Category: Racial profiling

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

“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

Bay Area Protests Against White Supremacy, in Solidarity with Charlottesville

Rep. Barbara Lee calls on president to remove bigoted White House aides

 

A protester in San Francisco on Sunday carries a photo Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed by a white supremacist who drove his car into counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” march last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, has been honored as a martyr who “wanted to put down hate.” Photo courtesy of ABC7.

A protester in San Francisco on Sunday carries a photo Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed by a white supremacist who drove his car into counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” march last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, has been honored as a martyr who “wanted to put down hate.” Photo courtesy of ABC7.

 

By Post Staff

Protests last took place across the Bay Area over the weekend in response to the killing of an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, part of a nationwide upsurge of anger against the resurgence of white supremacists and Nazis and President Trump´s support for bigotry.

Protests were held Saturday and Sunday in Oakland. The Saturday march was called, “Charlottesville We Got Your Back, Bay Area United Against White Supremacy.” Among the signs marchers carried were ones that read, “White Silence Equals Violence” and “Call it what it is. White supremacy.”

Oakland’s Sunday evening protest was held in front of City Hall, “for unity and (to make) a firm stance against white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism and hate,” according to a Facebook calendar page.

A march was also held in Berkeley, and candlelight vigils were scheduled at City Hall in San Francisco, the Contra Costa County Courthouse in Martinez, Adobe Park in Castro Valley and Poinsett Park in El Cerrito.

In the South Bay, protests were scheduled Sunday at San Jose City Hall, Mountain View’s Gateway Park, at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, at the Morgan Hill Community & Cultural Center and at the Santa Cruz Clock Tower.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, along with the “Quad Caucus,” sent a letter this week to President Trump demanding he immediately remove white supremacists Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller from the White House.

Issuing the statement were Congresswoman Lee and leadership of the Congressional Quad-Caucus, composed of chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).

“The white supremacists who descended upon Charlottesville have brought vile racism, hatred and bigotry to the forefront of our political discourse once again,” said Congresswoman Lee. “We cannot address the dangerous spread of white supremacy in America without honestly examining its influence on the Oval Office.

“President Trump has elevated hate and discrimination to the highest levels of our government. From the Muslim Ban, to raids on immigrant communities, a ban on transgender Americans serving in our military, attempts to revive the failed war on drugs and an all-out assault on civil and human rights, the influence of the alt-right is clear in the Trump Administration’s policy agenda.

“Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller have long embraced the views of white supremacists, white nationalists and Neo-Nazis. These prejudiced ideologies have no place in the highest office in our land. I urge President Trump to remove (them) from the White House without delay.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham said:

“It is shameful that Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, who each have ties to extremist and white nationalist ideological groups and leaders, are serving as President Trump’s top advisors.

“Extremists groups have used their presence in the White House to legitimize their divisive and violent rhetoric, ideology, and actions. They should have no role in creating national policy or pushing their twisted political agenda.”

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

New Citizens’ Police Commission Could Become Among Strongest in Nation

 OccupyOaklandStrikePolice

 

By Post Staff

A selection panel made its final choices this week for the city’s new citizens’ police commission, established by an overwhelming vote in November, which will have significant power to investigate and punish police misconduct and help set policies for the Oakland Police Department.

Four commissioners were picked Monday by the selection panel. Three additional members were appointed by Mayor Libby Schaaf. Two alternates, one picked by Mayor Schaaf and one selected by the panel, were also named.

Edwin Prather

Edwin Prather

Originally, almost 150 Oakland residents applied to be on the commission. The selection panel ultimately interviewed 28 finalists.

A number of observers have argued that Oakland’s police commission, which has the power to fire the police chief and recommend a pool of finalists to replace the chief, could end up being one of the strongest in the nation.

According to Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability, “The selection panel was absolutely stunned” that so many applications were turned in, including 50 that came in on the last day.

The members of the panel had a huge amount of work  sorting through the applications and contacting references, she said. “(But) I think they came out with an absolutely great group of people. I think they did a fabulous job.”

The idea of utilizing a selection panel composed mostly of residents, not politicians, to pick the members of police commission “has never been done before” anywhere in the nation, she said.

Once the City Council comes back from recess in September, it will have to vote on confirming the commissioners, giving the public a chance to weigh in, she said.

Regina Jackson

Regina Jackson

The City of Oakland also has to hire two positions that were budgeted to staff the work of the commission.

“I think by October the police commission should be ready to start work,” said Grinage.

Panel appointees:

Mubarak Ahmad works for AC Transit. He coaches little league baseball and is a basketball coach for Montera Middle School.  He is the father of six children and six grandchildren.

Jose Dorado, an Oakland native, runs a tax and bookkeeping business in the Frutivale District. He is the longtime leader of Maxwell Park Neighborhood Council, which works on public safety issues. He also served on the Measure Y oversight committee.

Jose Dorado

Jose Dorado

Ginale Harris lives in East Oakland. She currently works as a San Francisco deputy court clerk. She has worked as a probation and parole advocate helping formerly incarcerated people. In 2012, she served on SFPD Chief Greg Suhr’s violence prevention committee.

Mike Nisperos, who was raised in Oakland, has served as an Alameda County prosecutor and an associate in the John Burris law firm handling police misconduct cases. He authored the Oakland Mayor’s 2001 Public Safety Plan. He has been arrested by OPD four times.

Alternate Maureen Benson is a 17-year Oakland resident. She has worked as an Oakland teacher and principal.

Mayoral appointees:

Edwin Prather is an attorney in San Francisco. He has worked with the Asian Law Caucus and for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Thomas Smith serves as the political action chair of the Oakland NAACP. He previously worked as a management consultant for McKinsey and Company. He helped set up a charter school in Massachusetts and was on the board of a charter school in Oakland.

Regina Jackson serves as president and CEO of the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC).
Alternate Andrea Dooley is an attorney and an arbitrator who has worked at Kaiser Permanente.

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Black Students Demand School District Take Steps to Reduce Racism at Berkeley High

By Ken Epstein

In the wake of a racist, violent threat and a one-day walkout by most of the student body at Berkeley High School (BHS), the school’s Black Student Union is demanding that the school board and district administration act immediately to reduce the level of racism on campus, create a safe place at the school for African American students and enhance the teaching of African American studies.

Nebeyat Zekaryas

Nebeyat Zekaryas

The demands were presented to the board and Supt. Donald Evans at the Dec. 9 board meeting by Black Student Union (BSU) Co-Presidents Nebeyat Zekaryas and Alecia Harger.

Zekaryas told the board that the BSU is raising its demands “in light of the terroristic messages left on a Berkeley High computer on Nov. 4, 2015 and in light of the continued instances of systemic and interpersonal racism that plague our school.”

“We demand that history curriculum in grades K through 12 be amended to include Black history and an accurate view of colonialism … African history up to the present day, the history of the Black people in the Americas, including but not limited to enslavement, the civil rights movement and historically significant Black people outside of equality movements,” said Zekaryas.

Alecia Harger

Alecia Harger

“Black history (should) be taught as an important and relevant piece of world history rather than its own independent subject that is relegated to a semester of ethnic studies,” she said.

“It is insulting to condense all history of nonwhite people into an ethnic studies class,” she said. “It is essential that Black students are educated on this history in its entirety – Black students should not be expected to excel in an institution that gives us knowledge where we can only see our ancestors as slaves.”

The BSU is also demanding full funding for the Berkeley High’s African American Studies Department. “This funding (should) allow for the continuation and betterment of all currently running programs,” Zekaryas said.

BSU Co-President Harger told the board the BSU is demanding that the district create and fund a Black Resource Center on campus.

The Black Resource Center would be a location where Black students can congregate and (find) support for any issue that we may face,” said Harger.

“This center would become a permanent school fixture until Black students regularly have the same test scores and are graduating at the same rate as white students,” she said.

The BSU wants Berkeley Unified to create a committee to recruit and retain Black staff throughout the district.

“We demand that this committee include representatives of Berkeley elementary, middle and high schools, along with members of the Berkeley High BSU,” said Harger.

The BSU also wants the district to institute comprehensive racial sensitivity training for all Berkeley High faculty and staff, she said. “(The) training (should) be ongoing and not be limited to a single professional development day.”

“Black students cannot be expected to feel safe in our classrooms or on our campus if Berkeley High School staff is not equipped to discuss or handle issues of racism or racial bias.” said Harger.

The BSU wants the district administration to begin implementing the demands within the next three to six months and to receive an official response from Supt. Evans no later than Dec. 16.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, December 18, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Anger Grows in Wake of Police Killing of Mario Woods

Video reveals six officers shot man with knife up against the wall

Demonstrators hold signs demanding Justice for Woods and Chief Suhr's ouster outside of a crowded police commission hearing inside city hall Wednesday. Photo courtesy of AP.

Demonstrators hold signs demanding Justice for Woods and Chief Suhr’s ouster outside of a crowded police commission hearing inside city hall Wednesday. Photo courtesy of AP.

By Tulio Ospina

Hundreds of protestors crowded into a San Francisco police commission meeting at City Hall Wednesday night, demanding the firing of SF police Chief Greg Suhr and calling for officers involved in the shooting death of Mario Woods to be charged with murder.

Woods, a 26-year-old Black man, was killed by police last Wednesday in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunter’s Point, a predominantly Black neighborhood.

Multiple videos captured by bystanders show Woods, a stabbing suspect, cornered against the wall of a building holding what police say is a knife and surrounded by six officers, who all have their guns drawn and pointed at him.

As Woods attempted to walk away from the group of officers, one moved to block his path and the officers fired their weapons at close range while he was still leaning against the wall, ultimately killing him at the scene.

The officers fired at least 15 times. Several bystanders say Woods was experiencing a mental breakdown.

Since his death, Bayview residents and activists from around the Bay Area have held various actions, protesting the officers’ failure to de-escalate the situation, racist policing in a city whose Black population has dwindled to three percent and Chief Suhr’s apparent lack of truthfulness in his defense of the shooting.

The day after the shooting, hundreds of community members attended a candlelight vigil at the site where Woods was killed and held a protest on the streets with specific demands.

The demands include firing all officers who discharged their weapons and charging them with murder, that San Francisco pay for a federal and independent investigation into Woods’ death and the firing of Chief Suhr “for failure to effectively do his job.”

After watching the shooting video, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee released a statement saying what he saw was “very upsetting” and “raised a number of questions,” pushing for the police department to implement more training.

Meanwhile, Chief Suhr is claiming that had the officers been equipped with Tasers, they would not have shot Woods to death while he was wielding a knife.

On Friday, residents packed a town hall meeting hosted by SFPD where they heard Suhr justify Woods’ death, saying the officer feared for his life and for the safety of bystanders when he fired his gun.

Residents responded to Suhr’s explanation with jeers of disbelief.

“(Attorney General) Kamala Harris is going to have to step in and oversee this investigation because these people (the police department) will not investigate themselves,” said Minister Christopher Muhammad at the town hall meeting.

“These officers shouldn’t get paid vacation. That’s the quickest way to get a vacation is to shoot a brother. These officers must be charged with murder,” said Muhammad.

Monday night, the San Francisco NAACP also held a crowded meeting at Third Baptist Church to address the latest officer-involved shooting in San Francisco where many compared the shooting to a firing squad execution.

At City Hall on Wednesday, community members say they were barred from entering the main chambers and forced to wait outside the room where they chanted loud enough to be heard inside the meeting.

Since the shooting video’s release, several activist organizations have come out against Woods’ death and police response to their actions.

An open letter from several immigrant rights groups, including Causa Justa: Just Cause, Centro Legal de la Raza, Asian Law Caucus and National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said, “We are outraged by the killing of 26-year-old Mario Woods in the Bayview District last week.”

“Further, we are profoundly troubled by the apparent lack of transparency and truthfulness in police accounts to date of the shooting,” said the letter.

The letter mentions an analysis of the shooting video done by KQED, which contradicts claims by Chief Suhr that officers opened fire only after Woods made a threatening movement towards the officer with his arm.

A joint statement endorsed by the Black Student Union at the University of San Francisco (USF), La Raza Law Students Association and the Black Law Student Association at USF also called the killing of Mario Woods “unlawful.”

This use of unnecessary lethal force, and subsequent denial of fault by the San Francisco Police Department, epitomizes the failure of American policing that has become the spotlight of protest in communities around the country,” said the statement.

The office of civil rights attorney John Burris, which represented the family Oscar Grant’s family, will be representing the family of Mario Woods.

The officer-involved shooting has gained national media attention, with prominent New York Daily News reporter and activist Shaun King writing a sobering article about Woods’ killing.

“Robert Lewis Dear, the Planned Parenthood shooter (who is white), was arrested without even being punched,” writes King. “He allegedly shot five officers, killed one, killed a young mother and killed an Iraq war veteran. Police, though, found a way to take him into custody alive.”

“While many white mass murderers, like (Charleston shooter) Dylann Roof and Robert Lewis Dear, are taken alive by police, Mario Woods was shot down by cops who appeared to just want the situation to be over with,” he writes.

John Burris has created a website on the shooting death of Mario Woods which is at viewed at http://johnburrislegal.com/justice4mar

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

In Face of Community Pressure, D.A. Drops Case Against Black Friday 14

 

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley finally dropped criminal charges against the Black Friday 14 after a year of public pressure and several mass demonstrations.

The Black Lives Matter protestors had chained themselves to a BART train at the West Oakland station on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, last year to “draw attention to the war on Black lives in the Bay Area,” according to a statement released at the time by the group.

Instead of going through with the convictions, both parties agreed to a “restorative justice process” in which the activists acknowledged the impact of their actions to public transportation.

“We acknowledge that the BART protest on Friday Nov. 28, 2014 conveyed an important message,” said the statement that the 14 protesters agreed to sign. “The method in which it was carried out impacted the Bay Area and was a violation of the statue governing the safe and efficient operation of public transportation.”

The settlement was mediated by civil rights attorney Eva Paterson, president of Equal Justice Society, who had pushed hard for DA O’Malley to drop the charges and started a petition that was widely circulated.

Many observers were shocked that O’Malley refused to end seeking criminal convictions even after the BART board had decided not to press charges against the protestors.

As a result of her inaction, labor unions representing thousands of union workers across the Bay Area pulled their support for O’Malley, and the Alameda Labor Council decided against giving the district attorney an award she was supposed to receive.

The Pastors of Oakland also called for the charges to be dropped.

A number of demonstrations in the last few months have demanded that the district attorney drop the charges.

In November alone, there were three large protests leading up to the one-year anniversary of the Black Friday action. Union leaders occupied O’Malley’s office during a Fight for 15 minimum wage protest.

Cultural activist organizations building an altar for slain Blacks and 14 interfaith leaders were arrested after holding a sit-in at the Oakland courthouse.

“Our criminal case is over, but the war on Black lives remains,” Black Lives Matter’s Bay Area chapter said in a press release.

“On the shoulders of our ancestors and with support of Asians for Black Lives, Bay Area Solidarity Action Team, and broad coalition of legal, faith, labor, and social justice allies — we will keep fighting for all Black lives.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 10, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Berkeley NAACP Calls on BUSD to Investigate Discrimination Against Employees, Students

Berkeley High School

Berkeley High School

By Ken Epstein

Manour Id-Deen, president of the Berkeley NAACP, met recently with Berkeley Unified School District Supt. Donald Evans to discuss allegations that the district is failing to address complaints of discrimination against Black students, teachers and non-teaching staff in the district.

Berkeley Schools Supt. Donald Evans

Berkeley Schools Supt. Donald Evans

The NAACP also wants the district to assign a qualified instructor to teach African American Studies classes at Berkeley High School.

Id-Deen met with Supt. Evans on Nov. 18, where the NAACP president discussed 17 issues, focusing on four that he said call for immediate action.

Following the meeting, Id-Deen sent a letter to the superintendent, dated Nov. 20, saying the district should hire an outside agency, Mason Tillman, to “investigate allegations of age discrimination, racial discrimination, disproportionality in discipline, hiring and promotional practices.”

Mansour Id-Deen, Berkeley NAACP president.

The letter asked BUSD to investigate allegations of improper designation of Black students in special education and disproportional suspension of Black students.

Also of immediate concern is the failure to hire a credentialed instructor to teach courses in Berkeley High’s African American Studies Department.

Courses in the department have not had a credentialed instructor since the beginning of the school year. To resolve the issue, the NAACP says the district should hire retired BUSD history teacher Valerie Trahan.

Another immediate concern is the district’s Berkeley Peer Assistance and Review (BPAR) program, which is used to evaluate poorly rated teachers and can result in dismissal.

Id-Deen called the BPAR program ¨discriminatory and draconian.”

“The NAACP believes an immediate suspension of the program is in order,” he said in the letter.

Finally, the NAACP connects the district’s administrative failures to the Board of Education.

“The checks and balances of the system appear to not provide acute transparency or consistency in the execution of Board Policy and the (Education) Code…. It’s incumbent on the board to create staff policies to ensure that its policies are adhered to.”

Id-Deen told Supt. Evans that said his organization is committed to working to resolve these issues.

“The Berkeley BAACP is willing to meet with you to discuss remedies to the many pressing issues affecting the Berkeley Unified School,” Id-Deen said. “Immediate action is required.”

Courtesy of the Post News Group, December 5, 2015 (Postnewsgroup.com)

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)

Gentrification Threatens Oakland Churches and Artists

Coalition of faith-based, housing and cultural groups join to protect sacred spaces, say speakers at Post Salon

Speakers at the Oct. 25 Post Salon at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle were (L to R): Pastor Thomas Harris, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church; Pastor Phyllis Scott of Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries; Anyka Barber, owner of Betti Ono gallery; Theo Williams, SambaFunk!. and co-moderator Pastor Debra Avery. Photo by Tulio Ospina, First Presbyterian Church. Photo by Tulio Ospina

Speakers at the Oct. 25 Post Salon at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle were (L to R): Pastor Thomas Harris, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church; Pastor Phyllis Scott, Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries; Anyka Barber, owner of Betti Ono gallery; Theo Williams, SambaFunk!; and co-moderator Pastor Debra Avery, First Presbyterian Church. Photo by Tulio Ospina

  By Ken Epstein

Oakland and other Bay Area cities are in the throes of a market-driven surge in evictions and rent increases, as long-term residents, small businesses and nonprofit agencies are being pushed out of their communities at an increasingly feverish pace.

Tensions are reaching a flashpoint in Oakland, where veteran residents are finding that a handful of gentrifiers  – perceived as acting out of a sense of entitlement – are trying to suppress the culture and religious worship that many see as the expression of life and breath.

At the heart of the conflict are two incidents that have become emblematic of the deepening tensions.
One of the incidents occurred in August when a resident called 911 to complain about an evening church choir practice at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in West Oakland, which received a city letter threatening penalties.

The second occurred in September when a resident approached drummers at Lake Merritt, tried to take away their drumsticks and called police to press assault charges against the musicians.

Exacerbating tensions, the city has seemed to side with the complainers – by threatening the church with penalties and filing charges against two of the drummers – though all charges were ultimately dropped this week.

Many residents see a double standard on the part of city agencies, which rarely respond when neighbors complain about a crack house next door or when garbage and other trash are piling up on their block.

These were concerns raised last Sunday, when residents, members of church congregations and cultural workers packed into a space at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland for a community discussion led by a panel of religious and arts’ leaders about how to come to grips with the current threat.

“(Our) church has been there over 65 years, and Wednesday night is choir rehearsal,” said Pastor Thomas Harris of Pleasant Grove.

“We were shocked, stunned when we heard that we were a nuisance in the community,” he said.  “We want to embrace change, (but) we also want the community to realize there is a tradition.”

Pastor Harris said he was also surprised by the widespread support his church has been receiving.
“I didn’t know this was going to take off like this,” he said, adding that he has heard from someone in Colorado, who told him, “We can’t hear you – you’re not loud enough.”

“I can’t believe all this is going on,” Pastor Harris said. “ If I’m the instrument to be used to make a change, I’m ready to be used.“

Co-moderator Pastor Debra Avery of the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland emphasized the connections between the churches and cultural expression, saying, “The church and the artists belong together.”

Another speaker, Theo Williams, is head of the drumming group SambaFunk! Funkquarians and co-founder of the Soul of Oakland coalition.

“We are all in this this together – this monster is coming to devour our community and devour our soul, ” he said.   “Just know we are standing with you. It is our job to come together now, not to look at our differences,” he said.

Drumming is rooted in African culture, Williams said, and, “We go to church almost every day of the week (somewhere in the city), and you are saying that it is going to be prohibited and restricted – that is our culture.”

Williams said the city should pass an ordinance to protect its cultural institutions. New residents who are moving next door to churches and cultural spaces should know they are protected by law.

The city should also eliminate policies that penalize or undermine cultural spaces.  “It’s time to look through all the municipal codes,” he said.

Pastor Phyllis Scott of Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries said churches receives complaints because, “We do a major work the city does not do. We feed the hungry, and we have HIV testing.”

Some people are complaining because they don’t want the “flood of homeless people coming into the neighborhood,” because the churches are feeding those who are in need, she said.

Anyka Barber, co-creator of the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition and owner of the Betti Ono art gallery, explained she was born in Oakland and is committed to fight for the city’s cultural identity.

“It is my responsibility as a native, as a business owner (and) as a mother to step up,” she said. “There is no disconnection between the churches and the cultural workers. Everything I know I learned in church.”

Barber called for the city to reestablish its Cultural Arts Commission, “made up of residents who really represent our interests.”

She criticized the city’s process for creating a downtown development plan. “This planning process is not indicative of the community,” she said. “A lot of people feel like it should be scrapped and start all over. That’s my sense of it.”

Post publisher Paul Cobb, co-moderator of the event, called on the City Council to pass a “Church Pride Day” to acknowledge the churches, “so Oakland can be a sanctuary city for our sanctuaries.”

City development plans should include a “faith-based zone,” where affordable housing can be built around the churches, he said.

“The city needs a master plan for downtown that protects all the nonprofits, community groups and small businesses that are being pushed out because of gentrification,” Cobb said.

He also suggested putting out a national call for people to come to Oakland to hold sit-ins and picket lines at some of some of the city’s hip new restaurants that do not hire Black workers, “to integrate the jobs in these new restaurants in the same manner that we integrated southern lunch counters and restaurants in the 60s.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)