He and his family have lived in District 6 since 1977.

Councilmembers Delay Vote on Proposal for Construction Job Opportunities for Oaklanders

Pre-apprenticeship building trades trainees from the Cypress Mandela Training Center, which was founded by the Oakland Private Industry Council, joined a rally recently in front of City Hall asking City Council members to fund programs like theirs and others that prepare people for well paying jobs in construction. Photo by Ken Epstein.

 

By Ken Epstein
Forty-six people signed up to speak at this week’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee meeting, almost all of them arguing in favor of Councilmember Desley Brooks’ proposal to utilize city funds to support pre-apprentice training programs for construction workers and career centers that provide opportunities for low-income residents of East and West Oakland.

Despite the passion and enthusiasm of the speakers – community leaders, young job trainees, program staff, labor representatives and the formerly incarcerated – they were disappointed to learn that council members were not going to vote on the proposal but were postponing it until the May 22 CED committee meeting.

According to council members, they could not vote on the matter Tuesday because staff reports analyzing the proposal had not yet been submitted by the City Attorney’s office and the city administration, even though the issue had been discussed during last year’s budget deliberations, and Brooks had submitted her proposal over five months ago.

The matter was also on the CED agenda two weeks ago but was not be discussed because it lacked a cover memo.

This, week, City Attorney Barbara Parker sent a “confidential” opinion to the council but has not issued a public opinion on the proposal, according to council members.

Councilmember Noel Gallo, who co-sponsored Brooks’ resolution, said Parker’s opinion contains “legal recommendations” but “doesn’t close the door on us.”

Speaking to members of the CED committee, Councilmember Brooks said, “There is a crisis in this city, a crisis in terms of putting people to work, and we’d rather play games and look smug than carry out the business of the people.”

Though criticisms have been raised about how the measure would be funded, Brooks said she had patterned her proposal after the Percent for the Arts ordinance, which has utilized bond money to generate millions of dollars for public arts programs.

“I don’t know why the City Attorney is having difficulty figuring out if it is legal since we have been using the Percent for the Arts ordinance since 1989,” she said.

She pointed to the page on the city’s website, which talks about “exciting Public Art projects funded through local bonds and state grants (that) are underway throughout Oakland.”

According the web page, the money for public arts comes from “Measure DD: Lake Merritt – Estuary Channel, Lake Merritt Garden Gates, Lakeside Green Streets, Estuary Park,” “Measure WW: DeFremery Park,” and “Measure KK: Coming soon.”

“What we’re asking for right now that is that you think that the Black and Brown people of this city are important, that you think that it is important that they see a 15 percent decline in unemployment, that you see that it is important that they be able to continue to live in this city, that you think it is important that they be able to support their families,” Brooks said.

Brooks says her ordinance has a clause that excludes any funding proposal that cannot be utilized legally, and she challenged councilmembers to come up with their own ideas for funding job training if they do not like the ones she proposed.

“We are playing around trying to find reasons why we can’t do something, and none of you have come up with a proposal to figure out what we can do. What have you come up with? What are you doing to rectify this issue that is moving our residents out of this city.”

Many of the community speakers underscored the importance of the proposal, which would provide city support for the Cypress Mandela Training Center, the Men of Valor Academy, East and West Oakland Career Centers and other programs.

Richard de Jauregui, director of Planning for the Oakland Private Industry Council (PIC), said the city has been relying on federal dollars to supports its workforce development programs for the past 18 years but now has to figure out how to fund these programs itself.
“Federal funds are dwindling. They are talking about cutting as much as 40 percent under the current administration,” he said.

Sylvester Hodges, director of training at Cypress Mandela Training Center, urged council members to be creative.

“If this isn’t the source of money that you want to give… (you can) come up with ways you can help the people in the community.”

Speaking to Councilmember Campbell Washington, who has announced she is not running for reelection, Hodges said, “You don’t have to quit because we disagree with you. Don’t do that. We just want you to think and work together and compromise.”

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan told council members, “I’d like to encourage us to imagine what would happen if we all decided to all be ‘all in’ on figuring out how to make sure the job training gets funded.”

“Understand why it matters,” she continued. “We have construction projects that can’t get built because they can’t get workers. We have a Black unemployment rate that is so much higher than the white unemployment rate that it would be considered a national crisis if white unemployment was at that level.”

Men of Valor Academy director Pastor Jerald K. Simpkins said, “This city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, and all we ask is for a seed to go into some of the communities that rarely receive those kinds of investments. Sow a seed, and you’ll reap a harvest.”

Gregory McConnell, who frequently represents developers, also supported the proposal. “I don’t know if there are technical difficulties … but (I know) these programs are transforming lives.”

The three speakers opposed the proposal because they were against spending infrastructure bond funds, Measure KK, for pre-apprenticeship training. But they did not say if they would support the resolution if funding came from other sources. One woman suggested trainees raise money for their programs with a GoFundMe campaign.

Campbell Washington, who chaired the CED meeting, said the resolution would come back to the committee May 22 “either with the City Attorney’s analysis that we received confidentially, or whatever that can be put out to the public, and a city staff analysis.”

Councilmember Gallo praised Councilmember Brooks for taking the initiative on job training.
“I really applaud you, and I value what you’re doing,” he said. “For me employment and training are extremely important.”

Gallo said that a proposal to fund the Cypress Mandela Training Center was discussed when the budget was adopted last year, but “it didn’t happen because we didn’t have the majority of the votes.”

“The opportunity is here,” Gallo continued. “We did receive a communication from the City Attorney with some changes they are recommending in terms of how we may be able to get to the funding level to support training programs that we have and future training programs.”

He suggested council members give the City Administrator a directive to come back to the council with proposals on how to fund job training in Oakland.

Published April 29, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Open Letter: Oakland Mayor Should Reject Job Policies That Increase Discrimination Against Black Workers

Black Americans have twice as much unemployment as white workers.

You can see one of the causes if you walk by any construction site and count up the number of Black workers you can find.

In Oakland, Black workers get only nine percent of the work on city-funded construction projects even though they are 25 percent of the population.

Nationally, 90 percent or more of electricians, painters, construction supervisors, tool and die makers, cement masons and others are white.

Yet Mayor Libby Schaaf is considering a policy that will increase that discrimination by giving all the work on city-funded projects to members of organizations that have few African-American members.

In order to inform herself about the consequences of the policy she is considering, the Mayor should:

  • Ask the Oakland construction unions to release statistics on their membership by trade and ethnicity, so that the public knows exactly what it would mean in terms of ethnic representation to award almost all the construction work in the city to members of their organizations;
  • Wait for completion of the disparity study, which is being paid for by the city should be completed, so that we can see the extent to which there is current discrimination against minority and women-owned businesses.
  • The Department of Race and Equity should do an assessment of the impact of Project Labor Agreements on various segments of the population.
  • There should be public discussion in neighborhoods on both jobs policy and public lands policy.

Otherwise, the displacement of African-Amerians and the gentrification of the city will be increased.

In Oakland we need to do what is fair and just.

Signed,

Kitty Kelly Epstein, PhD, Professor of Education and Urban Affairs; member of OaklandWORKS, author of “Organizing to Change a City” (2012);

Paul Cobb, Publisher, Post News Group;


Margaret Gordon, Co-Director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), former Port Commissioner

Brian Beveridge, co-director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), OaklandWORKS Alliance;


Robyn Hodges, OaklandWORKS Alliance;


Pastor Anthony L. Jenkins Sr., Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church;


Kimberly Mayfield Lynch, EdD, dean of the School of Education, Holy Names University, member of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA).

Published April 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: Full Funding For Apprentice Training and City Job Centers

By Desley Brooks, District 6 Councilwoman

Construction is booming in Oakland. From almost anywhere in the city you can see cranes, building materials stacked near the streets and people in hard hats working hard throughout the day.

Desley Brooks

As our city undergoes this much needed growth it’s imperative we make sure local residents benefit from the jobs as well as the buildings that are created. Too often that hasn’t been the case. That’s why I’ve proposed proactive legislation focusing on construction sector jobs that will help provide job security and training within these booming industries.

For 16 years I’ve worked to keep Oaklanders employed, with a holistic approach including worker protections, living wages and appropriate training. I’ve advocated for serious investment into places that prepare young adults for the working world because I know sustainable jobs require proper preparation and training.

These programs focus on providing real work experience, industry specific hands-on training and the life skills necessary for success to under resourced communities.

My efforts have been aimed at not only ensuring that profitable temporary jobs go to Oakland residents, but that residents also have a pathway to careers, business ownership and true economic security.

This is why I’ve introduced legislation that provides funding for Cypress Mandela, the Laborers Local 304 Training Foundation, Oakland Job Centers and other programs with successful records of developing, growing and sustaining workforces in Oakland.

Building a strong economy requires making sure that our communities have the resources required to produce a skilled workforce, with well trained workers equipped to handle modern industry jobs.

The institutions that once provided our communities with entryways to careers are waning while programs like those supported in the legislation

I’ve proposed pick up the slack. Too often these organizations are left without the support of local government to provide the services our communities so desperately need. We cannot expect these programs to function at their full potential while they lack the resources needed to operate.

The legislation I’ve presented ensures adequate funding for places like Cypress Mandela so they are better able to serve all Oakland residents.

Some may argue that the allocation of resources towards these organizations is unfair, that all communities deserve entryways to gainful employment.

I remind those people that these programs exist to focus on communities that are often left out of other efforts aimed at hiring, training and retaining local workers.These communities deserve real support too. Investing in these often overlooked communities is money wisely spent, providing benefits for community-at- large. For example just last year, Cypress

Mandela passed the first class of students to receive railroad specific training. This training provided them with the skill set necessary to maintain our BART system and keep over 50,000 daily riders safe.

That’s a return every BART rider in the Bay Area benefits from. Investing in programs like those supported by my legislation guarantees that every community has an opportunity to participate in our thriving economies and that no Oakland resident is left behind. Please join me and call your Council Member and ask them to support this legislation and provide the necessary funding to keep our community working.

The legislation is scheduled to be heard at the Community Economic Development Committee (CEDA) on April 10, 2018 at City Hall.

Please call and email your councilmembers and let them know you want Oaklanders to be a part of the economic boom taking place in our city. Come to the City Council committee meeting and show your support.

Published March 29, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Flatland Students Could Lose Access If AC Transit Cancels Bus Service to Hill Schools

“Resegregation of our schools is not an option,” says Rev. Hubert Ivery

Community members attended a meeting Monday organized by Genesis to save bus transportation to hill schools. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

Community members are keeping up pressure on the Oakland Unified School District and the AC Transit District to find $2.5 million to maintain dedicated bus lines for over 1,600 mostly flatlands students who depend on daily bus transportation to attend Montera Middle and Skyline High schools in affluent neighborhoods in the Oakland hills.

Board of Education President James Harris and Elsa Ortiz, president of the AC Transit Board of Directors, presented an update on efforts to save bus service to Montera Middle and Skyline High schools. Photo by Ken Epstein

A community meeting with representatives of AC Transit and the school district to report on the progress of locating funds to continue bus service next school year was held Monday night at Corpus Christi Catholic Church on Park Boulevard.

The meeting was organized by Genesis, a faith-based social justice organization, composed of member congregations and affiliated with the national Gamaliel Network, which hired and trained President Barack Obama in community organizing in the Southside of Chicago, Illinois.

“The snapback toward segregation is trending in many parts of this county,” said Rev. Dr. Hubert Ivery, president of Genesis.

Rev. Dr. Hubert Ivery

“This discontinuing of buses to the schools is not option. Resegregation of our schools is not an option. Denying access to students who want access to quality schools is not an option,” he said.

“We need to hold our ground, so we don’t go back!”

Speaking at the meeting, Elsa Ortiz, president of the AC Transit Board of Directors, said the bus agency and school district “are really working together to solve this situation.”

“The problem is that both agencies depend on federal and state funds” which is not enough, she said.

Bus transportation to the Oakland hill schools costs AC Transit $4.5 million a year, said Ortiz. In comparison, the cost of service to 35 other school districts in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties costs the agency $5 million.

Some members of the AC Transit board from other areas have no interest in using agency funds to support Oakland schools, Ortiz said.

In January, the school district informed the bus agency that it would no longer pay the $2.5 million for the bus routes. For the past 20 years, the state had given the district the money, which was earmarked to pay for bus service.

However, changes in state funding regulations have allowed the school district to begin to utilize the funds as it saw fit.

 The current temporary agreement, passed in May by the AC Transit Board, preserved bus lines, 56 buses, which last year served 1,615 student a day, according to Ortiz.

Board of Education President James Harris said that last year, when the bus service was threatened, the two public agencies were able to work out a temporary fix.

“We did save the day last year. We did it for this year. We don’t know for next year. We want to know by April,” he said, adding that the district is talking to the city and other agencies in the hope that they will contribute to saving the bus service.

Harris pointed out that the school district is facing desperate financial conditions and has little wiggle room.

“We are certainly looking at giving more money for the buses,” he said. “But every dollar we direct, that’s somebody’s job (that’s cut),” he said.

Montera Middle School Principal Darren Avent said two-thirds of Montera’s 778 students rely on AC Transit to attend school.

“We have at least one student from every elementary school in Oakland. AC Transit leads to the diversity we are proud of,” he said.

When the news came out last school year about the possible ending of bus transportation, “we lost several families,” Avent said.

According to state statistics, Montera’s student body last school year was 37.9 percent African American, 18.9 percent Latino and 21.9 percent white.

Skyline High School Principal Nancy Blooms said two-thirds of her students come to school by bus. “If that goes away, those kids go away. If it is reduced to a neighborhood school, that would completely segregate it. That’s not OK.”

Skyline last year had 1,843 students, 31.3 percent African American, 40.2 percent Latino and 6.1 percent white.

She continued. “We are under-enrolled by 56 kids (this year) because families could not count on bus service.”

As a result, the school lost 4.6 staff members, $156,000 from the site budget.

“We can’t wait until May to know what is happening,” she said. “Families are already making up their minds for next year. We can’t leave huge numbers of families in the dark.”

Open enrollment for next school year started this week and ends Jan. 26.

If the bus lines are eliminated, the schools could resegregate. In addition, the schools might have trouble surviving with so few students. And OUSD could take a huge financial hit if large numbers of affected families decide not to send their students to other district schools.

Published November 19, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland School District Honor Band Takes a Knee for Justice at A’s Game

The Oakland Unified District’s Honor Band took a knee when it came on the field to play the national anthem at the Oakland A’s game, Monday, Sept. 25. Photo courtesy of OUSD.

By Post Staff

Oakland Unified School District’s Honor Band took a stand for justice Monday evening, Sept. 25 when band members took a  knee while playing the national anthem at the  Oakland A’s game versus the Seattle Mariners.

The young people were joined by Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell.

This was the band’s second protest. On Sept. 20, 2016, just weeks after 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began his silent protest against racism and police brutality, the OUSD Honor Band played the national anthem before an A’s game, and at the end of the song, most musicians took a knee in solidarity.

According to the district, last year’s  protest was met by caused a firestorm of reaction across the country. Much of it was hateful rhetoric from outside the Bay Area aimed at the students and teachers involved.

“(Band members) reacted with grace and humility, taking the attacks in stride, knowing it was more important to stand (or kneel) for what they believe in than to listen to the critics,” according to a district press statement.

NFL protests began to draw national attention last year when former 49er Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the national anthem to protest racism in the U.S., in particular police brutality and killings of African Americans.

Throughout the year, some athletes have followed in his footsteps, but he has also drawn fierce criticism and has not been signed to any team this football season.

In the past week, Protests by NFL players and athletes in other professional sports have exploded after President Trump condemned the protests and said any NFL player who doesn’t stand during the anthem should be fired.

Other students across the country, from North Carolina to Colorado, have also taken a knee.

Published October 1, 2017, Courtesy of the Oakland Post

Over 1,000 Rally in Oakland to Defend DACA

Rally for DACA in Oakland Photo courtesy of Latin Bay Area.

By Post Staff

More than 1,000 people rallied in front of Oakland City Hall Frank last Saturday afternoon and marched through downtown to protest President Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals (DACA), a program that protected about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

DACA is five-year-old Obama-era policy that allows young people brought to the U.S. by their families to remain in the country and to work legally.

Last week, President Trump ordered the end of the program in six months if Congress does not pass a replacement.

“I will not apologize for coming here illegally,” said Marlene Gutierrez, a DACA recipient whose parents brought her from Mexico to America at two years old, speaking to the e crowd in English and Spanish.

“There may not be a piece of paper to say we are American, but it is written across our hearts and minds,” said Gutierrez, according to the Daily Californian.

Other Bay Area rallies were held last week in defense of DACA: Tuesday at the San Francisco Federal Building and the UC Berkeley campus, Thursday at Hayward City Hall Plaza and Sunday in downtown San Jose.