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100 Black Men Charter School to Close in January

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The 100 Black Men Community Day Charter School in East Oakland announced it will close its doors on Jan. 24 after only being opened for 18 months

At the beginning of current school year, the school had 120 students but now has only 75. With recent cut administrative turnover and lack of funding, the school says it has no other choice but close its doors.

The fundamental issue, said Mark Alexander, who sits on the school’s board, is that the school lacks funds to continue operating, not a mismanagement of money.

When the school began with great fanfare, it had significant financial and administrative support from the Oakland Unified School District.

The school was designed to support African American male students with mentoring and tutoring to help them develop self discipline and achieve academic success especially in the areas of science, math, technology and art.

The school’s curriculum also focused on the role of African Americans in history and society.

Emphasizing the ongoing need for the school in the community, officials are hoping to identify what went wrong, implement a new strategic plan ,and reopen the school with the next few years.

Nothing public has been said, so far, about what plans the school and the district to guarantee a smooth transition of the charter school’s students to other schools.

Berkeley

UC Berkeley Creates Its First Black History Tour

The self-guided Black history tour at UC Berkeley begins at Memorial Stadium, where student Walter Gordon was a star of the football team more than 100 years ago. It then weaves through campus, making stops at 13 more locations, each highlighting an important person or landmark related to Black history.

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Walter Gordon, who is discussed during the first stop of the Black history tour at Memorial Stadium, was one of the first two Black Americans named to the College All-American Football Team in 1918. He went on to become the first Black student to graduate from Berkeley Law and to work as a police officer for the city of Berkeley, among many other accomplishments. Illustration by Heaven Jones.
Walter Gordon, who is discussed during the first stop of the Black history tour at Memorial Stadium, was one of the first two Black Americans named to the College All-American Football Team in 1918. He went on to become the first Black student to graduate from Berkeley Law and to work as a police officer for the city of Berkeley, among many other accomplishments. Illustration by Heaven Jones.

By UC Berkeley News

The self-guided Black history tour at UC Berkeley begins at Memorial Stadium, where student Walter Gordon was a star of the football team more than 100 years ago. It then weaves through campus, making stops at 13 more locations, each highlighting an important person or landmark related to Black history.

There’s Ida Louise Jackson Graduate House, named in honor of the first African American woman to teach in Oakland public schools. Next is Barbara Christian Hall, named for the first Black woman to be granted tenure at Berkeley. Other stops include Wheeler Hall and Sproul Plaza, where Black visionaries, like James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr., gave famous speeches.

“Just knowing this history, walking around campus and knowing it, you really feel like you belong,” said student Daniella Lake, who’s on the Black Lives at Cal team that created the tour. “Black people have been here for the past 100 years, and if they were doing all these amazing things then, I can surely do it now.”

You can find the self-guided Black history tour on Black Lives at Cal’s website. And soon, on the site, you’ll also be able to sign up for upcoming in-person walking tours.

Read a portion of the transcript of Berkeley Voices episode, “Take the first Black history tour at UC Berkeley”

Anne Brice: This is Berkeley Voices. I’m Anne Brice.

The self-guided Black history tour at UC Berkeley begins at Memorial Stadium, where student Walter Gordon was a star of the football team more than 100 years ago.

Daniella Lake: Walter Gordon, especially, is one of my favorites because he was the first all-American football athlete in the history of the University of California.

Anne Brice: Daniella Lake is a fourth-year Berkeley student in media studies. As an audio producer of the tour, she voiced many of its stops.

Daniella Lake: He was also the city of Berkeley’s first Black policeman. And, like I mentioned, the first Black student to graduate from the law school and then a federal judge and then the governor of the Virgin Islands.

And he just did it all and was so multitalented. And I just love that so much because it also shows that you can have multiple interests and you can succeed at different things. So I just love, love hearing his story.

Anne Brice: The Black history tour was created by Black Lives at Cal, an African Thriving Initiative that publicizes, celebrates and defends the legacy of Black people on Berkeley’s campus. The multi-year initiative is a collaboration between the African American Student Development Office and the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues.

The tour weaves through campus, making stops at 14 different locations, each highlighting an important person or landmark related to Black history.

Among the stops are Ida Louise Jackson Graduate House, Barbara Christian Hall, the Campanile, Sproul Plaza and the law school. Berkeley student Heaven Jones created original artwork for each stop.

Daniella Lake: I feel like it has helped me feel welcome on campus. I know a lot of students, especially students of color, Black students, feel a lot of imposter syndrome. And I feel like with this tour, just learning the history really helps combat that.

Because when I look at all these different parts of campus — when I look at Memorial Stadium, I see Walter Gordon and how accomplished he was and all the things he did. When I walk on Sproul Plaza, I hear MLK’s speech, and I think about how an undergraduate student suggested renaming the ASUC Student Union to the MLK Jr. Building.

So just knowing this history, walking around campus, and knowing it, you really feel like you belong. Black people have been here for the past 100 years and if they were doing all these amazing things then, I can surely do it now.

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Activism

Inheriting the Mantle: Who Will Carry the Legacy of John George?

Black political representation in Oakland and Berkeley was spurred by the Black Panther Party’s political organizing which began with the support of Shirley Chisholm’s bid for president in 1972 and an effort to elect Bobby Seale as mayor and Elaine Brown to City Council.  

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John George became the first African American to hold the District 5 seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. He was followed by Warren Widener and then Keith Carson who decided not to seek re-election in December 2023. File, Facebook and campaign photos respectively.
John George became the first African American to hold the District 5 seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. He was followed by Warren Widener and then Keith Carson who decided not to seek re-election in December 2023. File, Facebook and campaign photos respectively.

By LV McElhaney

This Black History Month, voters in Alameda County will be deciding which of eight candidates will succeed Supervisor Keith Carson in the District 5 race. Long considered a civil rights seat, this may be the first time in 30 years that there won’t be a Black leader at the helm since John George became the first African American elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1976.

Black political representation in Oakland and Berkeley was spurred by the Black Panther Party’s political organizing which began with the support of Shirley Chisholm’s bid for president in 1972 and an effort to elect Bobby Seale as mayor and Elaine Brown to City Council.

Before helping George, a young Black attorney who had sued Oakland over voter disenfranchisement and to create district elections, win a seat at the all-white Republican Board of Supervisors, the Panther organization was instrumental in electing Oakland’s first Black mayor, Lionel Wilson to office in 1977.

George was succeeded by another African American, Warren Widener, who served three terms from 1989 – 1992.  Widener also broke the color barrier when he became the first Black mayor in Berkeley. Widener would become a pioneer in what would become the affordable housing sector when he developed a program to build military housing on vacant land owned by the government working with his classmate, retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Toney. That program produced more than 3,500 housing units throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and became a model for the nation.

When he sought a third term on the Board of Supervisors, Widener was defeated by newcomer, Keith Carson, a young mentee of Ron Dellums, who was viewed as more progressive than Widener.  During his 30 years in office, Supervisor Carson was known as a steady leader who sought to build an inclusive and accessible government.

He created AC Impact, a program that provides permanent supportive housing and services to chronically homeless adults in Alameda County and was instrumental in funding community-based organizations to deliver services for people returning home from prison.

Carson, who was set to run unopposed, decided in December not to seek reelection to the Board of Supervisors.  The decision shocked many in the African American community who are concerned that Black leadership is under pressure from neo-progressives and social democrats who pursue policies that threaten Black land and business ownership.

Among the eight competing to succeed Carson are two Black men, Berkeley Councilmember Ben Bartlett, and former Oakland School Board member Greg Hodge.  This diverse district includes the cities of Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont, and large portions of Oakland, namely the West Oakland, North Oakland, Rockridge, and Montclair neighborhoods, as well as portions of the Dimond, Bella Vista, and San Antonio districts.

Also running are Emeryville Councilmember Jon Bauters, Oakland Councilmember Nikki Fortunato-Bas, and social worker Ken Berrick, who previously served on the Alameda County Board of Education.

L.V. McElhaney served two-terms on the Oakland City Council and was the first Black woman to serve as Oakland Council President. She championed the establishment of the Department of Violence Prevention to channel investments into community-led solutions to eradicate gun-related violence and violence against women and children. LV. Holds a BA in Political Science from UC Berkeley and PhD from Mills College.

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Activism

Protesters Demanding Hearing on Gaza Ceasefire Resolution Shut Down Oakland School Board Meeting

Ceasefire demonstrators beat a drum and called out the names and ages of children who have died in the Israeli army attack on Gaza. Protesters said they were angry and frustrated that school board President Sam Davis, backed by former board President Mike Hutchinson and Jorge Lerma, blocked the discussion even though four of the seven members of the board have called for the Gaza resolution to be placed on a board agenda, as permitted by Oakland Unified School District bylaws.

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Supporters of a Gaza ceasefire led chants and called out names and ages of children killed by Israeli forces in Gaza. Photo by Ken Epstein. By Ken Epstein
Supporters of a Gaza ceasefire led chants and called out names and ages of children killed by Israeli forces in Gaza. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Parents, teachers, and community members shut down the Oakland Board of Education meeting Wednesday evening to protest attempts by several members of the school board to keep a discussion of a Gaza Ceasefire resolution off the board agenda for the past five months.

Hours into the meeting, protest leaders came to the front of the room, below the stage, leading the audience in chants: “We feel unsafe. We feel unseen. We feel unheard!”

Ceasefire demonstrators beat a drum and called out the names and ages of children who have died in the Israeli army attack on Gaza.

Protesters said they were angry and frustrated that school board President Sam Davis, backed by former board President Mike Hutchinson and Jorge Lerma, blocked the discussion even though four of the seven members of the board have called for the Gaza resolution to be placed on a board agenda, as permitted by Oakland Unified School District bylaws.

Board members Jennifer Brouhard, Valarie Bachelor, VanCedric Williams, and Clifford Thompson, sent an email to Board President Sam Davis supporting placing the resolution on the agenda for a full discussion but were ignored.

The proposed resolution, originally submitted by Brouhard and Bachelor would read:

“The Oakland Unified School District supports U.S. Congress Resolution H.R.786 and joins others in calling on our Congressmembers to demand: an immediate ceasefire; the unrestricted entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza; the restoration of food, water, electricity, and medical supplies to Gaza; and the respect for international law.”

The resolution continued: “OUSD encourages all staff to read and learn about the region to help students understand the complexities of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the historical context, and the impact on all communities and, in the process, to create an environment in our schools and classrooms that encourages open, respectful, and well-informed discussions on Palestine and Israel, enabling students and staff to build empathy and compassion, and engage in constructive dialogue, where no student or staff member feels singled out for their identity, ethnicity or religious affiliation.”

Board President Davis and Vice President Hutchinson have issued a statement in which they said they spoke for the board, even though they only spoke for themselves. They supported peace in the Middle East and backed Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s call for a ceasefire in Gaza, but at the same time shut down public discussion.

“The board does not intend to take further legislative action at its meetings this year,” their statement said.

Mona Lisa Treviño, a parent activist who works with OUSD Families and Community for Palestine, said the meeting was shut down because the district and several board members ignored democratic norms, refusing to allow a public discussion of the ceasefire resolution to be discussed at a board meeting.

“We went through all the proper steps to get on the agenda,” she said. “We had four board members who agreed. Still the board president refused to [have it] agendized. To discuss it with the board, we scheduled multiple meetings (with the board leadership), but they cancelled at the last minute.

“Arab students and families are experiencing harassment and bullying in this district from district staff and other students,” continued Treviño. “Arab staff have been targeted by the district. Some students have been called into the office, where the felt like they were being targeted because of their heritage.”

Lara Kiswani, a member of the local Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), speaking to the board, said she understood that some board leaders were trying to decide whether a discussion of a ceasefire was a legitimate local issue. “It’s not your decision as local policy makers to decide if this is a local issue, your constituents can tell you when it’s a local issue.”

“Your Black students, your Palestinian students, your Muslim students, your Jewish students and allies and teachers, staff, and parents across the district have been begging you to honor and respect them and their lives and their needs, including the lives of children being massacred in Gaza. You have been dismissing that and disrespecting the very simple demand to put it on the agenda and have a discussion. How do you think you can continue to ignore a community?”

Teacher Gabriel Kahn, who also works with OUSD Families and Community for Palestine, told the Oakland Post he was impressed that so many people came to the board meeting to support the peace resolution on Valentine’s Day, despite the rain.

“This shows that this movement is based on love and there is massive community support in Oakland for a ceasefire resolution,” he said.

“All we’re asking at this point is for people to hear, discuss and [hold a public] vote on this resolution. It’s incredibly disrespectful for the resolution to be ignored for five months in a row.

“The silence (of the board) is a different kind of violence,” he said.

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