Category: Equal Rights/Equity

Racial Profiling of African American Motorists Persists in Oakland

 

By Ken Epstein

 

Racial profiling of African American motorists persists in Oakland despite the years of data-filled reports the Oakland Police Department (OPD) has been required to collect and the adoption of reforms suggested last year by Stanford researchers.

In a report on “Racial Inequities in Traffic Enforcement, Fees and Fines” to the City Council’s public Safety Committee Oct. 10, Deputy Police Chief Leronne Armstrong discussed the impact of federal court-mandated reforms on the persistent pattern of Black drivers being stopped by police or stopped and issued citations, far in excess of the percentage of the African American population in Oakland.

“We have seen the number of stops come down, (but) we have not seen a decrease in disparity as of yet,” said Armstrong.

The report found that in 2016, OPD conducted 25,355 traffic stops, of whom 15,082 or 62 percent were African Americans.  Of those African Americans who were stopped, 5,818 or 39 percent received a citation.
Conversely, 61 percent of the motorists were stopped but not cited.

Latino motorists were 5,365 or 21 percent of the drivers who were stopped.  Of those, 2,895 or 54 percent were cited.Whites, by contrast, had low numbers of traffic stops – 2,645 or 10 percent of the total stops, of whom 1,574 or 60 percent received citations.

Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan (left) and Desley Brooks

2010 Census data indicates that 27.3 percent of the city’s population is Black, 25.4 percent Latino and 25.9 percent White.

Councilmember Desley Brooks and Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan raised serious concerns about the failure of OPD to make a dent in racial disparities.

“The report leads us to believe that data, data, data and more data will not solve this problem because we already have enough data to sink a ship,” said Councilmember Brooks, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

“None of this has moved the needle,” she continued. “I’d like to focus the attention away from numbers to solutions… We’ve been studying this for at least 15 years now. We need to start getting to some real change.”

At issue is not only the excessive numbers of tickets that are issued but also the huge numbers of people who are stopped, she said.

“There is a problem when Africans American have 15,000 stops and only 5,000 were given citations. Something is wrong with that equation,” Brooks said.

“It is Latinos and African Americans who are most heavily impacted by this issue,” she said.  People who potentially haven’t violated the law at all were stopped, and that’s problematic.”

Kaplan, who had requested OPD produce the report on inequities in traffic enforcement, said she was concerned about the economic impact of the fines on Oaklanders.

“African Americans are continuing to be subjected to disproportionate stops,” she said. “And while the report says Oakland is not receiving a large amount of the resulting fines, those people are still being subjected to huge amounts of resulting fines.

“The people who have to pay the fines are still suffering due to Oakland’s conduct.”

To reduce racial profiling, OPD has an ongoing collaboration with Stanford University researcher, which produced a report, “Strategies for Change – Research Initiatives and Recommendations to Improve Police-Community Relations in Oakland, Calif.”

The report, issued in June 2016, made 50 recommendations, 23 of which have been already implemented. All 50 are expected to be implemented by February 2018.

One of the changes is requiring officers to conduct stops based on “intelligence,” which means they should state a reason, have information, before conducting a stop.

“We want them to conduct stops based on intelligence,” said Deputy Chief Armstrong.

Before the reform was instituted, only 2 percent of traffic stops were based on intelligence. Now about 25 percent are, he said.

Mayor Libby Schaaf responded to a request for comment from the Oakland Post,

“I’m proud that the Oakland Police Department is the first department to allow a university to do a deep analysis of traffic stop data and our officers’ body-worn camera footage to help rebuild the community trust necessary to make Oakland a truly safe city,” said Mayor Schaaf. “I am committed to ending racial disparities in policing, and our partnership with Stanford is helping us get there.”

Published October 21, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Fans, Neighbors Differ Over Proposed A’s Stadium

A packed Peralta board meeting opened discussion Tuesday evening on proposed A’s ballpark project next to Lake Merritt. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Meetings of Peralta Community College District’s Board of Trustees are generally sparsely attended, but this week an overflow crowd filled seats and folding chairs and stood along the walls at the district headquarters near Laney College to speak out for and against the 35,000-seat stadium that the Oakland A’s want to build on the site.

At one point during the meeting on Tuesday evening, opponents of the stadium began chanting, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people because the power of the people don’t stop!” A’s supporters tried to drown them out with “Let’s go, Oakland!” – a chant that is popular at A’s games.

Supporters of building the A’s stadium in downtown Oakland on 8th Street and 5th Avenue next to Laney College and Chinatown included A’s fans from Oakland and around the Bay Area, business owners who argued that the increased foot traffic and development would be a shot in the arm for the downtown economy, building trades unions, the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce.

Opponents included senior citizens, high school students, organized by groups in the Oakland Chinatown Coalition, students and instructors in the Save Laney Land for Students Coalition, members of Eastlake United for Justice, 5th Avenue Waterfront Community Alliance, Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt and Causa Justa; Just Cause.

They say they want the team to stay in Oakland but not at Lake Merritt, where the stadium and associated development projects would swamp low-income neighborhoods, jeopardize the future of Laney College and destroy natural habitats.

The administration and board of Peralta are planning for an inclusive process to discuss the proposal, which the A’s organization initially sent to Peralta on Sept. 12.

“The board has not had any time (so far) to consider this issue,” said Peralta Chancellor Dr. Jowel Laguerre.

Sharon Cornu, a consultant who is working with Peralta to lead the community discussion, emphasized that the process is just beginning. “Let’s begin with where we are today,” she said. “There is no commitment, there is no decision, and there is no deal. “

“We’re here to start the process of community benefits and engagement so the trustees can make a decision in the best interests of the Peralta Colleges’ community,” she said.

Speakers in favor of the proposal included Carl Chan of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

“This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said, arguing that the stadium would be good for public safety, jobs, business opportunities and workforce housing.

Alice Lai-Bitker, business owner and former county supervisor, said, “I’m really optimistic about the A’s proposal. I am hoping it will benefit Laney students and businesses and residents nearby in Chinatown and Eastlake. ”

Among the speakers opposed to the stadium was Jing Jing He, who said Chinatown residents, including senior citizens, came to Tuesday’s meeting to “fight for the life of their community.”

“The A’s team has tried to leave Oakland in the past few years,” she said. “They only stayed because San Jose denied their move, and now they say they’re all for Oakland.”

Focusing on environmental impacts, Cindy Margulis, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, said, “We understand the A’s want to be downtown, but this particular site is a catastrophe for the (wildlife) refuge at Lake Merritt.”

James Vann, a member of the Stay the Right Way Coalition, said the project would not be good for Oakland.  “The impacts are monumental. There will never be a way to mitigate the impacts on the channel, on traffic, on the neighborhoods, on freeways, on the college.”

Alvina Wong of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) handed the board a petition opposing the project signed by 1,700 Chinatown residents.

“We’re here, and we’re living here every single day. We don’t get a choice to go somewhere else,” she said. Local residents would be crowded by tens of thousands of A’s fans “who are coming here for one single purpose,”

While her organization has brought people to the meeting and hired translators, the A’s corporation has not done anything yet to reach out to the community.

“I don’t know how we can keep trusting this process,” said Wong.

Published October 13, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

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

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

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

By Post Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published October 1, 2017, Courtesy of the Oakland Post

Community Groups Build East Oakland Neighborhood Power

Local residents attend recent meeting to oppose illegal dumping.

By Ken Epstein

Some of the major community organizations in Oakland have joined together  as the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods to hold a community assembly  to build the collective strength of local residents to impact neighborhood issues such as trash and blight, potholes, the sex trade, homelessness, rising rents and the frustration of dealing with city officials and public agencies that do not pay attention.

The first meeting of the community assembly will be held Saturday, Sept. 30, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at International Community School, 2825 International Blvd. in Oakland. Food, childcare and translation will be provided.

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods includes the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Just Cause; Causa Justa, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC) and Oakland Community Organizations (OCO).

“We expect 1,000 people at the assembly to discuss our values, make plans and discuss strategies and to hold Oakland officials accountable,” said Evangelina Lara, a leader of EBAYC and resident of the San Antonio neighborhood for 18 years.

“These are the issues that the residents themselves have decided are the most important,” she said. “This assembly is bringing together six  (Oakland) organizations to build real power, from the lake to the San Leandro border.”

Andre Spearman, an OCO leader, said the community-based organizations have been working together on some issues for a long time, but they have begun to feel that in order to have more clout, residents from throughout East Oakland need to work together on common issues.
In the past, he said, “We’ve had some victories,” working in individual neighborhoods, “but it doesn’t seem like enough power to really change things, to hold officials as accountable as they should be.”

“If you don’t have power you don’t get consulted,” he said.

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

Published September 13, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Over 1,000 Rally in Oakland to Defend DACA

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

By Post Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oakland’s Superintendent Guarantees Clean Drinking Water at McClymonds High School

Left to right: Star, a student; parent volunteer Tolani King; and John, an Alhambra Water employee, stand next to a new water dispenser that was installed last Friday in the hallway at McClymonds High School. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Though tests found lead in the drinking water at several spots at McClymonds High School in West Oakland, the Oakland Unified School District did little to respond during the last year of the administration of Supt. Antwan Wilson, who left the district early in 2017.

The tests, conducted in August 2016 at the 100-year-old school, found unsafe levels of lead in three places on the campus, including in the showers in the boys’ and girls’ gym. As a result, the district closed the showers, which means the students have not been able to dress for gym for the past year.

But when Ben “Coach” Tapscott, a former Mack teacher and long an advocate for the school, raised an outcry last month, the district responded. He went to the Oakland Post, which published an article about lead in the water in drinking fountains on McClymonds football field. He also went to new district Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, only on the job since July, who took action as soon as she became aware of the situation.

“I immediately called the superintendent’s office and told her that this has been going on for a whole a year,” he said. “She told me, ‘Coach, it will be fixed.´”

In the past few weeks, the district has made a number of immediate but mostly temporary fixes to make sure that students have a plentiful supply of clean water, free of toxic lead and sediments, which –though safe – discolor and cloud the water.

Water faucets by the bleacher area of the football field, which had tested positive for lead, have been fixed. The district replaced the faucets, installed a water filter and ran a new pipe out to the street.

Lead was also found in water faucets in the cafeteria, which have been replaced, and water filters have been installed to reduce the sediment, according to the district. The showers in the gym – the third place lead was found – are still closed, but new showerheads have been ordered to replace the old ones, which were discovered to be the source of the lead, according to the district.

Water in the main school building was found to be lead free but discolored by sediment. All the water faucets have been shut off and covered with plastic. The district contracted with Alhambra Water to place and supply water dispensers on all three floors of the school.
Coach Tapscott said he discovered the water problem when he went to watch Mack´s football team practice before school started.

“(Coach Mike Peters) told me water out there was not safe, and it contained lead. He said he had been going to his mother’s house for a year to fill up water containers, running up her water bill, to make sure the players had safe water.”

Coach Tapscott is outraged that district staff who were responsible for health and safety at the schools allowed students to drink contaminated water for at least a year, and he is determined that the district repair McClymonds to the standards of other schools, not to settle for stop-gap measures.

“Kids have been drinking that water for (at least a year) while people in this district sat on their butts and did nothing for the children,” he said. “Whoever is responsible for this should be fired.”

“They wouldn’t do this in a white school,” Tapscott added.

Tapscott said the district should replace its old galvanized pipes immediately. That would mean hiring a contractor and working weekends to put in new pipes inside and outside of the building.

“You can begin having water in three weeks, digging trenches and crews replacing all the pipes,” he said.  “The main building is a challenge because kids are there, and the crews would have to work on weekends.”

According to the district, replacing the piping throughout the campus is now in the planning stages.  The district estimates that the project will cost about $2.3 million and take a year or more to complete.

In a press statement, Supt. Johnson-Trammell pledged to the community that the district would do what is necessary to fix McClymonds.

“We will keep you, our students, staff, families and other stakeholders, apprised of the process. We will also be engaging the community to ensure that your voices help us determine the best, fastest and most cost effective way to complete these changes for the school.”

Published September 8, 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

Post Salon and Holy Names University Will Honor Dr. Kitty Epstein for 30 Years of Service

 

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

 

By Post Staff

The Post Salon and Holy Names University’s Teacher Apprenticeship Program (TAP) are sponsoring a reception in honor of Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein, who has worked at Holy Names for the past 30 years training teachers and advancing the cause of public education.

The free event will be held Sunday, Sept. 17, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Geoffrey´s Inner Circle, 410 14th St. in downtown Oakland.

In addition to the reception, Dezie Woods-Jones will interview Dr. Epstein on the topic:  “Teacher Activism During Neo-Liberal Times: Navigating the System to Save Public Schools.” An open discussion will follow.

Dr. Epstein in the author of “A Different View of Urban Schools” and host of “Education Today “ on KPFA Radio.

Ms. Woods-Jones is state president of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a former Oakland vice mayor.

To RSVP go to www.hnutapactivism.eventbrite.com

Published September 8, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Carroll Fife Named Director of Oakland/San Francisco ACCE

 

Carroll Fife

By Ken Epstein

Carroll Fife, community activist and co-founder of the Oakland Justice Coalition, has been named interim director of Oakland Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment  (ACCE).

Fife is replacing Anthony Panarese, who recently left after serving in the position for 15 years.

ACCE Action has earned a strong reputation in Oakland for its work to fight home foreclosures and evictions and to pass Measure JJ to protect Oakland renters and raise the minimum wage in the city.

“I am honored to work for a member-driven organization that has dedicated its efforts to unite the community for dignified living wage jobs, affordable housing and the fight to stop displacement and hold Wall Street corporate interests in our community accountable,” said Fife.

“I look forward to helping build the Oakland/San Francisco ACCE into a stronger organization to represent the needs of the those who are being left out and left behind,” she said.

“It is through the hard work of day-to-day, base-building organizing that we will fight and win.”

Published September 6, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post