Category: Oakland Job Programs

Oakland Anti-Displacement Coalition Says “Speak Out to Stay Put!”

Carroll Fife (top left), a co-founder of the Oakland Alliance, spoke at a workshop on developing an anti-displacement electoral strategy Oct. 17 "Speak Out to Stay Put!"forum in Oakland. Photo b Ken Epstien

Carroll Fife (top left), a co-founder of the Oakland Alliance, spoke at a workshop on developing an anti-displacement electoral strategy Oct. 17 “Speak Out to Stay Put!”forum in Oakland. Photo b Ken Epstien

By Ken A. Epstein

Local organizations took a big step forward last weekend in their efforts to coalesce the growing movement to impact the market-driven wave of displacement that is pushing out local residents and small businesses, fueling criminalization of young people and adults and suppressing Oaklanders’ cultural expression in the parks and churches.

About 500 people squeezed into the West Oakland Youth Center last Saturday for an event called “Speak Out to Stay Put! An Oakland-wide Anti-Displacement Forum,” hosted by over a dozen organizations and endorsed by over 20 groups.

Groups that helped put on the event included: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Causa Justa: Just Cause (CJJC), California Nurses Association (CNA), Community Planning Leaders (CPL), East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), East Bay Organizing Committee (EBOC), Oakland Alliance, Oakland Tenants Union (OTU), SEIU 1021 and Women’s Economic Agenda Project (WEAP).

Robbie Clark

Robbie Clark

 The purpose of the forum was enhance connections between the groups that are working against displacement and to deepen the understanding of the complex connections between various aspects of displacement and the variety solutions that organizations that groups are supporting.

“We wanted to come together to unite a lot of the forces who are in motion against gentrification, people who are involved in their neighborhoods or working on a variety of development plans and policies,” said Robbie Clark, regional housing rights campaign lead organizer at Causa Justa, in an interview with the Post.

“We want to broaden how people look at displacement, look at the factors that play into gentrification, plug people into additional ways to fight displacement and expand the strategies they can use,” said Clark

 The day’s workshop topics indicate the breath of the concerns: climate change and displacement, community land trusts for public control of city-owned land, the poor people’s movement to fight homelessness, police brutality and gentrification, the fight for jobs and decent wages for Oaklanders, promoting tenant rights and how to elect public officials who are accountable to residents.

 Clark pointed out an aspect of gentrification that so far have not received much attention are the explosive commercial rental increases that are pushing out small businesses and nonprofits that provide services to residents.

“These small businesses and nonprofits are all part of the neighborhood fabric that holds communities together – businesses and services that people utilize are being threatened,” said Clark.

One of the speakers at the workshop on elections and voting was Carroll Fife, a co-founder the Oakland Alliance, a citywide organization that formed about a year ago.

 Fife said her experience working in Dan Siegel’s mayoral campaign last year showed her, “There is a lot of energy that is untapped in this city – (but) we have to put egos aside. There are lots of organizations that are doing work in silos,” unconnected to each other.

She said the Oakland Alliance is trying to find ways groups can work together, not in interests of one organization, but “for what is good for everyone in the city.”

Dan Siegel, an Oakland civil rights attorney, said that voting is a component of building peoples’ power.

“An electoral strategy by itself will not make change,” but the movement needs to select and elect leaders who will be accountable to the community and the promises they make when they running for office, said Siegel.

“(At present), we see people who say they are going to do this or they are going to do that, but (once elected) they don’t do it,” said Siegel. “Oakland has a city council that has completely checked out on housing.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, Oct. 22, 2015 (

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

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

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

By Ken Epstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 10, 2015 (

Oakland Residents Push City Council to Protect Renters and Homeowners Who Are Being Driven from the City

 A panel of experts spoke at the Oakland City Councl's  housing crisis public hearing on Wednesday evening. Left to right:  Muntu Davis, Alameda County public health director; Kalima Rose, senior director of the PolicyLink Center; Edward Del Beccaro, Transwestern; and Alma Blackwell, Oakland Housing Rights Organizer at Causa Justa: Just Cause. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

A panel of experts spoke at the Oakland City Councl’s housing crisis public hearing on Wednesday evening. Left to right: Dr. Muntu Davis, Alameda County Public Health director; Kalima Rose, senior director of the PolicyLink Center; Edward Del Beccaro, Transwestern; and Alma Blackwell, Oakland Housing Rights Organizer at Causa Justa: Just Cause. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Ken Epstein

Angry, desperate and determined residents filled city council chambers Wednesday evening for a public hearing that had been called to discuss Oakland’s housing crisis, demanding that councilmembers move beyond talk to take immediate action to protect them from the runaway housing market that is driving Oaklanders from their homes and the city.

Pressured by speaker after speaker and some on the council, councilmembers ultimately voted unanimously to adopt an action roadmap that will provide a framework for them to deal with many aspects of the crisis.

Tenants spoke about rents being raised and being evicted after decades in the same apartment. A few said they were already packed and preparing to move out of the city.

A woman talked about losing her home and being forced to live in her car, while one man said that he has been fighting illegal rent increases and landlord harassment for five years.

The focus of the hearing was a document called “A Roadmap Toward Equity: Housing Solutions for Oakland, California,” a comprehensive set of proposals to protect residents from displacement and to build more housing that Oakland’s low- and moderate-income residents can afford.

The plan was developed by city staff and the nonprofit organization PolicyLink after 18 months of research, examining what other cities are doing and evaluating the experiences of existing City of Oakland policies, programs and laws.

The roadmap’s many proposals include strengthening code enforcement to require landlords to maintain their units in habitable condition, a rent control ordinance to replace the existing one that tenants’ rights supporters consider ineffective and free legal support for the thousands of tenants who are evicted each year, often illegally.

Housing activists told a Post reporter that they were happy the document had passed but saw the unanimous vote as a small first step – the priorities in the plan have yet to be adopted.

While the council is sounding like it is willing to fight for residents, many of the housing activists are concerned that the council as a whole does not have a good track record on protecting tenants or assuring that new projects require developers to build affordable housing units.

Over the last decade, the City Council has repeatedly failed to muster the five votes needed to pass a number of the ordinances and policies that are now in the road map.

The council has repeatedly voted to support developers with little or no guarantees of affordable housing. Ordinances are passed frequently that have no budget to pay for staff to implement or enforce them.

Sometimes, staff failed to implement council decisions.

Councilmember Desley Brooks underscored the urgent need to take immediate and decisive council action.

Brooks proposed a motion for the full council to discuss and vote to fund a program to provide for rapid housing relocation money for tenants who are evicted and to help low-income home owners with loans to pay for code violations and retrofits.

The funds would also pay for outreach to support the enforcement of the city’s minimum wage ordinance.

Brooks’ motion, jointly seconded by Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Rebecca Kaplan, will be discussed by the full council on Oct. 20.

Brooks also called on the council to take steps to guarantee that the city signs contracts with local businesses that hire Oakland residents.

“We can look at our contracting process and give Oaklanders contracts,” she said. “We have to save ourselves. We have to grow businesses in our communities.”

Brooks said the roadmap contains many proposals that can make a difference in the coming years, but the council needs to focus first on those that can be done right away.

“We have to look at how we can assist people staying in place,” she said.

“We have everything we need, right now, right here in order to address this problem,” Brooks said. “We don’t have the luxury of working on one thing at a time. We have to work on many things at the same time.”

Kaplan said the council should look at steps right away to relieve the plight tenants are facing.

“We have people kicked out of their homes today, many in ways that are illegal,” she said. “We have a relocation assistance ordinance that is not effective – it is confusing.”

The city can make the ordinance more consistent with a high enough dollar amount to make sure it really helps people with their relocation expenses, she said.

In addition, she said, landlords can be required to pay $5,000 to $10,000 per unit for tenant relocation. Such fees would discourage landlords from evicting tenants to re-rent apartments at a higher rate.

Mayor Libby Schaaf, in a statement released Wednesday, discussed the work of the mayor’s housing cabinet, which she formed to propose concrete steps to deal with the crisis.

“I am working on strategies to immediately stabilize neighborhoods and protect existing residents by converting market-rate housing to affordable, as well as longer-term measures to build new housing at all income levels,” she said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 4, 2015 (

Oakland’s Coal Train Dispute Pits Public Health vs. Local Jobs

By Tulio Ospina

Hundreds of community members attended Oakland City Council’s public hearing Monday on the health and safety impacts that exporting coal through the former Oakland Army Base could have on residents in West Oakland and surrounding areas.

Those opposed to coal shipments wore red at the public hearing.

Those opposed to coal shipments wore red at the public hearing.

Opponents of coal, backed by expert witnesses, are calling on the City Council to act on a “health and safety” section in the contract between the city and Army Base developer Phil Tagami that would allow the city to halt shipments of a commodity on its property if those shipments would place workers and surrounding communities “in a condition substantially dangerous to their health and safety.”

Monday’s public hearing was the first step for the City Council to make this determination, which could result in halting, regulating or placing a moratorium on shipping coal through the bulk commodities terminal at the army base.

For over six hours, speakers presented reasons why the city should prohibit or allow coal to be shipped through the future Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT).

And those who support the coal shipments wore yellow.

And those who support the coal shipments wore yellow.

The coal discussion quickly polarized into a debate between health, safety and environmental concerns for Oakland residents versus the creation of jobs.

However, a number of observers consider the dichotomy between jobs and public health to be misleading because it is unclear whether shipping coal through the bulk terminal would create any more jobs for Oakland residents than any other commodity—such as wheat or potash—that might pass through the terminal.

At the end of the six-hour long hearing, some of the councilmembers weighed in on the issue with thoughts and questions they felt still needed to be answered.

“There’s no reason to think that if we’re shipping wheat or something else (through the terminal) that there would be any less jobs than coal,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan at the end of the hearing. “In fact, there are many products that would generate more jobs than coal.”

Councilmember Desley Brooks questioned the health evidence that opponents of a coal deal were presenting, saying she believes the health experts lack convincing evidence that coal dust and emissions are detrimental to people’s health and the environment.

Derrick Muhammad ILWU Local 10

Derrick Muhammad ILWU Local 10

Her principal concern seemed to be focused on job creation.

“We need to understand the effects of other issues such as poverty on the health impacts and ask ourselves does it outweigh coal,” said Brooks. “I can’t tell people who cannot feed their children that, yet again, they ought to wait for their next job opportunity.”

Pastor Gerald Agee of the Friendship Christian Center said, “The folks who come to our churches that are unable to find jobs and are being pushed out of their places because landlords want more money with rent.”

Agee says public health and safety are his primary concerns. He said his support for coal shipments is contingent on the city’s ability to create a binding contract with the developers to ensure there would be consequences if the operators of the terminal fall short on their health and safety promises.

Meanwhile, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 and Local 34, who stand to gain most of the jobs at the terminal, have rejected the plan to export coal through the bulk terminal.

Longshore workers are opposed to “locking Oakland into a decades-long lease with a coal industry that many say is dying,” according to an ILWU press release.

Jasmin Ansar, a professor of economics at Mills College, told the council that coal is a questionable economic investment, saying the Port of Los Angeles lost money on coal shipment.

“The coal industry is in economic decline, and demand has decreased sharply due to cheaper alternatives such as oil, gas and renewables.”

“It would be a poor investment choice to tie up investment funds in a project that is unlikely to succeed and will likely leave Oakland to become stranded,” said Ansar.

“Coal isn’t going to be making jobs here for people in the community. These are ILWU jobs,” said Brian Beveridge, Co-Director for the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP).

According to Beveridge, not only is it a myth that coal would generate more jobs than any other commodity but there would be “little to no chance that the unemployed and those not in a union would get whatever jobs the terminal would create.”

Beveridge said that he and Margaret Gordon of WOEIP had lunch with the developers of the coal terminal, Jerry Bridges and Omar Benjamin, who offered them 12 cents for every ton shipped through the terminal, which could amount to between six and eight million tons a year.

The developer told them that WOEIP could use the money any way it wants, including opening a health clinic, according to Beveridge, but he and Gordon turned down the offer.

The City Council concluded on Monday that it will keep the public hearing open until Oct. 5, to allow city staff to evaluate the evidence and present options for consideration to City Council by no later than Dec. 8.

The Post asked the City Attorney’s office to clarify whether a simple majority or a super major of seven out of eight councilmember would be needed to declare the shipment of coal to be a “health and safety” hazard under the development agreement. The City Attorney did not reply to the the Post’s question.

City Attorney Barbara Parker’s general position is that, though she is an elected official, she only provides her legal opinion in closed session with the City Council.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 26, 2015 (

Joys and Struggles of Public School Teaching, Discussed at Post Salon

Educators who spoke at last Sunday's Post Salon were (L to R) Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, Francisco Ortiz and Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein. The event was held at Geoffrey's Inner Circle in downtown Oakland. Photo by Jaron Epstein.

Educators who spoke at last Sunday’s Post Salon were (L to R) Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, Francisco Ortiz and Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein. The event was held at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland. Photo by Jaron Epstein.

By Post Staff

About 70 people attended the Post newspaper’s most recent Salon to discuss the joys of teaching in the public schools and the policy barriers facing U.S. education

Speaker Francisco Ortiz is a popular teacher in Contra Costa County, the same district where he attended school.   He talked about his personal difficulties of being a Spanish-speaking student without enough Latino teachers.

He also talked about his curriculum, which includes the autobiographical story, “The Circuit,” his love of teaching and his father’s encouragement to pursue a career as an educator.

Kitty Kelly Epstein is a college professor, an author and an activist. Her presentation focused on the built-in racism of the U.S. system and its early roots in Oakland, the first place that used the racially biased group I.Q. tests created in 1916 by Stanford professor and Eugenics supporter Lewis Terman.

Dr. Epstein explored the growing movement of opposition to profit-oriented educational companies and to the new breed of standardized tests they promote.

Dr. Kimberly Mayfield is the chair of the Education Department at Holy Names University and one of the authors of Diversifying the Teacher Workforce.

She had encouraged people interested in becoming teachers to attend the Salon in order to participate in the discussion and to hear about the Teacher Apprentice Program (TAP), which recruits and supports local, diverse teachers as they move into teaching.

Her presentation focused on the joy of teaching and the barriers facing Black, Latino indigenous and Asian people attempting to enter the field.

Dr. Mayfield said that the TAP program, based at Holy Names University in Oakland, is designed to helps prospective teachers overcome the hurdles that keep them from entering the profession.

For information on the TAP program, call Stacy Johnson at (510) 436-1195 or email

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 29, 2015 (


We Must Speak Up” for Racial Justice, Say Teen Leaders and Rep. Barbara Lee

Calling for Black-Brown unity, a youth said, “The system has us pinned against each other.”

Jose Alejandre speaks at the Community Forum on Racial Justice on Aug. 18 at Brookins AME Church in Oakland. Photos by Ashley Chambers.

Jose Alejandre speaks at the Community Forum on Racial Justice on Aug. 18 at Brookins AME Church in Oakland. Photos by Ashley Chambers.


By Ashley Chambers

“In order to improve race relations in America, we must speak up. Comfortable silence has gotten us nowhere,” said Alomar Burdick, one of the young panelists speaking at the Community Forum on Racial Justice on Aug. 18 at Brookins AME Church in Oakland.

Stressing the need for community and action, three young people led the discussion, sharing their outlook on race in America and ways that people can work together against racism.

“In order for us to speak up, we must replace comfortable silence with verbal discomfort, and we must take action,” said Burdick, who works with the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee hosted the forum and participated in the panel, along with Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Another young panelist stressed the importance of knowing and embracing one’s identity.

“What I think is really important is to really know where we’re trying to go,” said Adeniji Asabi-Shakir, of Young, Gifted and Black.

“I would like to find a way to be able to…thrive and speak pride openly,” added Asabi-Shakir.

Another young panelist emphasized that in order to make strides in fighting the system of racial injustice, Black and Brown communities need to work together.

“The system has us pinned against each other – its divide and conquer. Our kids are growing up alongside each other and don’t understand each other,” said Jose Alejandre.

“I want to put a call out to community members to lead by example to show the kids that we can build up Black and Brown communities in East Oakland, wherever we are,” he said.

“If we don’t do it now, the separation between Black and brown (people)…will get bigger and bigger.”

The discussion addressed the impacts of institutional racism, pointing to racial disparities that exist in education, criminal justice, housing, jobs and other areas.

Studies show that African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.

A recent Department of Education survey highlights inequities in the education of Black preschool kids. While Black children, ages 2 to 4, are only 18 percent of students in preschool, they make up 40 percent of the number of the kids that are kicked out of preschool.

“How do you suspend a preschool baby from school? There’s something wrong,” said Congresswoman Lee.

“Everywhere you look in American society, you’ve got issues around structural and institutional racism,” she said

It is especially important, said the congresswoman, that we “really not allow people to say we’re playing the race card if we want to talk about race. We have to talk about public policies and structures and funding policies in a way that includes race.”

Lee said she is pushing legislation to reverse these disparities, including language to address the expulsion of Black preschool children.

She is also pushing for legislation to increase police accountability, end racial profiling and address inequalities in school funding, job training, re-entry programs, violence prevention and apprenticeships for youth.

Councilmember Desley Brooks recently led a fight to establish a Department of Race and Equity in the City of Oakland, which the city approved this summer.

“This (department) is about truly looking at the policies and procedures of the city and changing them,” she said.

The new department, expected to start by December, will address systemic inequities in city policies and practices – such as housing, jobs, contracting, and employment.

Congresswoman Lee will hold additional forums in the future throughout her congressional district.

For more information, visit Rep. Barbara Lee on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 29, 2015 (


Hack the Hood Grads Have Much to Offer Tech World


hack the hood

By Ashley Chambers

High school senior Jayshaun Thomas can show just about anyone how to create a website.

“It’s easy to teach,” he said at the Hack the Hood summer boot camp graduation on Aug. 12 at Impact Hub in Oakland.

Thomas was one of 46 graduates who completed the six-week boot camp, where young people learned coding and web design and gained skills to enter the tech industry.

Since 2013, Hack the Hood has trained low-income young people of color how to design websites for small businesses in their community. Last Wednesday, the largest group of students graduated from the program.

The training not only helped students learn impressive skills but also helped boost their self-confidence.

“I’m learning to better communicate with people,” said student Raeshonna Smith.

“The thing that stuck with me was the people here; I could just act myself,” said Thomas, who aspires to be a clothing and web designer. “I like doing websites, and going through and actually coming up with my own type of creations. I want people to see what I can create.”

Jayla Johnson created a website for local nonprofit, Scientific Adventures for Girls using Weebly, which features a slideshow of young girls experimenting in the company’s STEM programs on the site’s home page.

Johnson says she was excited to see the results of her hard work. “Hack the Hood showed me how big technology is to everyday life,” Johnson said.

And the world is ready for what these young technology innovators will create next.

Stewart Butterfield, CEO and founder of Slack – a messaging app – and Erica Baker, release engineer with Slack, provided valuable advice to the new graduates.

“There are issues unique to your community that haven’t been addressed yet…so make or do stuff that you want, and people will come to you,” said Butterfield.

Engineer DeVaris Brown encouraged students to “be an example of excellence.”

“Be proud of your diversity,” said Brown, who has spoken around the world about technology being accessible to everyone. “Be an example for your peers in your community.”

One student, Norma, who is an immigrant, courageously shared her story of overcoming her personal obstacles.

She said her Hack the Hood instructor, Damon Packwood, helped her look beyond the barriers against her and explore the opportunities. “Who knows, I could be an expert at coding,” she said.

Hack the Hood co-founders Susan Mernit and Zakiya Harris look forward to expanding the program this fall with a pilot project at MetWest High School.

For more information, visit

Photo caption: Hack the Hood graduated its largest group of 46 students from the 2015 Summer Boot Camp on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at Impact Hub in Oakland. 2015 graduates were: Ben Ampon, Adrian Anderson, Quentin Booker, Reetah Boyce, Kevin Butler, LeAnn Chingcuangco, Ashton Ealy, Charles Killian, Alpha-Oumar Cisse, Myles McConico, Qadir Muhammad, Ambrocio Pablo, Ishmael Rico, Joshua Solorzano, Raeshonna Smith, Elias Ramirez, Daniel Alvarado, Ishmael Bayley, Chadwick Butler, Nathan Craner, Renee Creer, Basheer Dalil, Ty Delaney, Abel Gaim, Daniel Gaim, Rose Hamilton, Rachel Harper, Sennua Hunter, Kevin Mills, Eric Nobles, Milan Perkins, Cary Proctor, Norma Soto, Jayshaun Thomas, Marcello Thompson, Ulysses Waddy-Smith, Vanson Le, Eddrena Hall, Jayla Johnson, Vu Le, Taylor Noel, Dulce Palacios, Abel Regalado, and Xaria Thompson. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

Congressional Black Caucus Takes Tech Initiative to Silicon Valley

udith Williams, Global Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager of Google (left) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Photo by Conway Jones

udith Williams, Global Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager of Google (left) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Photo by Conway Jones

By Conway Jones

Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01), Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), all members of the CBC’s Diversity Task Force, visited Silicon Valley Aug. 2-4 to meet with executives at the country’s foremost technology companies and organizations as part of the CBC TECH 2020 initiative.

Launched in May, the technology initiative is a five-year plan developed by the CBC to address the underrepresentation of African Americans within the technology industry.

“Our goal for this trip is to encourage and partner with these organizations to implement a diversity plan that will place more African Americans in the tech pipeline,” said Rep. Butterfield.

“This will potentially lead to a wide range of opportunities, from student internships to positions on the boards of tech companies,” he said. “Building a coalition of leaders from the public and private sectors ensures greater diversity and full representation of African Americans at every level of tech by 2020.”

“This visit is another step toward opening doors of opportunity for African Americans in the booming tech sector,” said Congresswoman Lee.  “Increasing diversity and inclusion within the tech sector is not only a moral imperative, it is good for business and vital to continue economic growth.”

“The technology sector will increasingly be at the forefront of our country’s continued growth and prosperity,” said Rep. Jeffries.  “In this regard, it is important to make sure that all Americans have an opportunity to participate in the innovation economy.”

As part of the TECH 2020 plan, the CBC has outlined diversity principles, best practices, and resources for African American students and entrepreneurs and introduced legislation focused on increasing STEAM education.

During the trip, members met representatives of a number of companies, including Apple, Bloomberg, Google, Intel, Kapor, Pandora and SAP.

Bloomberg hosted a press conference at their San Francisco office to discuss the CBC’s TECH 2020 initiatives and the delegations work in Silicon Valley.

Judith Williams, Global Diversity and Inclusion Programs Manager represented Google.  She said that Google has a robust K-12 investment in early education.  Google hopes to rectify factors that hold people back from reaching their potential.

“There is no encouragement in the work place. No one there looks like them. They don’t think they can succeed, and they don’t think they can change the world,” Williams said.

Added Congressman Butterfield, “The current focus in Congress is for less education, and a push to shift the responsibility for education to the states. There is less money.”

“We are fighting the same battles we fought before. We must make sure that the ‘unconscious biases’ don’t become institutionalized in organizations,” said Congresswoman Lee.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, August 8, 2015 (


Congresswoman Barbara Lee Brings 400 High Tech Jobs to Oakland

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (right) this week announced that Oakland was one of 40 cities selected for President Obama's TechHire Communities program.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (right) this week announced that Oakland was one of 40 cities selected for President Obama’s TechHire Communities program.

President Obama this week announced 10 new “TechHire Communities, including Oakland, which has committed to placing 400 individuals in paid internships or full-time jobs by the end of 2015.

The city will achieve this commitment through several accelerated pathways, which will be publicized in the near future.

“I am pleased to see Oakland become a TechHire Community. The city’s commitment to empowering people with work based on their skill set and advance tech training is remarkable and vital to the continued economic growth of our community,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

“I am proud to have been a part of this tremendous effort and I look forward to working with city officials to expand this program and others that link community members with resources, workforce training and good-paying jobs,” said Congresswoman Lee.

The president’s TechHire Community program is a public-private partnership designed to ensure applicants find work based on their skill sets, as opposed to degrees.

It is also designed to activate accelerated tech training opportunities while investing in innovative entrepreneurial and jobs programs that connect a diverse workforce, including women, people of color, veterans and underserved and disconnected young people.

“I am delighted that Oakland will be partnering with public and private partners to ensure that the type of diversity that is found in cities like Oakland is reflected in the halls of our tech leaders,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“Congresswoman Lee was instrumental in making this happen for Oakland,” said Schaaf.

“We are really committed to this agenda of equity, of getting Oakland kids ready and connected to opportunities here in the Bay Area,” she said.

Other new TechHire communities announced this week are Akron, OH; Birmingham, AL; Cincinnati, OH; Lynchburg, VA; Maine; New Orleans, LA; Pittsburgh, PA; Rhode Island; and San Jose, CA.

President Obama’s goal is to establish 40 TechHire cities by the end of the year.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 8, 2015 (


OPD Efforts to Recruit African Americans Yield Meager Results

By Ashley Chambers and Dakotah Jennifer

Recent efforts by the Oakland Police Department to increase the numbers of African American officers have resulted in meager increases in the hiring and retention of Black officers, according to a report submitted this week the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.OPD

Blacks make up 28 percent of the city’s population but only 18.3 percent of the city’s sworn officers, 34 percent below their numbers in the population.

The report highlights more aggressive outreach and recruitment by OPD. However, data shows that at least 80 percent of African American applicants did not advance to police academies conducted by OPD since 2012.

Of the 354 new officers hired through these academies from 2012 to 2014, 14 percent were African American; 19 percent were Asian; 35 percent white; nearly 28 percent were Hispanic; and 3 percent were other races or undisclosed, according to the report.

Enhanced recruitment efforts include partnering with local faith-based and nonprofit organizations, participating in career fairs, and connecting with career centers at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

While failing to recruit African Americans, the efforts to hire more bilingual applicants appear to have been effective, the report said.

“We’re getting numbers of people to apply, but they can’t get though the process,” said Councilmember Desley Brooks, who chairs the city’s Public Safety Committee. “They get weeded out in three places, the written exam, oral exam and background check.”

She says she hopes that a careful look OPD recruiting can result in overcoming some of the barriers.

The report notes that OPD has organized monthly workshops to aid African American applicants in preparing for the written exam. But the number of African Americans attending police academies has not shown significant change since 2012.

Hiring data for the most recent academy, which graduated in Fall 2014, show that 411 African Americans applied, 20 percent of the total number of applicants. Of that number, 60 proceeded to the final stages of the application process, only three percent of the total number of 348 applicants.

After background investigations and character reviews, seven Blacks were recruited to attend the academy, among a total of 82 applicants who were hired.

Because field training of these new officers is still in progress, these numbers are still subject to change.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 4, 2015 (