Category: History and remembering

Oakland Post Reporter Ken Epstein Wins John Swett Media Award

Ken Epstein received the John Swett Award for Media Excellence at a California Teachers Association (CTA) reception Friday in Los Angeles. Show are (l-r): Eric C. Heins, CTA president; Theresa Montaño, CTA vice president; Ken Epstein; Mona Davidson, Communications Committee Chair, CTA; Trish Gorham, Oakland Education Association president; David Goldberg, Secretary-Treasurer, CTA. Photo by Mike Myslinski/CTA.

By Post Staff

Oakland Post reporter and contributing editor Ken Epstein has received the 2018 John Swett Award for Media Excellence for reporting on education issues, an annual statewide competition hosted by the California Teachers Association (CTA).

The award reception, held last Friday in Los Angeles, honored winners who were nominated by local teacher union chapters.  The contest was judged by a panel of professional journalists.

Epstein won in the category of weekly and semi-weekly newspapers. This is the third year in the row that he has received the award, nominated by the Oakland Education Association.

He won for his news analysis about how, back in 2003, he says political leaders helped engineer state control of the Oakland Unified School District.

By not allowing the district to use facilities bond money to balance its budget and then repay the money to itself, state and local politicians forced the district to borrow $100 million, which resulted in the state takeover of the district and the loss of local control, according to Epstein’s article.

The appointed state administrator was removed in 2009, but impact on Oakland’s budget continues, he wrote.

The district still owes the state $40 million, which it is repaying at $6 million a year.

“Our judges praised Ken’s story for providing ‘historical context to ongoing educational disputes in Oakland’ and praised this example of ‘smart political reporting,’” according to a statement released by the CTA.

Questions Continue on Fate of Oakland Public Library’s African-American History Books

 

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

By Ken Epstein

Concerns over the erasure and preservation of Black history and culture in Oakland’s public libraries continued to grow this week, as City Administrator Sabrina Landreth explained library policy on discarding books, while District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks rasied questions on the specifics of the policy and how it is implemented.

Oakland Public Library’s practice of discarding books was brought to public attention last week when community member Assata Olugbala showed up at week’s City Council meeting with an armful books on African American themes that the library had discarded.

One of the emails the Oakland Post received on the subject asked, “How do we protest the discarding of African American books at Oakland Public Library? I am infuriated!”
In a memo dated May 7 to the Oakland City Council, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth wrote:

“Upon research, these particular books, in addition to others, were withdrawn from the Elmhurst Branch Library, having been published between 1990-2007, about 11-28 years ago.
“Books are officially withdrawn periodically to keep the collection responsive to patron needs, to ensure its vitality and usefulness to the community, and to make room for newer materials or newer formats.
“When OPL discards a book, it is typically donated to the local branch of the Friends of the Oakland Public Library.”

In removing books from its 18 branches, Landreth said Oakland follows the guidelines of the American Library Association.

“Oakland librarians are professionals that receive formal training in the care and management of the OPL collection,” she said. “Decisions about what to have in the collection are made by subject specialists at each location based on the needs and interests of the community”

Brooks replied to Landreth in a letter, questioning the policy and seeking information on whether it was followed in this case.

“While your memo responds generally to the concerns raised it doesn’t provide adequate information to make an informed determination that the proper protocols were followed prior to discarding the books,” she wrote.  “This is a serious and extremely troubling issue which warrants a more comprehensive response.”

Further, she wrote, “It is insufficient to say that we follow the American Library Association guidelines. We should revisit a policy which gives the public perception of purging the history and existence of a community. We should make sure that the community is involved in the deselection process. We should also develop a policy to donate discarded books to community and educational institutions.”

Citing OPL policy, Brooks said the library uses statistical reports to analyze whether books are being used by patrons, but “your memo fails to provide sufficient information to determine whether any of this analysis was completed,”

Said Post Publisher Paul Cobb, a former library commissioner, “It is going to be hard for African Americans to support a library tax this year when the Oakland Public Library shows such disregard for   the preservation of Black history information and culture.

“I asked the mayor to resolve this matter, and she said she would look into it, but she has not responded,” said Cobb.

Published May 10, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Public Library Discards African American History Books

Oakland Public Library Main

 

By Post Staff

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

Discarded library books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published May 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

 

 

Oakland Steps Out for Faith with a Joyful Noise

The city of Oakland has long been considered the citadel for progressive civil rights and political movements involving activism for racial and social inclusion and equity.

 In response to neighbors’ complaints about the loud sounds of music coming from churches, ministers and churches called for a public demonstration of respect for its churches instead of using the police and fines to punish their congregations.

More than 30 pastors stood in solidarity with Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. They were joined by city and county officials along with the SambaFunk! drummers, church choirs, gospel soloists and Black Arts groups.

True to its radical and revolutionary roots, Oakland is redefining respect for religion. Ministers called for the city to declare itself, to be a sanctuary city for its sanctuaries.

The First Amendment and religious freedom were embraced by a coalition that included the Oakland NAACP, the Post News Group, Baptists, Methodists, Muslims, Mormons, COGICs, AME, Catholics, the Black Arts Movement, Soul of Oakland, Oakland Private Industry Council, Pastors of Oakland, Baptist Ministers Union, Seventh-day Adventists and many others.

The event took place Saturday, Nov. 7 in front of the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church on Adeline Street in West Oakland. It was the response to a city noise complaint against Pleasant Grove that kicked off the current solidarity movement.

Speaking at the event, Amos Brown of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco said his church has faced similar attempts to silence worship.

He told the crowd that earlier this year “two rogue cops” entered his church one afternoon to tell parishioners to quiet down during a service, where a gumbo band was playing in honor of a church member who had passed away.

But he told the police: “We are going to sing, we are going to shout. We’re going to let nobody tell us to shut up.”

The arts community and the religious community are coming together, said Theo Williams of the SambaFunk! drummers, who performed at the event.

“We came here to stand with you in solidarity,” he said. “This is monumental.”

Said Mayor Libby Schaaf, who spoke after Theo Williams, “This city has some strong roots, and these roots are in our faith community and our arts community.”

“My city has some SambaFunk!,” she said.

City Councilmember and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, who is a rabbi, urged people to raise their voice and sing out in praise.

“It is a miracle that we are still here to sing praises,” said Kaplan, referring to the holocausts faced by Black people during the Middle Passage, Jews during World War II and indigenous people in the United States during the Trail of Tears.

“We give thanks that we have survived to this day,” she said. “Let us use this as a force to unite.”

Bishop Joseph Simmons of Greater St. Paul Baptist Church praised church and community members who have spoken up about attacks on the right to worship.

“I want to thank the people who complained because your complaints made us stand up,” he said.

Rev. Ray Williams of Morning Star Baptist Church said people have to stand up to forces that want to push them out of the city.

“We used to steal away to Jesus to worship,” he said. “(But) we aren’t going to steal away anymore. We’re here to take back what gentrification has taken away from us.”

“We need our council members to have the courage to challenge chase bank for reneging on it’s promise to Oakland,” said Post publisher Paul Cobb.

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

New Biography of Loren Miller, Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist

Loren Miller was one of the nation’s most prominent civil rights attorneys from the 1940s through the early 1960s, particularly in the fields of housing and education.Loren Miller biography

With co-counsel Thurgood Marshall, he argued two landmark civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, whose decisions effectively abolished racially restrictive housing covenants. One of these cases, Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), is taught in nearly every American law school today.

A new biography by Amina Hassan, “Loren Miller: Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist recovers this remarkable figure from the margins of history and for the first time fully reveals his life for what it was: an extraordinary American story and a critical chapter in the annals of racial justice.

Born the son of a former slave and a white mid-westerner in 1903, Loren Miller lived the quintessential American success story, both by rising from rural poverty to a position of power and influence and by blazing his own path.

In her book, Hassan reveals Miller as a fearless critic of the powerful and an ardent debater whose acid wit was known to burn “holes in the toughest skin and eat right through double-talk, hypocrisy, and posturing.”

As a freshly minted member of the bar who preferred political activism and writing to the law, Miller set out for Los Angeles from Kansas in 1929.

Amina Hassan

Amina Hassan

Hassan describes his early career as a fiery radical journalist, as well as his ownership of the California Eagle, one of the longest- running African American newspapers in the West.

In his work with the California branch of the ACLU, Miller sought to halt the internment of West Coast Japanese citizens, helped integrate the U.S. military and the L.A. Fire Department, and defended Black Muslims arrested in a deadly street battle with the LAPD.

Hassan charts Miller’s ceaseless commitment to improving the lives of Americans regardless of their race or ethnicity. In 1964, Governor Edmund G. Brown appointed Miller as a Municipal Court justice for Los Angeles County.

The story told here in full for the first time is of a true American original who defied societal limitations to reshape the racial and political landscape of twentieth-century America.

Dr. Amina Hassan is an independent historian and award-winning public radio documentarian whose productions include a 13-part series for National Public Radio on how race, class, and gender shape American sports.

Former a member of the staff of radio station KPFA in Berkeley, she currently works as a media content consultant and researcher for the Azara Group.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, Oct. 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Dominguita Velasco, Latino Community Activist, 114

Dominguita Velasco, shown celebrating her 111th birthday with family and friends, died Oct. 11 at the age of 114.

Dominguita Velasco, shown celebrating her 111th birthday with family and friends, died Oct. 11 at the age of 114.

Dominguita Velasco, an activist in Oakland’s Latino community, died Oct. 11 at the age of 114.

“She may have been small in stature, but she was a strong woman who was respected. People recognized her leadership and loved her. Most of all, she was very caring,” Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo told the Oakland Tribune.

Velasco and her family were Mexican immigrants who settled in West Oakland in the 1920s.Dominguita Velasco

According to Robert Young, director of Gerontology Research Group’s research division, she was California’s oldest verified resident, the second-oldest person in the United States and the seventh-oldest person in the world,

“A lot of sad things happened to me, but I don’t dwell on the past,” she said in 2004. “I just like to help people, and I always like fiestas.”

She was still active into her 100s, according to former City Councilman Ignacio de la Fuente.

“She was a real dynamo. She would organize people at Posada de Colores, where she lived, and would stuff envelopes during elections,” he told the Tribune.

Well into her 90s, she walked precincts in support of de la Fuente.

“She was one of the first women who not only promoted Latino culture and Latino businesses, but she was herself one of the first Latino businesswomen in Oakland,” he said. “She was a dear, dear person.”

Velasco ran two Mexican restaurants on Seventh Street that became gathering places for informal neighborhood groups.

Those groups eventually grew into the Unity Council and the Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation, which are major forces in the Fruitvale district, where many Latinos, including Velasco, began moving to in the 1950s.

Born in 1901 in Mexico, she immigrated to El Paso with her mother before she settled in Oakland.

Noticing the lack of Latino culture in the area, Velasco organized a group that performed a traditional song and dance at a pageant. That was the beginning of her promoting Latino culture in Oakland. And she continued to dance at numerous events over the years.

The Unity Council’s Casa Velasco Senior Housing in the Fruitvale district is named after her.

In addition to her daughter, Velasco is survived by two grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.

A memorial Mass is scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 14 at St. Anthony Church, 1535 16th Ave., Oakland.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 29, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

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Celebrating My 99th Birthday

By Ms. Verlie Mae Pickens

Hello there! This is Verlie Mae Pickens.  I celebrated my 99th Birthday on June 11.

Verlie Mae Pickens

Verlie Mae Pickens

I was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I am a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Alfred Nisby.  My mother’s name is Lillian Lumpkin Nisby.

I am the fourth child of eight.  I am the second daughter, of six girls.

I had such wonderful parents – they were so kind and loving to me, I think because they never thought I would make it to go to school, but I did.

I played tennis, volleyball, and touch football.  I had a bicycle. Growing up in Lake Charles at that time, there were no cars, no paved streets.

I took up piano lessons.  I was not Catholic, but I went to a Catholic school, where you have to pay to go.  The children would fight at the public school.

I graduated from Sacred Heart High School in 1936.

When I was about 17 years old, I played piano for my church choir, until I married at 20 years old, a man out of the choir, Mr. Joseph Henry Anderson.

I divorced him and later married Mr. Pickens.  I only had one son for Mr. Anderson.  My second marriage I had none. Mr. Pickens’ full name is Mr. Samuel Vanburn Pickens.

I moved to San Francisco in 1939.  I came out to help my young brother’s wife.  They begged me to stay out here.  I have been in San Francisco for 66 years and have been in my home now for 63 years.

I have had some wonderful jobs.  I am one of the “Rose Riveter Ladies” who worked at the Lockheed airplane factory in Los Angeles during the war years.

I worked on the “P. 38.” They were the fast planes during World War II.  My job was to do the riveting on the tail end of the plane.

In San Francisco, I worked at Blum’s Bakery, making cakes, pies, and candies.  I also worked at Langendorf Bakery, making breads and rolls, until I retired.

I have worked hard all of my life.  So did my husband Mr. Pickens.  We loved to travel.  We travelled through Mexico and Canada.  We have visited every state in the United States, except for Rhode Island.

I like to volunteer in the community.  I want to encourage everybody, especially all the children and young people and seniors.

We have to give guidance to our children and young people.  Nowadays, some of the children and young people don’t listen to parents or grandparents, and that’s how they get in trouble.

When I was growing up in Lake Charles, my neighbors kept an eye on people.  And my neighbors would look out for the children and young people.  If one of the neighbors said to me, “I’ll tell your mother and father. Before I got home, they already told my parents.”

I’ve seen a lot of changes since coming to San Francisco.  One of them is there were no freeways when I came here in 1939.

I went to a meeting recently, where they said that these companies are building now wherever they can find a piece of land.  For example, they were tearing up Candlestick Park and the parking lot around it to build large apartment buildings and condos.

They are getting millions of dollars for those apartments and condos.  The buyers are coming from other places, buying them up and renting them or renting them out.

I am so deeply thankful to God for All of God’s Rich Blessings, and for giving me a long, happy and healthy life.

Courtesy of the San Francisco Post, September 4, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Richard Linyard, 23, Is Remembered for Message of Unity

 

Richard Linyard

Richard Linyard

By Jaron Epstein

Richard Linyard, known as a leader amongst his peers and conscious rapper under the name “Afrikan Richie,” died on July 19. He was 23 years old.

Growing up in Oakland, he was a devoted son and brother, making sure his mother and brother were always taken care of. Wherever you saw Richard, his younger brother was never too far behind him.

He is remembered as a young man that always took the high road to avoid altercations.

Richard was always into music. He started writing raps about 15 years ago reflecting his personal experiences.

One of his songs, “For the People,” reflected on the challenges faced by Black people, the assassination of Black leaders and other tactics that were used to dismantle the Black movement.

The musical message he shared with young people was, everybody hustles in his or her own way but don’t just hustle for material things.

Richard had a strong sense of self and pride in being a Black man. He was full of love and compassion for all people and touched many lives.

He will be remembered for standing up and speaking out for young people and spreading a message of unity amongst all oppressed people.

A GoFundMe page created by a cousin of Richard’s  at www.gofundme.com/zsv984, remembers him as “a bright young man who was always there to help someone in need.”

Donations will assist with burial funds.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 9, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Remembering Post Founder Thomas L. Berkley

(L to R): Justice Clinton Wayne White (1921-2001; Hon. Joseph Gamble Kennedy ( - 1979); Thomas Lucius Berkley (1915 - 2001);  and Hon. Terry Arthur Francois, San Francisco Supervisor (1922-1989). Photo taken circa 1950 when the three lawyers clerked  at Berkley's firm.

(L to R): Justice Clinton Wayne White (1921-2001); Hon. Joseph Gamble Kennedy ( – 1979); Thomas Lucius Berkley (1915 – 2001); and Hon. Terry Arthur Francois, San Francisco Supervisor (1922-1989). Photo taken circa 1950 when the three lawyers clerked at Berkley’s firm.

Thomas Lucius Berkley, 1915–2001, was founder and publisher the Post News Group, as well as a lawyer, newspaper publisher, world-class athlete, and chairman of the Oakland Port Authority Board of Commissioners, serving 1969-1981.

Thomas L. Berkey

Thomas L. Berkey

He was the first Black commissioner, serving two terms including the position of president. 2 He played a major role in improving the port by helping it become a container operation that moved cargo with cranes.

He also served on the Oakland School Board and the California World Trade Commission.

He formed the Post newspaper publishing group serving Oakland and Northern California, and the Spanish language El Mundo newspaper covering The Bay Area.

Born in DuQuoin, Illinois on Aug. 9, 1915, Berkeley was the grandson of four slaves. His father was a coal miner and labor union organizer, his mother a teacher.

Berkley’s parents decided in 1920 that the segregated schools in southern Illinois were not adequate for their children, so they and seven of their eight children moved to California’s Imperial Valley where they lived for six years.

The family later moved to a ranch in Fullerton. Four of the children graduated from college, three of whom earned advanced degrees.

Berkley studied economics and then law at UCLA where track coach Brutus Hamilton rated him as the world’s best hurdler in 1938. When the 1940 Olympic Games were canceled, he joined the army where he became an officer specialized in logistics and achieved the rank of second lieutenant.

After completing his military service, he returned to Oakland where he established the largest racially integrated law firm in the country.

When Berkley died on Dec. 27, 2001, then-mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown announced that the street where Berkley’s law office was located was being renamed “Thomas L Berkley Way.”

At the time, Congresswoman Barbara Lee said: “The world has lost a giant of a man, champion for justice.”

Congressman and Oakland mayor Ron Dellums said: “Tom was a visionary, a globalist, a teacher.”

Post news reporter Bill Hughes called Berkeley “ a coal miner’s son, a longshoreman who struggled for an education and never lost his humanity or his desire to improve the human condition, especially for the less fortunate.”

Courtesy of the Post News Group, August 6, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Eighth Anniversary of Assassination of Post Editor Chauncey Bailey

Chauncey Bailey

Chauncey Bailey

By Ken Epstein

Post News Group Editor Chauncey Bailey was murdered Aug. 2, 2007 at 7:30 a.m. in downtown Oakland while walking to work to meet Post Publisher Paul Cobb.

A combined journalistic effort by Bay Area media and some national media services responded to the Cobb’s call to create a Chauncey Bailey Project to keep the killing from being swept under the rug.

Since then, the Newseum in Washington, D.C., a national museum of news and journalism, has memorialized Bailey’s story.

“We have continued the transparency-oriented journalism for which Chauncey was famous and will continue to expand on that approach in our coverage of the city, schools and other issues that are important to the community,” said Cobb.

“There is not a day that goes by when we don’t think of Chauncey and his contributions,” said Cobb.

“We look forward to the day when the city will have some sort of tangible monument to Chauncey’s fearless journalism.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 2, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)