Category: Berkeley

Opinion: We Need to Stand for Leonard Powell

 Court Hearing Jan. 29 for Veteran Fighting to Keep City from Taking His Home

Leonard Powell stands on the front porch of his home.

By Gene Turitz

Mr. Leonard Powell is going to Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday, Jan. 29 to fight to  keep the home where he and his family have lived for over 40 years, which is being taken by the City of Berkeley.

The hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the superior court at 24405 Amador St. in Hayward.

The court has ordered the receiver, Gerard Keener, and the City of Berkeley to provide the documents to Mr. Powell that show how the cost for bringing his house up to code  increased from between $150,000 and $200,000 to over $700,000, which he is now being forced to pay.

We still do not know who in the City of Berkeley decided to go after Mr. Powell by “Red Tagging” his home.  Was it the Police who wanted to “punish” a member of Mr. Powell’s family?  Was it the inspection services, which were responding to concerns over Mr. Powell’s well-being?

While we have been asking these questions, the City of Berkeley, whose assistant City Attorney is appearing in court with the receiver, claims that the city is really not involved in this situation.

While the City of Berkeley and its City Council express concerns about its low and extremely low-income residents, the actions of the city administration speak differently.

Walking around South Berkeley we can see multi-unit buildings posted with signs saying that buildings are not earth-quake safe.  While a program has been in effect since about 2005 to have these “Soft-Story” buildings brought up to code, landlords are still collecting rents from the tenants living in unsafe conditions.

Have any of these properties been assigned “receivers”?  Have any of these property owners paid huge amounts to get their property back?  Who in the City of Berkeley makes the decisions to protect the owners of these properties rather than ensuring the safety of the residents?

Can the City Council explain how a home, lived in by a low-income resident in South Berkeley for over 40 years now, through actions carried out by the City, becomes a place where only a high-income person can live?

This must be the same City Council that approves the construction of buildings that will only house people from high-income backgrounds or who are earning high incomes.

Join us in asking the City Council these questions.  Write to your councilmember about Mr. Powell and what the City of Berkeley is doing to him.  Write to ask what affect the housing policies of the City will have on those of us whose lives and families are here?  Ask why the only people for whom they seem to have concerns are the profit-making developers of high cost, market rate units.

Get together with Friends of Adeline to talk about these questions and to stand with Mr. Powell and other families being forced out of our community.  Meet with us on Saturday, Jan. 26, 11 a.m.-1p.m., at Harriet Tubman Terrace Apartments, 2870 Adeline St., Berkeley (between Oregon and Russell streets) .

Attend the court hearing Tuesday, Jan. 29 in Hayward.

Contact the Friends of Adeline at (510) 338-7843 or friendsofadeline@gmail.com

Gene Turitz is a member of Friends of Adeline.

Published January 20, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: Black Veteran Wins Temporary Reprieve in Fight to Save His Home

Supporters attend superior court hearing Monday, Dec. 17 to back veteran Leonard Powell’s fight to stay in his home of 44 years.

By Gene Turitz

Backed by friends, neighbors and members of the Berkeley community, Leonard Powell – a 76-year-old African American veteran – won a temporary reprieve in Superior Court this week as he struggles to find a way to stay in the home that is fully paid for and where he has lived for 44 years.

Leonard Powell (right) with relative.

At the Monday morning hearing in Alameda County Superior in Hayward, the court was scheduled to hand the house over to a city- and court-appointed receiver who had run up nearly $700,000 in renovations after the city descended on the house with a building code inspection.

Mr. Powell, who lives at 911 Harmon St. in south Berkeley, and his neighbors were joined by Friends of Adeline, the Probate Court Reform Movement and Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett

The court decided that receiver Gerard Keena and Mr. Powell’s attorney should meet and come to an agreement about how much is owed.  Keena is saying that Mr. Powell owes $600,000 or $700,000.

Mr. Powell’s attorney argued that there has to be a justification for the inflated expenses, such as a $2,000 shower door, granite countertops in both kitchens, new hardwood floors throughout the house, and Italian tile in the two kitchens.

“Obviously, this wasn’t done for my benefit,” said Mr. Powell. “He wants me gone.”

He continued, “How can it cost $35,000 for lead and asbestos abatement?  How can it cost $6,000 to take out a fireplace?”

According to Mr. Powell, he felt the reason the judge asked Keena and Mr. Powell’s attorney to come to an agreement was because of the turnout organized by the Friends of Adeline.

The judge also ruled that Mr. Powell could not move back into his own home until this matter is cleared up, perhaps at the next hearing on Jan. 29.

Mr. Powell’s supporters showed up to let the court and the City of Berkeley know that the community cares about this Berkeley resident. They asked: If Mr. Powell has committed no crime, why is the City trying to force him out of his own home?

Keena originally was appointed as a receiver to oversee the correction of the Substandard Conditions on Mr. Powell’s property.  The Berkeley City Attorney, sitting with the receiver and his attorney in court, told the judge that the City “doesn’t have a dog in this fight.”

Although the judge did not respond directly to that statement, he did urge the city to do whatever it could to expedite the approval of a no interest $100,000 loan to Mr. Powell (routinely given to low-income seniors for home repairs), which would reduce Mr. Powell’s financial burden.

 Community members are raising questions they say need to be answered: Why did the cost go from an estimated $150,000 to $200,000, to correct substandard conditions, to a final cost of about $700,000?  Who gave the receiver the authority to completely renovate the house?

 Over the years, many rental properties in Berkeley were found to be not earth-quake safe, “Soft-story” buildings, but landlords often took years and years to carry out required repairs.

While leaving many tenants lived in unsafe conditions, the city did not try to take the property from any of these landlords. Receivers were not assigned, and no one lost their property.

Concerned Berkeley residents want the City of Berkeley to end these actions, committed by the city and greedy property owners, which result in removing more African-Americans from the city. They say there must be a right of return for those who have been driven out by gentrification and the unequal application of zoning codes.

Contacted by the Post for a response, Keena said, “My intention is to have Mr. Powell back in the house. It’s a challenging situation. I don’t usually comment on active cases.”

By Post deadline, the Berkeley City Attorney’s Office had not replied.

To contact the Friends of Adeline, contact  friendsofadeline@gmail.com or 510-338-7843.

To contract Probate Court Reform Movement (PCRM), call (510) 287-8200 or (831) 238-0096.  The PCRM meets every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at 360 14th St. in downtown Oakland.

Gene Turitz is a member of Friends of Adeline. Oakland Post staff contributed to this article.

 Published December 22, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: City Agency Set to Seize Black Veteran’s Home

Leonard Powell is facing “an unconscionable and unwarranted debt”

Leonard Powell (right) with relative.

By Steve Martinot

The City of Berkeley is campaigning right now to drive Leonard Powell, a 76-year-old Black veteran, and his family out of their home at 1911 Harmon St. in south Berkeley.

This family has lived there for 44 years and owned the house free and clear. By a legal process called receivership, the city has succeeded in placing Mr. Powell in a financial position beyond his means, in order for him to lose the house to foreclosure or sale.

Receivership means that the house, after it is found to be in violation of the city’s housing code, is placed under the control of a “receiver,” who then he takes over the job of repairing the house.

Where initial estimates of repair expenses were around $200,000, the receiver has racked up expenses of $700,000, a debt which ultimately falls on Mr. Powell’s shoulders.

Right now, the case is in Superior Court, and the judge has demanded that Mr. Powell come up with the full amount right away. Clearly, he is acting to protect the interest of the receiver, who is white.

This writer would ask that the legal system be as diligent in protecting the interests of the Black family, who are now faced with an unconscionable and unwarranted debt.

This kind of thing has happened to other families. It has also been accomplished through Probate Court, as well as through receivership. But Mr. Powell’s case is instructive.

It occurred through three stages. And it is important to note that at no time did Mr. Powell object to doing the repairs on his house. He simply asked the city for assistance and negotiation, which the city subtly declined.

First, there was a police raid on the house, ostensibly to arrest a person who didn’t live there. The entire raid was fake, reporting fabricated evidence, and no charges were ever filed. But it gave city officials a chance to inspect the house without prior notice.

The city knew Mr. Powell’s financial situation, and that he had family members in the house in ill health who depended on the house.

Second, though inspection found some 23 code violations, all were of housing maintenance. Mr. Powell was given deadlines, negotiation on those deadlines were refused, and missed deadlines allowed the city to label the house a public “nuisance.”

The label made the city’s desire for receivership much stronger (though without evidence of any specific danger to the neighborhood). Without material foundation, this essentially admitted that for the white power structure, black people are just a nuisance.

Third, there is the receivership process. Mr. Powell opposed the house being placed under receivership in court declarations, but his objections were ignored.

The city’s petition was granted, and a white man appointed as receiver to repair the violations. The receiver then violated his mandate by having his contractor reconstruct the house rather than simply repair the code violations.

This is what tripled his expenses, and tripled the debt placed on Mr. Powell. The receiver admitted, in a later report to the court, that in shifting the work on the house from repairs to reconstruction, he was following city directions in doing so.

The receiver must have sensed a vulnerability, because he has asked the judge to get full payment from Mr. Powell immediately, and the judge has done so.

 

Leonard Powell’s case is scheduled to be heard Monday, Dec. 17, 10:30 a.m., at Alameda County Superior Court, Second Floor, Room 511, 24405 Amador St., Hayward. For more information or to support Mr. Powell, contact Friends of Adeline at (510) 338-7843 or friendsofadeline@gmail.com

Published December 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

.

 

Stroller Brigade and Rally Held in Berkeley to Save Alta Bates Medical Center

Community protests closing of Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, Sunday, Nov. 4.

Community members, elected officials and registered nurses held a rally and march Sunday, Nov. 4,  led by a brigade of strollers, to protest Sutter Health’s proposed closure of Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley, the city’s only acute care medical facility and the birthplace of thousands of East Bay residents.

Scheduled speakers at the rally will Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín; Ethel Long-Scott, executive director of the Women’s Economic Agenda Project [WEAP]; Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, El Cerrito City councilmember; and RN, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Alta Bates, and retired RN Anjali Sundaram, who was delivered by Alta Miner Bates, the nurse who founded the hospital in 1905 to care for women and infants.

The march and rally was held to celebrate the “important role Alta Bates plays in in the East Bay, especially for mothers and newborns and to collectively speak up for its survival,” said Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, an RN in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Alta Bates.

“Sutter Alta Bates had 5,863 live births last year, ranking number seven out of all the hospitals in California,” said Pardue-Okimoto. “We can’t let Sutter shut down this vital center of maternity and neonatal health care in our region!”

“Sutter’s claim that patients rerouted from a closed Alta Bates to Summit will only experience a 12-minute delay in care is laughable to anyone who lives in the East Bay. Even if it were true, 12 minutes to someone who has experienced a massive heart attack, a GI bleed or a stroke can mean the difference between life and death, even traveling in an advanced life support ambulance,” said Stephanie Crowe Patten, a Cardiac Telemetry Nurse at Summit.

“It means the difference between a UC Berkeley student graduating and becoming a biologist and discovering a cure for cancer or your husband coming home to you rather than dying in route or in the parking lot,” she said.

Last year the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the closure of the Alta Bates hospital and emergency room recognizing that a closure would restrict access to emergency care for thousands of Berkeley residents — as well as students, faculty and staff on the UC Berkeley campus.

Sutter says it will maintain only doctors’ offices and potentially an “urgent care center” in Berkeley. But a broad range of vital patient services cannot be treated at an urgent care center, including heart attacks, strokes, seizures, internal bleeding, most burns, life threatening allergic reactions, poisoning, electrical shock, and severe abdominal pain, head and back injuries, and bone breaks, according to statement released by the California Nurses Association.

Published November 11, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

 

 

“Unite Against Hate,” Say East Bay Leaders

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

 

By Ken Epstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Students Demand School District Take Steps to Reduce Racism at Berkeley High

By Ken Epstein

In the wake of a racist, violent threat and a one-day walkout by most of the student body at Berkeley High School (BHS), the school’s Black Student Union is demanding that the school board and district administration act immediately to reduce the level of racism on campus, create a safe place at the school for African American students and enhance the teaching of African American studies.

Nebeyat Zekaryas

Nebeyat Zekaryas

The demands were presented to the board and Supt. Donald Evans at the Dec. 9 board meeting by Black Student Union (BSU) Co-Presidents Nebeyat Zekaryas and Alecia Harger.

Zekaryas told the board that the BSU is raising its demands “in light of the terroristic messages left on a Berkeley High computer on Nov. 4, 2015 and in light of the continued instances of systemic and interpersonal racism that plague our school.”

“We demand that history curriculum in grades K through 12 be amended to include Black history and an accurate view of colonialism … African history up to the present day, the history of the Black people in the Americas, including but not limited to enslavement, the civil rights movement and historically significant Black people outside of equality movements,” said Zekaryas.

Alecia Harger

Alecia Harger

“Black history (should) be taught as an important and relevant piece of world history rather than its own independent subject that is relegated to a semester of ethnic studies,” she said.

“It is insulting to condense all history of nonwhite people into an ethnic studies class,” she said. “It is essential that Black students are educated on this history in its entirety – Black students should not be expected to excel in an institution that gives us knowledge where we can only see our ancestors as slaves.”

The BSU is also demanding full funding for the Berkeley High’s African American Studies Department. “This funding (should) allow for the continuation and betterment of all currently running programs,” Zekaryas said.

BSU Co-President Harger told the board the BSU is demanding that the district create and fund a Black Resource Center on campus.

The Black Resource Center would be a location where Black students can congregate and (find) support for any issue that we may face,” said Harger.

“This center would become a permanent school fixture until Black students regularly have the same test scores and are graduating at the same rate as white students,” she said.

The BSU wants Berkeley Unified to create a committee to recruit and retain Black staff throughout the district.

“We demand that this committee include representatives of Berkeley elementary, middle and high schools, along with members of the Berkeley High BSU,” said Harger.

The BSU also wants the district to institute comprehensive racial sensitivity training for all Berkeley High faculty and staff, she said. “(The) training (should) be ongoing and not be limited to a single professional development day.”

“Black students cannot be expected to feel safe in our classrooms or on our campus if Berkeley High School staff is not equipped to discuss or handle issues of racism or racial bias.” said Harger.

The BSU wants the district administration to begin implementing the demands within the next three to six months and to receive an official response from Supt. Evans no later than Dec. 16.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, December 18, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Berkeley NAACP Calls on BUSD to Investigate Discrimination Against Employees, Students

Berkeley High School

Berkeley High School

By Ken Epstein

Manour Id-Deen, president of the Berkeley NAACP, met recently with Berkeley Unified School District Supt. Donald Evans to discuss allegations that the district is failing to address complaints of discrimination against Black students, teachers and non-teaching staff in the district.

Berkeley Schools Supt. Donald Evans

Berkeley Schools Supt. Donald Evans

The NAACP also wants the district to assign a qualified instructor to teach African American Studies classes at Berkeley High School.

Id-Deen met with Supt. Evans on Nov. 18, where the NAACP president discussed 17 issues, focusing on four that he said call for immediate action.

Following the meeting, Id-Deen sent a letter to the superintendent, dated Nov. 20, saying the district should hire an outside agency, Mason Tillman, to “investigate allegations of age discrimination, racial discrimination, disproportionality in discipline, hiring and promotional practices.”

Mansour Id-Deen, Berkeley NAACP president.

The letter asked BUSD to investigate allegations of improper designation of Black students in special education and disproportional suspension of Black students.

Also of immediate concern is the failure to hire a credentialed instructor to teach courses in Berkeley High’s African American Studies Department.

Courses in the department have not had a credentialed instructor since the beginning of the school year. To resolve the issue, the NAACP says the district should hire retired BUSD history teacher Valerie Trahan.

Another immediate concern is the district’s Berkeley Peer Assistance and Review (BPAR) program, which is used to evaluate poorly rated teachers and can result in dismissal.

Id-Deen called the BPAR program ¨discriminatory and draconian.”

“The NAACP believes an immediate suspension of the program is in order,” he said in the letter.

Finally, the NAACP connects the district’s administrative failures to the Board of Education.

“The checks and balances of the system appear to not provide acute transparency or consistency in the execution of Board Policy and the (Education) Code…. It’s incumbent on the board to create staff policies to ensure that its policies are adhered to.”

Id-Deen told Supt. Evans that said his organization is committed to working to resolve these issues.

“The Berkeley BAACP is willing to meet with you to discuss remedies to the many pressing issues affecting the Berkeley Unified School,” Id-Deen said. “Immediate action is required.”

Courtesy of the Post News Group, December 5, 2015 (Postnewsgroup.com)

Racism in Berkeley Schools “Has Been Tolerated for Too Long,” Say Community Leaders

Berkeley High School students walked out of school Nov. 5 after a racist, terrorist threat was discovered on campus. Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area.

Berkeley High School students walked out of school Nov. 5 after a racist, terrorist threat was discovered on campus. Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area.

By Ken Epstein

Tensions remain high at Berkeley High School in the wake of a student walkout sparked by the discovery in the school library of a written lynching threat against Black students.

Last Thursday’s walkout, which was supported by most of the school’s 3,000 students, drew national media attention. But Black students and community leaders are concerned that now that the immediate incident seems to be resolved, the district wants to go back to business as usual – ignoring the pattern of racist threats at the school and the ongoing discrimination and racial disparities that are plaguing the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD).

Mansour Id-Deen, Berkeley NAACP president.

Mansour Id-Deen, Berkeley NAACP president.

The district has announced that a 15-year old student has admitted responsibility for writing the terrorist threat on the school computer. However, school officials have not said what will be done to punish the student or what steps will be taken to reduce the level of hostility to Black students on campus.

BUSD is still undecided on what form the punishment should take, according to district spokesperson Mark Coplan, who said the punishment could range from restorative justice, which focuses on rehabilitating the perpetrator through community service, to expulsion.

The student’s punishment will be determined through a confidential process in order to protect the student’s identity.

Berkeley Schools Supt. Donald Evans

Berkeley Schools Supt. Donald Evans

Speaking at a press conference last Friday, members of the Berkeley NAACP and its youth council announced that they would not allow racial justice issues to be swept under the rug.

“I hope the school board understands how serious this is,” said Rayven Wilson, a NAACP Youth Council member. “The Black community sees this as a threat. This is not a joke. We need you to understand our pain is real.”

Moni Law, Youth Council advisor, pointed out that the latest threat follows two incidents at Berkeley High last year – a noose that was found hanging on a tree and racist comments that were printed in the school yearbook.

“This behavior has been tolerated (for) too long,” Law said.

In an interview with the Post, Berkeley NAACP President Mansour Id-Deen says he wants to work with the district to reduce the ongoing discrimination that impacts Black employees, students and parents in the school district.

Id-Deen said he has been meeting with teacher and classified employees who said they are facing discrimination and harassment at work.

“They have gone to the administration to get the issues resolved,” he said. “The administration, instead of assisting them, has retaliated against them in different ways.”

Id-Deen said he has been trying since June too meet with BUSD Supt. Donald Evans, but no meeting has ever been scheduled.

When the City of Berkeley faced similar issues, it agreed to hire an independent company to handle the employee complaints, he said. “We want them to provide an outside firm to investigate the allegations of employees and put forth solutions.”

Looking at student achievement, he said he was concerned that the data shows that Black students are not doing well in the district, but BUSD is “not doing anything to address that issue.”

Further, in the last six years, Black student enrollment has fallen from 40 percent to 19 percent districtwide, but 60 percent of the students who are suspended are Black, he said.

A number of community people are also concerned about the survival of the African American Studies Department at Berkeley High, which has not had a qualified teacher since the beginning of the school year.

“The Berkeley NAACP strongly encourages the board, in collaboration with the superintendent, to use your powers to fill the vacancy (in African American Studies),” Id-Deen wrote a letter to the superintendent and board, dated Oct. 30.

He said that a highly qualified African American studies teacher who retired from Berkeley High last year, Valarie Trahan, has volunteered to come back to teach the classes but has been ignored by the district.

Berkeley schools Supt. Evans, in a May 19 letter to Berkeley NAACP President Id-Deen, addressed the issues of alleged “unfair and discriminatory hiring and promotional practices within BUSD.”

“It is troubling to hear that some of BUSD staff have come to you with their concerns, as that indicates they may not have felt confident in our ability to resolve their concerns, “ wrote Evans.

“I look forward to hearing more from you on this matter,” he wrote. “This is a critical issue to address for the well-being of our staff and students.”

As of this week, President Id-Deen said Supt. Evans still has not contacted him to schedule a meeting.

Members of the Berkeley NAACP are urging people to come to the Berkeley school board meeting to call on the board to protect the the future of the Black Studies Department at Berkeley High.

The school board meeting will be held Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at 1231 Addison St. in Berkeley.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, November 13, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Racist Threat at Berkeley High School Sparks Outage, Students Walk Out

Berkeley High School students walked out of classes and rallied at UC Berkeley to protest a racist, terrorist threat. Photo courtesy of Eric Panzer

Berkeley High School students walked out of classes and rallied at UC Berkeley to protest a racist, terrorist threat. Photo courtesy of Eric Panzer

By Ken Epstein

Berkeley High School students walked out of classes, rallied on campus and marched to UC Berkeley yesterday in the wake of news that a racist threat calling for the lynching of Black people was discovered at the school.

Protesters held signs that read: “Black Lives Matter,” “Yup I’m Black,” and “We will not be silent,” among others.

A tweet from one student said, “This happened at our school! When will we as Black Students feel safe?”

A parent tweeted: “Today, my kid texted me that he walked out of class, and I’m proud.”

Berkeley High students rally at UC Berkeley. Photo courtesy of ABC7

Berkeley High students rally at UC Berkeley. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

The racist posting was found by campus security officers Wednesday at about 12:30 p.m. on a computer in the school library.

Written in all capital letters, the post, said: “F**k All the N****rs in the World,” and, “KKK Forever Public Lynching December 9th 2015.”

BHS Principal Sam Pasarow sent an email to the BHS community at 10:24 p.m. Wednesday night notifying the school community about the incident.

“A hateful and racist message was discovered on one of the library computers, containing threatening language toward African Americans,” he said. “The administration is looking into who posted this message, and I urge students, staff, parents and guardians to please contact the school.”

Berkeley High students rally. Photo courtesy aura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group via AP.

Berkeley High students rally. Photo courtesy of A. Oda/Bay Area News Group via AP.

Pasarow called the incident “a hate crime” and assured the community “that we are giving this investigation the utmost attention, as well as involving the Berkeley Police Department.”

According to BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan, the screenshot was left open on a computer as a displayed image and that there was no hacking involved to change the actual website’s contents.

Students and community members called on the school and district administrators to address the threat of racist violence and accused the district of weak responses to several racist incidents at Berkeley High in the past year.

A statement released Wednesday by Berkeley High Black Student Union said, “We are disgusted by this act of terror … The safety of Black students has been explicitly threatened, and (we) demand that this is addressed immediately by the Berkeley High administration and Berkeley Police Department.”

“In the past, acts of terror committed against the Black student body have been ignored such as the racist statement written into last year’s yearbook and the noose that was found on campus (in Oct. 2014).”

“We will not allow this to be trivialized like these other horrific instances.”

A number of the students were critical of the district’s response to the incident. “This incident happened at 12:30, and I didn’t hear about it till 10:30pm?!,” said one student at the protest who was live tweeting.

According to Berkeley HIgh Principal Sam Pasarow, A 15-year-old student has admitted to posting a racist message that prompted a large student walkout at Berkeley High School. The Oakland Tribune reports Friday (http://bayareane.ws/1NTQHtO ) that the student likely will be turned over to juvenile probation for any charges, a student confessed Thursday and is aware of the fear caused by the racist message.

According to Berkeley High Principal Sam Pasarow, a 15-year-old student has admitted to posting the racist message that prompted the  student walkout. Tthe student likely will be turned over to juvenile probation for any charges.

Said another: “Time and time again the Black community has been threatened, oppressed, and I’m sick and tired. A email is not sufficient.”

The Berkeley NAACP issued a statement calling on the district to launch a serious investigation.

“BUSD must secure all video of the area where this sick picture was posted to identify and punish the perpetrator(s) of this uncivil illogical act,” the statement said. “We need to hear back from the BUSD administration as to (their) investigation plan.”

According to Berkeley NAACP President Mansour Id-Deen, he has been trying for several months to meet BUSD Supt. Donald Evans to discuss allegations of widespread racial discrimination in the district against Black students and employees. But the superintendent has failed to schedule the meeting.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, November 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Berkeley Activists Call for City Department of Race and Equity

Marcel Jones, David Turner III and Spencer J. Pritchard, right, speak on Black Lives Matter panel at Berkeley NAACP forum on August 29 at the Sout Berkeley Senior Center. Photos by Rasheed Shabazz.

Marcel Jones, David Turner III and Spencer J. Pritchard, right, speak on Black Lives Matter panel at Berkeley NAACP forum on August 29 at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Photos by Rasheed Shabazz.

By Rasheed Shabazz

Over 100 people gathered at the South Berkeley Senior Center Saturday, Aug. 29 to strategize ways to eliminate racial inequality in the city.

The afternoon program–“Race, Equity, and Gentrification”–featured speakers, a “Black Lives Matter” panel discussion and an open forum.

Organizers proposed creating a Department of Race and Equity in Berkeley and the developing an “African American Holistic Resource Center” to eliminate racism and promote Black healing.

Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks discussed how she introduced the Department proposal during a City of Oakland-sponsored “Black Lives Matter” forum this past winter.

 Attendees of Berkeley NAACP forum on racial equality hold hands at South Berkeley Senior Center on Aug. 29.

Attendees of Berkeley NAACP forum on racial equality hold hands at South Berkeley Senior Center on Aug. 29.

Facing a cold reception when she later introduced legislation to establish the department, she rallied people through social media, events, and teach-ins.

“We kept building an army of support,” she said, explaining the large coalition that grew up in support of the new department.

Following the campaign, the city council unanimously voted to create the department.

Inequities are not always apparent to everyone, said Brooks. To illustrate inequality in Oakland’s zoning practices, she talked about the issue of zoning and the placement of clothing donation boxes.

When city staff proposed restricting locations for the green collection bins, they suggested placing them in Oakland’s flatlands and banning them from the hills and more affluent areas, she said.

“There are all types of things you take for granted,” Brooks said about how the city implements zoning regulations.

To combat unintentional bias in government, Brooks reached out to the Government Alliance for Race and Equity, an initiative affiliated with UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society.

The national alliance partners with local and regional governments to achieve racial equity.

Following an Adeline Street Corridor meeting the same day, many expressed concerns about gentrification and the further displacement of Black residents from Berkeley.

Berkeley City Councilman Max Anderson said, “Berkeley is becoming a gated community without the gates.”

“We not going to sit by and watch this place be ethnically cleansed and economically cleansed,” he said.

Seniors, youth and people of color, and other people that make Berkeley unique are finding it difficult to remain in the city, Anderson said. “If that (diversity) goes away, the very heart and character of the community goes away.”

For those Black families still in Berkeley, there are unacceptable health inequalities.

“We’re talking about the tale of two cities, one where you’re healthy and thrive and another where you don’t,” said Babalwa Kwanele, a Marriage and Family Therapist. “We are in a state of emergency.”

The Saturday event also featured a “Black Lives Matter” panel discussion, with three UC Berkeley students: Marcel Jones, David Turner III and Spencer Pritchard.

Moni Law moderated the discussion. Other speakers included Berkeley NAACP President Mansour Id-Deen, Dr. Vicki Alexander of Healthy Black Families, and Berkeley Pastor Michael McBride.

Over the past two years, the Berkeley NAACP has led efforts to address racial profiling and discrimination in city hiring. The city hired consultants to review city employee allegations of discrimination.

Based on the findings, the “Mason-Tillman report” recommended five policy changes: auditing Berkeley’s human resources department; improving reporting requirements of applicants, employee turnover, training and Equal Opportunity complaints; creating surveys and focus groups to address the grievance process and retaliation and revising personnel rules; and improving the city’s communications methods.

In response to concerns about racially biased policing, the city has adopted the Fair and Impartial Policing policy. However, the policy has yet to be implemented, and results of data collected have not been released.

Berkeley NAACP Vice President Barbara White concluded the event emphasizing the event was not about getting Black faces in high places, but structural change.

“It’s about systems, not individuals,” White said.

The event was co-sponsored by the Berkeley NAACP, Healthy Black Families, African American/Black Professional and Community Network, the Berkeley/North East Bay Chapter of the ACLU and the East Bay Community Law Center.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)