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Oak Street Tuff Shed Site Opens, As City Clears Webster Street Unhoused Community




An unhoused resident at Webster and 5th Streets (far left) helps Oakland Department of Public Works workers to store some of her belongings and destroy others to make room for her move into a tuff shed at 598 Oak Street. Photo by Zack Haber.

The City of Oakland on Wednesday evicted a group of seven unhoused people who lived along Webster Street and in between 5th and 6th streets, then offered them temporary living space through the city’s tuff shed program, or “Community Cabins,” that recently opened nearby at 598 Oak Street.

“They told us we have five days to vacate the premises,” said Saint, a 55-year-old lifelong Oakland resident who is unhoused and lived at Webster Street.

“It’s stressful to come and tell us we have five days. We’ve been here three years,” said Saint.

When the Oakland Post interviewed Saint three days before the eviction, he said he did not think there would be space for him to move into a tuff shed and was concerned where he would go.

“Whatever way the wind blows, that’s which way I’m gonna go,” he said. “I gotta move my stuff somewhere or they’re going to throw it away.”

On the day of the eviction, other residents reported Saint had moved into a tuff shed, and representatives from the City of Oakland confirmed that there was enough space for all seven people who had been forced to move. This would be Saint’s second time living in a tuff shed as he was asked to leave a previous tuff shed site when he had finished the six-month program last year.

Unhoused residents report that other cabin community sites have offered breakfast and dinner, weekly showers, and space in a 10X12 foot living structure. Two residents live in each structure. The City of Oakland claims the sites also help residents with housing navigation. But some unhoused residents have been critical of those services and say the navigators are unhelpful and undertrained.

“The navigators didn’t really pay attention to us,” said Mouangjoi Tracylee Saelee who lived in a Tuff Shed at 1449 Miller Ave. after being evicted from 12th Street and 23rd Ave, where she had lived in an unhoused community called Housing and Dignity Village in December 2018.

“You cannot take someone off the street or somebody out of prison, hand them a book, and expect them to know everything. You have to go to school for this,” said Saelee.

In a report from October 2018 laying out plans for the 598 Oak St., Assistant City Administrator Joe DeVries wrote, “This site would allow the city to offer shelter to several smaller encampments in the Jack London Square and Chinatown areas…where encampments have impacted youth programming.”

This area is where Webster street is located.

Unhoused people and advocates are noting that the city clears unhoused communities soon after city-run programs to temporarily shelter homeless are opened. Housing and Dignity Village was evicted not long after the nearby Miller Avenue tuff shed site opened, and city representatives encouraged the village’s members to move into that site.

The city also cleared some unhoused communities along Lake Merritt in mid-February 2019, shortly after a Lake Merritt tuff shed site was opened. When the city opened a safe parking site near the Coliseum BART station in the summer of 2019 that serves around 30 vehicles, they also enforced a no-parking zone around 85th and Edes avenues, a location where people had used to live in their vehicles.

The city also tagged over 10 vehicles for towing and eviction at that location.

During the eviction at Webster and 5th streets on Feb. 5, at least one resident chose not to move into a tuff shed but instead to move to another nearby street that an Oakland Police officer said would be evicted in a week.

Another resident said he’d move into the tuff shed since it was his best option but was upset and cursing.

“It’s not even big enough for two people,” he said, choosing not to share his name.

A resident named Anthony, who said he had lived near Webster and 5th streets for six years, was set to move into the tuff shed with his partner and seemed more at peace with the option.

“It’s a better place than this I believe,” he said.



Mary Ann Shadd Cary: A Fearless Journalist

She became the first female African-American newspaper editor in North America. Her work as a journalist was not spared criticism, as many disagreed with her views.




By Unknown author -, courtesy of National Archives of Canada, C-029977, Public Domain,

The eldest of 13 children, Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823–1893) was born in Wilmington, Del. to a free African American family. She was raised in a household dedicated to the abolition of slavery. The Shadd home often served as a shelter for fugitive slaves. Young Mary’s father worked for the abolitionist newspaper Liberator, run by William Lloyd Garrison.

Even as free blacks living in the north, the Shadds faced deep-seated discrimination and segregation.

Schools for Delaware blacks during that time were nonexistent. The Shadds, however, wanted their children educated. They relocated to Pennsylvania (1833) where young Mary attended a Quaker boarding school. For the next 12 years, she taught black children in Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania. Her passion though, was to follow in her father’s footsteps.

After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850), Cary moved to Canada with one of her brothers. The act required that slaves be returned to their owners, even if they were in a free state. The entire Shadd family soon followed. It was there that she found Canada’s first antislavery newspaper, The Provincial Freemen. It was a weekly publication targeting blacks, especially those who’d escaped slavery.

Cary would pen many of the stories, often returning to the states to gather information. Through this, she became the first female African-American newspaper editor in North America. Her work as a journalist was not spared criticism, as many disagreed with her views.

A critic from a rival paper wrote: “Miss Shadd [Cary] has said and written many things which we think will add nothing to her credit as a lady.”

Cary however, was less concerned with being a lady than she was with having a voice. “She got a lot of criticism from black male leaders, even from some black women, because she was so visible and she was so vocal,” Jane Rhodes, professor and department head of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago said, noting that Cary defied traditional attitudes presuming a woman’s place was in the home. “And she said, ‘I’m opening the door for you, for black women, and I’m proud that I’m doing that and I’m trying to create a space for you to have a voice.’”

Cary’s drive to support the rights and freedoms of blacks never ceased, especially when it involved education. This spurred her established a school—one that was open to children of all races.

The Civil War erupted in 1861. Cary then returned to the states to assist in the war effort. While working as a recruiting officer for the Union Army, she encouraged blacks to join the fight against the Confederacy and against slavery. Postwar, she attended Howard University, becoming the second African-American woman in the United States to earn a law degree (1883).

“It was fearless, and it was fierce,” Rhodes said of the Cary’s voice. “She really was unafraid and she carried that throughout her life.”


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Students, Community Organizations Ask Judge to Order Mental Health Services, Internet Access

Arguing that appropriating billions of dollars alone will not ensure action, community organizations and parents from Los Angeles and Oakland are asking an Alameda County Superior Court judge to order the state to immediately provide computers and internet access and address the mental health needs of children who have borne the brunt of the pandemic.





Arguing that appropriating billions of dollars alone will not ensure action, community organizations and parents from Los Angeles and Oakland are asking an Alameda County Superior Court judge to order the state to immediately provide computers and internet access and address the mental health needs of children who have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

The May 3 request for immediate relief comes six months after the plaintiffs sued the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Now, they are seeking a preliminary injunction to force the state to respond. Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith has set June 4 for a hearing.

“The state cannot just write big checks and then say, ‘We’re not paying attention to what happens here,’” said Mark Rosenbaum, a directing attorney with the pro bono law firm Public Counsel. Public Counsel and the law firm Morrison and Foerster filed the lawsuit on behalf of 15 children and two organizations: The Oakland Reach and the Community Coalition, which is based in Los Angeles. 

In their initial, 84-page filing, they claimed the state had shirked its responsibility to ensure that low-income Black and Latino children were receiving adequate distance learning, with computers and internet access the Legislature said all children were entitled to. Instead, they argued, children “lost precious months” of learning, falling further behind because of poor internet connections, malfunctioning computers and a lack of counseling and extra academic help.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic was unavoidable, these harms were not. Yet for most of this period, state officials constitutionally charged with ensuring that all of California’s children receive at least basic educational equality have remained on the sidelines,” the plaintiffs argued.

Angela J., of Oakland, whose three children are plaintiffs in the case, elaborated on the difficulties they encountered during a year under distance learning in a declaration filed with the latest plaintiffs’ motion. 

Although she is president of the PTA, her school has been uncommunicative and unresponsive to requests for technical help and lesson plans, she wrote. Her children are falling behind and “suffering emotionally,” she said. Her third-grade twins are supposed to be doing multiplication and division but are struggling with subtraction. “They are supposed to be able to write essays, but they can barely write two sentences.”

The Oakland Reach and the Community Coalition have stepped in with technical help and support for hundreds of families that district schools should have provided, the plaintiffs’ motion said. The Community Coalition hired tutors and partnered with YMCA-Crenshaw to provide in-person learning pods with 100 laptops on site. The Oakland Reach hired 19 family liaisons, started a preschool literacy program and offered online enrichment programs for students.

Months passed, infection rates declined, schools made plans to reopen, and then in March, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature appropriated $6.6 billion in COVID-19 relief that school districts can put toward summer school, tutoring, mental health, teacher training and other academic supports. By June 1 — less than a month from now — districts and charter schools are required to complete a report, after consulting with parents and teachers, on how they plan to spend the money.

But the plaintiffs argue in their latest filing, “this funding comes with no oversight, assistance, or enforcement to ensure that the funds will be used properly to address the issues relating to digital devices, learning loss, and mental health support.” And there’s no requirement that districts begin this summer to address the harm that the most impacted students have felt, the statement said.“Schools are indeed ‘reopening’ to one degree or another, but absent a mandate that all students receive what they need to learn and to catch up, or any guidance from the State that would help them do so,” the filing said.

In a statement, California Department of Education spokesman Scott Roark acknowledged that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted those who “are vulnerable by historic and systemic inequities,” and cited the department’s work obtaining hundreds of thousands of computers, expanding internet access and providing guidance to educators on distance learning for highest-needs students.

“As we work to return children back to the classroom, we will maintain a laser focus on protecting the health and safety of our school communities while providing the supports needed to ensure learning continues and, where gaps persist, is improved,” the statement said.

In passing legislation accompanying the state budget last June, the Legislature laid out requirements for distance learning that school districts must meet to receive school funding. They included providing all students with access to a computer and the internet. 

Missing, however, was an enforcement requirement, like the monitoring that’s used to verify that students in low-income schools have textbooks, safe and clean facilities and qualified classroom teachers. That system was set up in 2004 through a settlement of Williams v. State of California, in which low-income families sued the state over its failure to assure safe and equitable conditions in schools.  

At the time, Rosenbaum was a lead attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, which brought the lawsuit with Public Advocates and other civil rights organizations.

Despite efforts by Thurmond and districts over the past year to get technology in place, Thurmond estimated in October that as many as 1 million students lacked devices or sufficient bandwidth to adequately participate in distance learning from home. Between federal and state funding, districts have plenty of money to buy computers, and the Legislature is considering several bills to fund internet access statewide (see here and here). 

They won’t solve the immediate challenge, but they could become relevant if there were to be a settlement in this case, as in the Williams lawsuit.

Among their requests, the plaintiffs are asking the court to order the state to:

  • Determine which students lack devices and connectivity and ensure that districts immediately provide them;
  • Ensure that all students and teachers have access to adequate mental health supports;
  • Provide weekly outreach to families of all low-income Black or Latino students to aid in transitioning back to in-person learning through August 2022;
  • Provide a statewide plan to ensure that districts put in place programs to remedy the learning loss caused by remote learning.

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San Francisco Proposes Art Installation to Honor Black Lives, History of African Americans

The sculptural figures created in all-black steel with vinyl tubing, each standing four feet high, would surround the empty pedestal where a statue of Francis Scott Key once stood. Key, who wrote the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was a slave owner and abolition opponent.




Dana King/ Wikimedia Commons

San Francisco, CA. – Mayor London N. Breed today announced the City of San Francisco is planning a new public art installation to honor Black lives and the history of African Americans. The installation is planned to be located in Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse next month, in time for Juneteenth.

The installation, ‘Monumental Reckoning,’ by Bay Area sculptor Dana King, honors the first Africans stolen from their homeland and sold into chattel slavery in the New World. The installation consists of 350 sculptures representing the number of Africans initially forced onto the slave ship San Juan Bautista for a journey of death and suffering across the Atlantic in 1619. A handful of these original 350 ancestors became America’s first enslaved people.

The sculptural figures created in all-black steel with vinyl tubing, each standing four feet high, would surround the empty pedestal where a statue of Francis Scott Key once stood. Key, who wrote the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was a slave owner and abolition opponent. Protestors toppled the statue on Juneteenth 2020.

“The art and monuments that we choose to display in our city and the civic art that fills our public spaces must reflect the diversity of our community, and honor our history,” said Breed. “This powerful public art installation in Golden Gate Park will help us not only commemorate Juneteenth, but also serve as an example of how we can honor our past, no matter how painful, and reflect on the challenges that are still with us today.”

Monumental Reckoning would allow visitors to commune with the figures. The phrase “Lift Every Voice” would shine from atop the nearby Spreckels Temple of Music through a second, connected piece by Illuminate the Arts. These are the first three words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, a song written by civil rights champion James Weldon Johnson which was first performed in 1900—the same year the Spreckels Temple of Music opened. 

For more than a century, Johnson’s song of unity has been sung as the Black national anthem. U.S. Representative James Clyburn is currently leading an effort to have the song named America’s national hymn.

“I’m excited to see the new monument go up in Golden Gate Park to honor Black lives and the rich history of African Americans,” said Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton. “I think this is a perfect example of trying to right a wrong. Rather than uplifting individuals with oppressive histories, this is an opportunity to honor diversity and our community through public art.”

The installation was approved by both the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission’s Operations Committee this week. It is currently under review by the Planning Commission. “Lift Every Voice” will also need to be approved by the City’s Historical Preservation Committee before it can be installed. If approved, Monumental Reckoning would open to the public on June 19, or Juneteenth 2021, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. The art piece would remain in place through June 20, 2023.

“The memory of African descendants deserves to be told truthfully and publicly,” said King, Monumental Reckoning’s creator. “Monumental Reckoning fulfills both objectives with the installation of 350 ‘ancestors’ who will encircle the Francis Scott Key plinth in Golden Gate Park. The ancestors stand in judgement, holding history accountable to the terror inflicted on the first group of enslaved people brought here in 1619 to the last person sold to another, all victims of chattel slavery. Even though the business of enslavement ended long ago, it still resonates generationally for African Americans and forms the bedrock from which systems of oppression proliferate today.”

Fundraising, community outreach, and ongoing support for the installation is being provided by the Museum of the African Diaspora. Creative and programming support would be provided by The Black Woman is God, which is an annual group exhibition of Black women artists curated by Karen Seneferu and Melorra Green. The project celebrates Black women as essential to building a more just society and sustainable future and reclaims space historically denied to Black women artists.

“What Dana King’s powerful installation communicates and commemorates is a sober cultural gut-punch long overdue, and I hope it’s the beginning of many such visual testaments in the public realm that venerate the origin stories of our most marginalized and disenfranchised populations,” said Ralph Remington, San Francisco’s Director of Cultural Affairs. “We almost never see images of Black people represented in our public monuments, or in the American telling of history. So, it’s no surprise that in a society rooted in white supremacy, people of color remain invisible and undervalued in our mythology, symbols, architecture and national narrative. While the City examines the historic works in our Civic Art Collection and the future of monuments in San Francisco, this installation will help build and advance a discourse about who and what we venerate in our open spaces.”

 “We are incredibly proud to host this powerful piece,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “Monumental Reckoning prompts frank discussion about the legacy of slavery, while charting a course between past, present and future. We are grateful to have these crucial conversations in Golden Gate Park—a beloved public space that belongs to everyone.”

This story was produced by the San Francisco Mayor’s office.

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