Category: Elections & Voting Rights

Congress of Neighborhoods Seeks Community Power in East Oakland Flatlands

Esther Goolsby of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) spoke last Saturday at the first community assembly of the Congress of East Oakland Neighborhoods. Photo by Ken Epstein

 

By Ken Epstein

Hundreds of local residents packed into an elementary school gymnasium last Saturday to attend the kickoff gathering of the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods taking the first steps to bring together the kind of flatland coalition that can force public officials to take the needs of their communities seriously.

The meeting, held at International Community Schools at 2825 International Blvd., was organized by some of the strongest community-based organizations in East Oakland: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Just Cause: Causa Justa, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, EBAYC and Oakland Community Organizations (OCO).

The main purpose of Saturday’s meeting was to create a common vision for going forward.  To develop this vision, participants attended one of nine workshops: fair share of city services, including ending illegal dumping; homelessness, displacement and affordable housing; community peace and safety; holding elected officials accountable; creating a clean healthy environment; jobs, including jobs for youth and the formerly incarcerated; quality education; big development projects, such as the A´s stadium; and immigration.

Leading the meeting were representatives of East Oakland neighborhoods San Antonio, Fruitvale, Elmhurst and Sobrante Park.

In an interview with the Oakland Post, Vernetta Woods, a leader of Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) who lives in District 7, says she believes the event will build more unity and a more powerful voice for East Oakland residents.

For her, the main issue is education, the failure of the Oakland public schools.

“We’re coming. People power is here,” she said.  “We need thousands to come together on this thing, not just one race or one organization. If that happens, we can make changes.”

Teresa Salazar, a leader of Just Cause: Causa Justa who has lived in the San Antonio area for 23 years, explained the different organizations that are working together are creating a “stronger power.”

“Rent is increasing. Is that the New Oakland – a lot of people living under the bridge?”  She asked.

“At International (Boulevard) and 15th (Avenue), there is a lot of prostitution – Is that the New Oakland?

“No, Oakland needs a big change,” said Salazar. “Everybody needs to participate, to organize for change, for there to be a New Oakland.”

The Congress of Neighborhoods plans to release its “East Oakland Community Agenda” Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m. outside City Hall.

For more information, email Nehanda Imara at nehanda@eastoaklandbhc.org or Alba Hernandez at alba@oaklandcommunity.org

Published October 8, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Close $9 Billion Commercial Property Tax Loophole to Fund Schools, Says Statewide Coalition

Left to Right: State Senators Nancy Skinner and Scott Weiner and Assemblyman Rob Bonta speak at “Make It Fair” Proposition 13 reform townhall meeting Saturday Sept. 9. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

Hundreds of Bay Area residents attended a town meeting in Oakland recently to find out about the growing, statewide “Make It Fair” coalition that seeks to overturn a commercial property tax loophole that costs the public as much as $9 billion a year in lost revenue that could be used for schools, health clinics, parks and libraries.

The town hall meeting, held Saturday, Sept. 9 at the First Congregational Church of Oakland, was part of the coalition’s organizing efforts to build awareness, ahead of a ballot initiative in 2018 or 2020.

“California has the world’s sixth largest economy, yet many of our schools and services lack the basic funding they need,” according to a Make It Fair coalition flyer.

“ Big corporations and the wealthy are making more money than ever. They can afford to pay their fair share,” the flyer said.

The loophole is written into Proposition 13, passed by voters in 1978, part of what referred to as Ronald Reagan’ “tax revolt,” which assesses property taxes, including those on commercial properties, at their 1975 value and restricts annual cost-of-living increases to a maximum of 2 percent.

Owners of businesses started since the passage of Prop. 13 pay a higher rate. As a result, some of the largest companies, like Chevron, Intel and IBM, pay low property taxes, but startups and newer businesses pay much more.

Speakers at the town hall included State Senators Nancy Skinner and Scott Weiner, Assemblyman Rob Bonta and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson.

“It going to take all of us working together to make a make a fix to Prop. 13. We’re going to go to the ballot,” said Senator Skinner, explaining that the there is not the political support in the Legislature to pass the reform.

“It’s a third rail issue,” she said. “It still has this aura of untouchability.”

Challenging the commercial tax loophole will require people to “deal with the 50-year campaign from the radical right to delegitimize government, (convincing many people that) all government programs are a problem, that putting any money into government is a waste of money,” said Senator Weiner.

Calling for “people over profits” and “people over corporations,” Assemblyman Bonta said the Democrats have a supermajority in the Legislature, making the present the perfect time for closing the Prop. 13 loophole.

But he emphasized that coalition will need large-scale grassroots support to pass the constitutional amendment.

“This is not an easy battle – the opposition will be fierce,” Bonta said. “Some will see this as an existential threat.”

Organizations endorsing the campaign include the California Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, League of Women Voters of California, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Nurses Association, SEIU California, Filipino Community Center and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN).

Speakers the town hall explained that the campaign will have to overcome a deluge of false and misleading publicity, clarifying to voters that the initiative will:

Guarantee existing Prop. 13 protections for residential property and agricultural land;

Close the millionaire, billionaire, and big corporation tax loophole by requiring all commercial and industrial properties to be assessed at fair market value, putting California in line with how the majority of the country assesses property;

Restore over $9 billion a year for services. About half of the new revenues, $3.6 billion, will support schools and community colleges;

Make It Fair requires transparency and accountability for all revenue restored to California from closing the commercial property tax loophole.

For more information go to www.makeitfairca.com/about/

Published September 19, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Local Volunteers Head for Central Valley to Overturn Republican Control of Congress

 

Volunteer canvassers for Working America go door to door to talk to residents about fundamental issues that affect them and their families.

By Ken Epstein

Volunteers from Oakland, Berkeley and other Bay Area cities, many who consider themselves to be part of The Resistance, are flocking to the AFL-CIO´s Working America and other organizations, ready to put in the grueling door-to-door work necessary to mobilize and empower voters to overturn Republican control of congressional districts in November 2018.

In the Bay Area, Working America began door-to-door outreach efforts in May in Congressional District (CD) 10, a section of northern San Joaquin Valley that includes Modesto, Turlock, Patterson, Tracy and Manteca.

CD 10 is currently represented by Republican Congressman Jeff Denham. However, this is not a district that is solidly in the Republican camp. Hillary Clinton carried it in 2016, and Barack Obama won the district in both 2008 and 2012.
The district is 46.4 percent white, 3.7 percent Black, 7.7 percent Asian and 40.1 percent Latino.  The Modesto area has an 8 percent unemployment rate and a  mean annual wage of $45,230.

Besides Working America, organizations that are working to flip CD 10 are Swing Left, the Democratic Club of Greater Tracy, California Democratic Party, California Away Team, Organizing for California, Our Revolution and Indivisible Berkeley.

Working America, which is pairing volunteers and paid organizers, is conducting a “knock on every door” in-depth canvassing operation.

People who oppose Trump and conservative members of Congress “now need to ‘electoralize’ that energy,” said Matt Morrison, executive director of Working America, based in Wash., D.C.

“You can’t change hearts and minds by sending people 500 pieces of mail or with 30-second campaign ads,” he said. “You have to see them and talk to them face to face, going into 2018 and 2020.”

Working America’s paid staff are mostly working-class people, who are trained and work 40 hours a week as professional canvassers.

These professionals, especially in Modesto, work with volunteers, who are also trained.

“It’s been stunning, the number of people who are willing to invest themselves in this fight,” said Morrison.

Over 200 people already have gone through training, and nearly 150 have gone to canvas door to door, he said. Some have come back to the Central Valley, an over 80-mile trek from the East Bay, for a second or third shift.

The plan at this point is not to talk about upcoming elections and candidates but about the issues that people care about and help them connect with others in their community in networks to build “strength in numbers,” said Morrison.

“Our organizing model has to focus on working class communities around the country,” based on union ideals of “economic justice and dignity,” he said.

“Once you get people talking,” he said, “they don’t want to stop.” They are worried bout increased rates of poverty and are losing faith in government’s willingness to improve their communities.

“We think it is essential to have folks advocate for themselves,” he said.  “What we’re seeing are a lot of constituents who are pretty animated, willing to show where they stand.”

About 4,700 people already have joined Working America since the canvassing began.

“We project that later this year we will organize about 25,000 people in this district, based on the issues,” said Morrison.

Cindy Reed, a Working America District 10 field director, is based in Modesto where she is involved in discussions every day about what is important to people in the Central Valley.

“We focus on economic issues that are important for working families: jobs, corporate accountability, access to education and retirement,” said Reed.

“Politicians are not really addressing these issues,” she said. “The solution is to keep them accountable. The strategy is strength in numbers: a call of to action, writing a letter or signing a petition.”

“There are a lot of jobs in Modesto and the Central Valley, but they are not high paying jobs,” she continued. “(Workers) have to commute for construction – even engineers have to commute to Silicon Valley because they can’t afford to live there.”

“They don’t the have resources for their public schools, and they can’t afford to send their kids to college.”

One of the crew of recent volunteers was Carla, a member of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club in the East Bay.

“We knocked on 25 doors and had conversations at 13 of them.” she said, describing her experience in a Wellstone newsletter.

“Ten people joined Working America, and all 10 signed the action item petition against  (Congressman) Jeff Denham,” she said. “(We) were uplifted, and the people were warm and welcoming.”

For information and to sign up for Working America’s Central Valley Project training and canvassing, go to http://www.workingamerica.org/centralvalley/volunteer

Published September 8, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Youth at MLK Freedom Center Join Struggle to Empower Voters

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

By Ken Epstein

Young people who participated in an intensive six-week voter registration and community engagement project this summer recently attended a labor breakfast celebration in their honor, where they talked about their efforts to register new voters and reflected on what they learned and how it transformed them.

The “Civic Engagement Pilgrimage,” organized by the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, which is based at Merritt College in Oakland took a diverse group of 65 young people, mostly high school students from Oakland and Washington state, on a journey from Washington to Portland to Bakersfield and Fresno in California, where they registered voters and had in-depth discussions with elected officials, community and tribal leaders in urban and rural areas and Indian nations.

The breakfast was held Aug. 4 at the offices of the Alameda Labor Council in Oakland, attended by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris and Peralta Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Jowel C. Laguerre, who are strong supporters of the work of the freedom center.

The young people said they heard the same words over and over from people in different communities: “Our voices don´t matter; nothing you do will change the system,” according to Laelah Jackson, a junior at Berkeley High.

“It is important to educate and be educated,” she said.  “What we´re doing is bigger than each of us. “It’s the ‘we’” that makes the difference.

“We learned that we live in very trying times night now,” said Angela Drake, a student at Castlemont High School. “We have to give hope to each other. No one is going to do it for us, but us.”

The young people said that in the course of their discussions with people and the classes and trainings among themselves they learned critical thinking, experienced growing self confidence and a sense of “love and solidarity” with each other and the people.

The Martin Luther King Freedom Center, which was created by Oakland’s MLK Day March and Rally Committee, began its work in 2001.  Executive Director Dr. Roy Wilson has led the organization for the past 10 years.

Based on the lessons of summer´s listening sessions and discussions in communities, the center plans to launch intensive voter education and registration efforts this year, including work in congressional districts in California´s Central Valley.
For more information on the Freedom Center, go to www.mlkfreedomcenter.org

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Post News Group

Noel Gallo Faces Viola Gonzales in Oakland District 5 Race

Noel Gallo and Viola Gonzales

Noel Gallo and Viola Gonzales

 

By Tulio Ospina

In the City Council race for Oakland District 5, incumbent Noel Gallo is facing off against Viola Gonzales, who previously served on the Oakland Board of Education as an appointee of then-Mayor Jerry Brown.

Gallo, who has been on the council since 2012, is a lifelong resident of the Fruitvale District and previously served on the Oakland Board of Education for 20 years. He also sits on the Life Enrichment, Public Works and Public Safety city council committees.

Gonzales was, until June 30, the chief executive officer of AnewAmerica, a non-profit that helps immigrants and refugees start small and micro-businesses.

According to Gonzales, she has the backing of Mayor Libby Schaaf, former Councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente and former Mayor Elihu Harris.

Councilmember Gallo has achieved broad popularity in the city for his strong role in supporting renter protection and a police commission—Measures JJ and LL respectively— which the City Council placed on the November ballot.

Gallo has also taken strong positions on recent city development decisions, arguing that Oakland’s city-owned land should not be sold to private developers and should, instead, be leased and remain public.

Referring to Oakland’s current housing crisis, Gallo told the Post, “Investors and developers are coming in from out of state and outside the country, and they’re here to make a dollar. They have no commitment to Oakland.”

“If there is to be development, it has to be considerate of the people who live here already. And we must keep public land for public good,” said Gallo.

In terms of the two landmark city measures that Gallo openly supported and is endorsing in November, he said, “The police commission is really important to deal with police discipline and Oakland needs a strong citizens’ body.”

“The housing situation is an emergency issue, too, because people are being displaced like crazy. Whole families are being displaced with children. We see grandmothers and children sleeping in their cars. Every democracy needs to take care of the people who live in it, and that’s what the renter protection measure does.”

According to Gallo, his number one platform priority is increasing public safety in his district.

For four years, he has organized and participated in weekly volunteer walks through the Fruitvale, picking up illegal dumping and cleaning neighborhoods.

An increase in public safety also means concentrating resources to meet the district’s infrastructure needs—building sidewalks, repaving streets and installing crosswalks.

Gallo is asking people to vote for the city infrastructure bond, which will be on the November ballot.

He also wants to increase police presence in his district to try to curb what he sees as an uptick in robberies and traffic violations.

Gonzales, meanwhile, is running against Gallo on a platform of bringing economic development and job creation to Fruitvale, based on her 15 years of experience as an executive of a non-profit.

“We need to create jobs in the community, and I think we can do more,” Gonzales said in an interview with the Post. “Oakland has the responsibility to create more jobs and help local businesses grow.”

Gonzales said she will not take a position on the renter protection and police commission measures, though she says she understands what is at stake and sees why the measures were put on the November ballot.

“I say let the voters decide. I feel like the obligation of the City Council is just to move quickly to do what the public asks and to stop dragging its feet, which is what it’s been doing,” she said.

“With the police commission, I think we’ve got to have accountability, but the commission itself isn’t enough to fix larger issues like racial profiling that permeate society. And with the renters’ issue, we have the Costa-Hawkins state law that limits what you can do.”

Gonzales said she has gained the public and financial support of Mayor Schaaf because she is able to make room for differences in opinion and bring public conversations into meetings. The mayor has contributed $700, the maximum allowed, to Gonzales’ campaign.

“She would not give endorsements unless she thought we could work together,” Gonzales said.

 

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 (postnewsgroup.com)

Nurses Back Bernie Sanders for President

Candidate calls for an end to racism and mass incarceration and for jobs and free education

Senator Bernie Sanders spoke Monday, Aug. 10 at a rally at the headquarters of National Nurses United (NNU), where he received the union's endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination. Standing next to Sanders is Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president. Photo by Ken Epstien.

Senator Bernie Sanders spoke Monday, Aug. 10 at a rally in Oakland at the headquarters of National Nurses United (NNU), where he received the union’s endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination. Standing next to Sanders is Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president. Photo by Ken Epstien.

 By Ken Epstein

Senator Bernie Sanders was in Oakland this week, where he won the endorsement of the 185,000-member National Nurses Union (NNU), adding serious momentum to his low-budget, grassroots campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination that is becoming an ever more serious challenge to frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Sanders spoke Monday to a wildly enthusiastic crowd at the downtown Oakland national headquarters of the NNU.

“I have spent my career fighting for something that I consider to be a human right. That human right is health care. And let me say loudly and clearly – health care is a right of all people, not a privilege,” said Sanders.

“The time has come for us to end the international embarrassment of the United States of America, our great country, being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right,” he said. “And together – with your help – we are going to end that embarrassment.”

He called for raising taxes on bankers, financiers and corporations.

“Not only would a tax on Wall Street speculation provide us with the revenue that we need to make a college education tuition free, it would also reduce speculation and encourage Wall Street to invest in the job-creating productive economy,” said Sanders.

As hundreds listened to and cheered his remarks in Oakland, groups of nurses around the country watched him live on television monitors and asked the candidate questions.

The union is composed mostly of women, registered nurses. Over the years, the organization has gained a reputation for tough and politically savvy organizing and has captured national attention in battles over the future of corporate healthcare and the inadequate medical industry response to the Ebola threat.

Sanders also denounced racism and mass incarceration and called for good paying jobs and free education at all public universities to allow people to enter the middle class – to end economic disparities.

Black Lives Matter and other activists have criticized Sanders for his lack of a program to end racial injustice, and he elaborated his position at the nurses’ rally.

“When we talk about creating a new America, it is to end racism,” he said, adding that Sandra Bland would not have been dragged out of her car and arrested in Texas if she had been white.

“Shamefully, the U.S. has more people in jail than any other country on earth,” he said, and the rate of incarceration “is disproportionately higher for African Americans and Hispanics.”

“We need a criminal justice justice system (in which) police departments do not look like military occupiers,” he said. “We need police officers to wear cameras. When a police officer commits a crime, that officer must be held accountable.”

“We need to end (mandatory) minimum sentencing for nonviolent crimes,” he continued.

“When people go to jail, we need to provide a path back into society,” said Sanders. “You’re not going to have that when people leave jail without jobs, without education and in some cases, without the mental health counseling they need.”

“If you check my record, there is no candidate running for president of the United States who will be stronger fighting institutional racism and in reforming a broken criminal justice system – period,” he said.

Last Saturday, 15,000 people turned out to hear Sanders speak in Seattle. About 28,000 attended a rally Sunday in Portland, and 27,500 stood in a line that stretched for blocks to hear him speak Monday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of NNU, explained why her union decided to endorse Sanders and throw the weight of thousands of the NNU’s grassroots activists into his campaign.

“He says what he means, and that is reflected in his work,” she said. “Nurses know Senator Sanders is a warrior.”

In response to those who might have expected a union with a large number of women leaders to back Hillary Clinton for president, DeMoro said, “I’d love to break the glass ceiling, but we ‘d love more to break the stranglehold of the billionaire class.”

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

Post Publisher Calls for New Voting Rights Movement

 Fifty years ago, Post Publisher Paul Cobb went South to join the fight for voter registration and engage in Civil Rights activity, taking a stand on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

 He became director of the Southern Elections Fund (SEF), now headed by Ben Jealous, which has helped register Black voters and support candidates to run for office throughout the South.

Reflecting on his experiences, Cobb called for a national mobilizing effort to defend and expand voting rights.

“The Post is going to establish a national computer-based voter registration monitoring system to help mobilize volunteers and financial and organizational support for indigenous on-the-ground movements that are operating now, such as Moral Monday in North Carolina,” said Cobb.

“We will soon launch a technology-based registration, legal and election strategy center that will work to overcome the restrictive obstacles that many conservatives are implementing in the 11 southern states, as well as others such as Michigan and Ohio,” he continued.

“We will seek accountability and support from political leaders, especially those running for president in both parties, to end voting restrictions for Blacks and Latinos.”

“This is an ideal issue that Democratic candidates for office could and should be raising. I plan to talk directly to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and members of the congressional Black Caucus,” he said.

“And Republicans, like Mitt Romney who opposed the Confederate flag, can take a stand and join the historic stand his father took when he supported King’s marches in Michigan. Presidential candidates must also now help bring down the Confederate-style voting booth curtains in the same manner as the flag removal if they wish to be relevant to the issues that affect millions of Americans.”

pcobb

Post Publisher Paul Cobb

Cobb said The Post and El Mundo will be publishing national special editions that will be distributed to more than 40,000 Black churches and businesses to serve as a communications update on voting rights legal struggles and the strategies that communities are using to overcome voting barriers.

“We will help raise money to transport people to polling places and for organizations that can help people register to vote,” he said.

“If just 50 percent of the unregistered minorities in the 11 southern states of the old Confederacy were registered and voting, we would have a new Congress,” said Cobb. “And the health, environmental, educational and economic justice issues we care about would be acted upon,” he said.

“For example, with more than 600,000 unregistered Blacks in Georgia, all we would need to raise is about $4 million. Combined with a wave of volunteers, Georgia’s political script could be flipped on Election Day.

“Ask Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson about the value of registration and funds for voting . SEF Chairman Julian Bond and I helped raise money for him to get elected as Mayor of Bolton, MS., He rose from there to become chair of the Homeland Security Committee. Now, we must secure our homeland by registering, voting and raising funds to support organizations working for change.”

Those who are interested in working on this project should contact Paul Cobb at postnewsgroup.com or call the Post at (510) 287-8200.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 7, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Three Generations of a Family Continue the Fight for Voting Rights

By Tasha Ellis

Have you ever believed that you can change the world? Have you believed that you could help to eradicate injustice?

Thomas Chatmon

Thomas Chatmon

Growing up in a family that was heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement, I learned that we win as we unite with a common purpose to support the evolution of humanity.

My grandfather Thomas C. Chatmon Sr. was one of my greatest examples of someone who was an agent of change. In 1961, he and eight others founded the Albany Movement because they were weary of blatant injustices in Albany, Georgia.

When white-owned banks would not approve funding for his business, the Black community supported his endeavors by purchasing his products, and eventually he was able to franchise in three different states.

In December 1961, about 700 demonstrators were jailed for staging sit-ins and freedom rides. My family used money from their business, Chatmon’s Beauty Supply, to help finance the Albany Movement.

My grandfather often emphasized the importance of voter registration. And so voting, for me, became a sacred act.

In the meantime, my father Fred Ellis moved to Oakland and carried out another sort of civil rights effort. He started a successful program to help more African-Americans become teachers, and he used his own voting rights to campaign for candidates who supported this mission.

Fred Ellis

Fred Ellis

In 2014, I personally discovered, like those before me, that we still have to help people carry out the right to vote., and I became committed to voter registration.   Personally, I found great inspiration in my pastor, Dr. Raphael Warnock of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. He passionately advocates against society’s injustices, and he was a spokesperson for the New Georgia Project.

The New Georgia Project works to decrease the number of unregistered voters in the state of Georgia. In 2014, Georgia had approximately 800,000 unregistered voters.

The group collected more than 87,000 voter registration forms. Other groups working in conjunction with the New Georgia Project collected as many as 20,000 more voter registration forms.

Challenges occurred and nearly 40,000 of the registered applicants did not show up on the registrar’s roll.

New Georgia Project filed a lawsuit against Secretary of Date Brian Kemp in October 2014 alleging that the “missing” voters were being ignored.

Tasha Ellis

Tasha Ellis

The judge dismissed the case that the New Georgia Project filed. Kemp said that the case was “frivolous.”

Fifty years after my grandfather’s involvement in the struggle, voter suppression is still alive and well. In spite of this inequity, progress is essential.

The New Georgia Project will continue to build upon the work from 2014 and looks forward to registering and engaging even more Georgians in 2015.

For additional information about the New Georgia Project visit www.newgeorgiaproject.org

 Tasha Ellis is a voting rights activist and graduate student.

 

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 22, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)