Category: LGBT

Council Adopts Kaplan’s $3.2 Billion Budget

Bas wins $12 million for Community Land Trust affordable housing fund

 

Hundreds of supporters of the City Council’s modifications to Mayor Schaaf’s proposed budget filled City Hall during the council’s budget deliberations over the past month. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Voting Tuesday night, the Oakland City Council adopted a two-year, $3.2 billion budget, partially resolving the ongoing political fight with Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration over how much of the city’s income will be directed toward services for residents  and wages for the city workers who deliver many of those services.

The new budget, named the “Oakland Together” budget, directs $87 million to priorities identified by council members and supported by community members and groups, including the ReFund Coalition, which represents a number of community organizations and city worker unions.

Rebecca Kaplan

Council President Rebecca Kaplan, who had faced attacks from Mayor Libby Schaaf and the media for her leadership in producing the Oakland Together budget, told the Oakland Post she was pleased with what was in the new spending package but that several key issues were still unresolved.

“Even though many, many great items were  included in the budget we passed (Tuesday) night, I’m not celebrating yet because we are still working to finish up some very important final items, specifically, resolving the (funding) situation with our workforce development funding and issues of our own city workers.”

In a statement to the Post, Mayor Schaaf said, “I’m grateful our City Council kept the administration’s proposal as the framework for the budget it unanimously adopted last night. The last-minute augmentations still warrant close review, yet I’m pleased the Council’s unified action will allow us to make unprecedented investments in homelessness and affordable housing and to start a historic road-paving plan on July 1.”

The City Council’s changes in the Schaaf administration budget included:

• A study of Cahoots, a program that would utilize mental  health workers to respond to mental health crises instead of police;

• Remove the Mayor’s proposal to cut parks maintenance workers, which would have primarily impacted parks in flatland neighborhoods;

• Conduct an audit of the Oakland Police Department, which would examine police overtime costs;

• Substantial increase of homeless services;

• Some additional funding for the Private Industry Council and other workforce development;

• East Oakland healthy corner store conversions;

• Public bathrooms;

• Evening hours for permits at Planning and Building so small property owners can get timely approval of projects.

Nikki Fortunato Bas

Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas said in a statement that she was pleased the council passed her proposal, the Preservation of Affordable Housing Fund (PAHF), to allocate $12 million to create a municipal fund for community land trusts and limited equity housing cooperatives to take housing off of the speculative market by acquiring and preserving rental properties with 25 or fewer units.

“This fund is a bold investment in a visionary solution that…puts (properties) permanently in the hands of Oaklanders,” said Fortunato Bas, who developed the proposal with local grassroots organizations Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action and Oakland Community Land Trust (OakCLT).

She emphasized that the new budget also includes programs to address Oakland’s housing, displacement, and homelessness crises, including hiring a mobile outreach team and full-time administrator focused on homelessness, creating homeless navigation centers, and expanding direct legal and emergency rent assistance for tenants.

“Our longtime neighbors are being pushed out while thousands of luxury housing units are being developed. This budget is a huge systemic opportunity to fix a crisis that is everywhere we look and only getting worse,” said Fortunato Bas. “We can’t solve it by tinkering at the margins, dedicating resources only a fraction the size of the challenges we face.”

Carroll Fife, director of Oakland ACCE and part  of the Refund Oakland Community and Labor Coalition, told the Post that the coalition had realized many of the demands they had sought to achieve this year, “from funds for affordable housing and anti-displacement to additional resources to address the city’s illegal dumping epidemic.”

However, she said “There is a great deal of work to do. One budget cycle will not rectify the years of disinvestment that have impacted our most disenfranchised residents.”

Fife also called on people to support city workers in their fight for a pay raise and the filling of vacant jobs. “Vacancies in Housing and Community Development, Public Works and the Sewer department, to name a few, have direct and immediate repercussions on the entire city,” she said.

Former mayoral candidate Cat Brooks told the Post, “This is the most progressive budget Oakland has ever passed. It’s a big step in the right direction.”

But “It still does not go far enough in terms of divesting some monies from the bloated police budget and redirecting those dollars to critical needs for Oakland that actually keep us safe,” she said.

Published June 28, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Castlemont High Celebrates Coming Out Day

By Zack Haber

This year,  Castlemont High School celebrated National Coming Out Day for the first time. On Oct. 11, Castlemont students, teachers, and staff joined the yearly celebration, a holiday that creates awareness for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people while encouraging them to be open about their sexuality and identity.

Steven Reaves, Castlemont’s theater teacher and LGBTQ liaison, organized the celebration by hanging up pictures of famous LGBTQ people around the school and hosting a lunchtime party in his room.

The party featured music and pizza and attracted about 50 people. The attendees were mostly Castlemont students, but Castlemont teachers and one student from a neighboring charter school, Leadership Public School of Oakland, also attended.

“I was shocked,” Reaves said. “I didn’t expect that many people.” Although LGBTQ students showed up for the party, Reaves says he thinks there were also many straight people who “came to support not only their peers, but also me as a gay teacher.”

In addition to the school-wide celebration, some Castlemont LGBTQ students found and created their own meaning for National Coming Out Day. One student came out to his family as gay. Another student, a transgender teenage girl named Luis Salas, announced that she was running for homecoming queen.

Salas’s announcement marks the first time that an openly transgender person has run for homecoming court in Castlemont High School’s history. When asked about why she was running she said that she cared more about changing the school than winning. Salas has been openly transgender since 7th grade, which she said was hard at first but has become easier as time has passed.

“There aren’t really a lot of openly trans people here but there are a lot of gay people,” she said. “Since I started being more open I feel like people have started following under my footsteps.”

Published November 16, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Race & Equity Dept. Report Calls for End to Systemic Racial Disparities

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

City Councilmembers  this week took the “first step” to implement the “2018 Oakland Equity Indicators Report,” a recent study that provides data on racial disparities experienced by African Americans and Latinos in nearly all areas of life in Oakland, including housing, health, public safety and education.

Darlene Flynn

The report, a joint project of the Resilient Oakland Office and the city’s Department of Race and Equity, was released in July. The plan now calls for the council and city departments to begin to examine policies and programs “through intentional focus on race and ethnic disparities and their root causes,” said Darlene Flynn, director of the Department of Race & Equity, speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Life Enrichment Committee.

The report was funded by a $140,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation,

The ultimate goal is “fairness,” which means that “identity—such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or expression—has no detrimental effect on the distribution of resources, opportunities and outcomes for our city’s residents,” according to the report to the council submitted by Flynn.

The report will be updated each year, “measuring how much we have changed (in terms of) what our outcomes are,” because “if we keep doing things the same way we are doing them, we will keep getting the same outcomes,” Flynn said.

The report looked at Oaklanders’ quality of life based on 72 indicators in six areas: economy, education, public health, housing, public safety and neighborhood and civic life.

On a scale of 1 to 100, the report gave the city an overall average score of 33.5. The number 1 represents the highest possible inequity, while 100 represents the highest possible equity.

“This is not good news. It should also not be surprising news for people who are paying to attention to how people’s lives are going in (Oakland),” Flynn said.

“This (report) shows that race does matter. Every area that we looked showed some level of disparity by race and usually quite a bit of disparity,” she said.
One indicator, “Oakland Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity,” shows that 26.1 percent of African Americans live at or below the poverty line, while only 8.4 percent of whites are classified as poor.

In other words, “African Americans are three times more likely to live in poverty than whites,” she said.

In addition, one of five Latinos, 21.9 percent, live in poverty. Overall, the poverty rate in Oakland is 17 percent.

This pattern can be seen in nearly all of the 72 indicators: African Americans are the most “negatively impacted,” followed by Latinos, she said.

On 12 indicators, the city received a 1.0, the lowest possible score:

  • Education – student suspensions
  • Education – teaching staff representative of the student body
  • Public Health – child asthma emergency department visits
  • Public Health – substance abuse emergency department visits
  • Housing – homelessness
  • Public safety – adult felony arrests
  • Public safety – jail incarceration
  • Public safety – prison incarceration,
  • Public safety – use of force
  • Public safety – homicides
  • Public safety – juvenile felony arrests
  • Neighborhood and Civil Life – pedestrian safety

The five highest scoring indicators:

  • Equal Access Accommodations (language access) – 100
  • Adopt-a-Drain – 80
  • Homeownership with mortgage – 78
  • Life expectancy – 77
  • Labor force participation – 72
  • Participation in workforce development – 72

A high score does not necessarily mean that an outcome is good, but that is it more equal across different groups of residents.

Flynn, who has headed the Department of Race and Equity since it was formed two years ago through the efforts of Councilmember Desley Brooks, was cautiously optimistic about what the work around the new equity report can achieve.

“This is just the first step, not the end of the story,” said Flynn, pointing out that government played a role in creating the systemic inequities that exist, and it can play a role in reversing them. “I have some level of optimism that with public will, with leadership support, with changes in strategy, we can make a difference,” she said. “By leading with race, we can make a difference.”

To read the report, go to www.ca.gov/projects/oakland-equity-indicators

Published November 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Bernie Sanders Endorses Jovanka Beckles for Assembly

Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Barbara Lee with Jovanka Beckles at get-out-the-vote rally last Saturday.

Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Jovanka Beckles for Assembly District 15 following a weekend rally in Berkeley.

“While in Berkeley, I had the chance to meet with Jovanka Beckles, and I was impressed by her commitment to progressive values,” said Sanders.

“In the State Assembly, she will fight for Medicare for all, a living wage for all California workers, environmental justice and criminal justice reform,” he said. “I’m proud to support Jovanka Beckles in the 15th Assembly district.”

Sanders met with Beckles following an auditorium-packing rally with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) in a speech excoriating President Trump. Berkeley was the final stop on his dynamic, nine-state Get Out The Vote (GOTV) tour.

The event, on the grounds of Berkeley High School at the packed 3,500-seat Berkeley Community Theater, began with a speech by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

Published November 1, 2018

Pamela Price Campaign Joins Forces with Jovanka Beckles

Price has been endorsed by Black Democratic Clubs and Dr. H. Geoffrey Watson

 

Jovanka Beckles (fifth from left) and Pamela Price (fourth from right) join with volunteers to talk to voters at East Bay BART stations.

Pamela Price

The Pamela Price for Oakland Mayor campaign has joined forces with the Jovanka Beckles for Assembly District 15 campaign to canvass at BART stations throughout the East Bay, from Richmond to Rockridge station.

Together, volunteers from both teams and the two candidates themselves have engaged with voters.  Jovanka Beckles recently earned the endorsement of Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

“I am excited by the progress of Jovanka’s campaign and the prospect of her victory,” said Price.

“I look forward to having a steady advocate for the people in Sacramento once Jovanka is elected to the State Assembly. I am thrilled that Congresswoman Barbara Lee has stepped up to endorse Jovanka.”

Jovanka Beckles

Meanwhile, Pamela Price has been endorsed by two Democratic Clubs founded by African American activists in the East Bay, the Oakland East Bay Democratic Club (OEBDC) and the Niagara Movement Democratic Club.

OEBDC was founded in the late 1940s to work for Black political self-determination through electoral politics by organizing grassroots coalitions of East Bay African Americans.
The Niagara Movement Democratic Club was established in 1973 to bolster the voice of Oakland’s Black community and ensure equal representation in politics.

Additionally, Price has been endorsed by Dr. H. Geoffrey Watson, longtime community activist and president and CEO of the James A. Watson Wellness Center.

Dr. Watson has spent decades working for healthcare services to meet the needs of the African American community in the East Bay. He has been a pioneer in educating the public about health, wellness, and preventive pathways through the media, having launched and hosted local radio and broadcast television shows, including Health Beat.

Published October 19, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

“Unite Against Hate,” Say East Bay Leaders

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

 

By Ken Epstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 (postnewsgroup.com)

Alicia Garza of #BlackLivesMatter Serves as Grand Marshal, Speaks at SF Pride Parade

“We have a lot of work to do to make sure that there is equity for all of us,” says Garza

Oakland's Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, was selected as Community Grand Marshal for the 2015 Pride Parade and spoke before City Hall about the need to keep fighting for all Black lives. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

Oakland’s Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, was selected as Community Grand Marshal for the 2015 Pride Parade and spoke before City Hall about the need to keep fighting for all Black lives. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina

Amid the rainbow-clad crowds cheering at this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade arose a mass of Black Power fists. They belonged to the Bay Area contingent of #BlackLivesMatter, an organizing network comprised of an intergenerational and all-gendered crew of activists fighting for the human rights of Black people around the world.

Amid the rainbow-clad crowds cheering at this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade arose a mass of Black Power fists. They belonged to the Bay Area contingent of #BlackLivesMatter, an organizing network comprised of an intergenerational and all-gendered crew of activists fighting for the human rights of Black people around the world.

Alicia Garza, the Oakland-based co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, was selected as the Member’s Choice for Community Grand Marshal at the 2015 Pride celebration. Grand Marshals are considered local heroes who have made significant contributions to the LGBTQ community and society at large.

Speaking at the parade rally at City Hall, Garza emphasized that despite the progress that has been made, there is still much work to be done for Black lives.

“Is it okay that the average life expectancy of a Black trans person in this country is 35 years old? No, that ain’t right!” said Garza.

“Is it okay that there’s more Black people in jail than are in the population of San Francisco right now? Hell no! Look around you right now. Do you know this city has less than a four percent Black population? And that is not a mistake, my friends,” she said.

#BlackLivesMatter was co-created by Garza along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. Symbolically, it has stood firmly “as a love note to Black people in the face of state and vigilante brutality, violence and oppression,” said Garza.

The network began as a hashtag and expanded into an international organizing project, seen by many as an affirmation and embrace of the resistance and resilience of Black people.

Last Sunday, over two dozen #BlackLivesMatter organizers and supporters marched in the Pride Parade behind Garza who sat next to Miss Major, last year’s Community Grand Marshal, in a convertible reserved for her.

The movement’s supporters carried a banner inscribed with Assata Shakur’s name and her famous call, “It is our duty to fight.” They were dressed mostly in black in contrast to the colorful gathering surrounding them.

The group was mostly comprised of Black queer and trans people, some just married.

#BlackLivesMatter came out in full force to San Francisco’s Pride Parade 2015 on June 28  to highlight the intersections between race, gender, sexual orientation, ability and class. Over two dozen Black organizers and affiliates marched down Market Street with their fists raised and a banner that quoted Assata Shakur's words:  “It is our duty to fight.” Photo by Tulio Ospina.

#BlackLivesMatter came out in full force to San Francisco’s Pride Parade 2015 on June 28 to highlight the intersections between race, gender, sexual orientation, ability and class. Over two dozen Black organizers and affiliates marched down Market Street with their fists raised and a banner that quoted Assata Shakur’s words: “It is our duty to fight.” Photo by Tulio Ospina.

“With our contingent in the parade, we tried to hammer home the message that all Black lives matter, that Black trans lives matter, that Black queer lives matter and that Black people are also queer and are also trans,” said Garza.

“As we think about the celebration of Pride, let us not forget that the road is still long and that we have a lot of work to do to make sure that there is equity for all of us,” urged Garza after her speech.

“We’re going to keep pushing forward this motto: ‘None of us are free until all of us are free.'”

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

LGBT Mural at Galería de la Raza Set on Fire

Ani Rivera, director of Galería de la Raza, speaks before a crowd of 300 supporters where a LGBT mural was set ablaze on Monday night, June 29. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

Ani Rivera, director of Galería de la Raza, speaks before a crowd of 300 supporters where a LGBT mural was set ablaze on Monday night, June 29. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

SF Mission Locals Call for Unity in the Face of Hate Crime

By Tulio Ospina

Over 300 community members rallied last Wednesday in front of Galería de la Raza, an art gallery in San Francisco’s Mission district where an LGBT mural depicting two gay couples and a Latino trans man has been defaced three times in the last month.

The artist from the Los Angeles-based Maricón Collective had just finished repainting the mural for a second time when someone attempted to set the wall on fire last Monday night, endangering the lives of the building’s inhabitants.

This happened on June 29, the day after San Francisco celebrated its largest Pride event in history.

“In the face of the Supreme Court’s decision for marriage equality and the joyous Pride celebration we had, waking up the next day and seeing this was incredibly painful,” said San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, speaking at the rally.

Campos and several community leaders spoke at the gathering, sharing words of anger, pain, and sadness. Many speakers spoke about the need to remain united.

“We cannot let this violent act be a distraction for our community,” said Ani Rivera, director of the Galería.

“We must come together to retain our history and regain our space. Ten thousand people have been displaced from the Mission—8,000 of them Latino—and we cannot let this be a distraction,” she said

Rivera was referring to the fight that many community organizations are currently engaged in to get the San Francisco City Council to pass a moratorium on the development of luxury housing in the area.

Last Monday’s hate crime also comes at a time when at least seven predominantly Black churches have gone up in flames throughout the South since the shooting at Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina.

Mount Zion AME, one of the churches that caught fire this past week, had previously been burned to the ground by members of the Ku Klux Klan in a rash of church fires that torched more than 600 mostly Black churches across the South in 1995.

Mount Zion was within driving distance of the church where the nine worshipers were murdered.

Among the speakers at the Galería de la Raza was Rev. Richard Smith, a clergyman from St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco, who also stressed the importance of unity within the community.

“Racism and homophobia all come from the same beast,” said Rev. Smith, linking the acts of arson. “We have to deal with the same hatred here in the Bay as they do in the South and it all has to do with how we come together to deal with it.”

“Too many moms and dads have shed tears seeing their kids get killed or sent to prison or deported. But we’ve stood together—and strongly so—since the beginning. It is important for us to stay together still,” added Rev. Smith.

San Francisco police are currently investigating the hate crime. The Galería had installed surveillance cameras facing the mural after it was vandalized the first time.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Opinion: Oakland Needs Office of Race and Equity

“Allow ourselves to become comfortable with being uncomfortable”

 By Desley Brooks

It is widely known now that I have called for an office of Race and Equity to be established in the City of Oakland. Voices have risen up across our entire city from residents, community

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

organizations, agencies, and other elected officials discussing the need for such an office in our city.

The most resounding voice on the issue is in absolute agreement of a need for an office of Race and Equity. However there are other opinions as well ranging from moderate consideration, outright disagreement, as well as those who are undecided.

Race is a subject that we handle very interestingly in America. It impacts so much of the atmosphere in the worlds of business, politics, education, and family life, whether we admit it or not.

Yet we are largely uncomfortable having meaningful discourse around this thing that is so prevalent in our day-to-day lives. Because we are uncomfortable talking about race, many of us tend to pick a side on an issue concerning race and just stand on that square, unwilling to really hear the perspective of others.

If we are going to address racial inequalities in our city, we are going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

We are going to have to be willing to respectfully listen to the opinions and ideas of others that may not always sit well with us or even stir up emotions of fear, anger, and guilt.

Racial equity is not an issue of politics – it is an issue of humanity that can be addressed through a political process.

I obviously believe in the need for such an office in our city, but I’m not asking anyone to blindly join this cause or agree with me automatically.

I invite all of us to explore the facts and consider the climate in our city as it relates to race and equity in Oakland.

My hope is that we all will allow ourselves to be comfortable being uncomfortable and asking ourselves questions and reflecting personally on our experiences and beliefs relating to race and racism.

Desley Brooks is a member of the Oakland City Council, representing District 6.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 11, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)