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Activists are Gathering to Prevent Eviction of Homeless in West Oakland

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Puffy, a 66-year-old resident who lives on a tract of land owned by Game Changer LLC, stands near the property under the 880 Highway. He is one of the residents who activists are trying to protect from eviction. Photo by Zack Haber.

Bay Area residents have been gathering to stop the Alameda County Sheriff from executing an eviction order against unhoused residents who live on an approximately 1.47 acre tract of land just west of Wood Street in West Oakland.

So far the eviction has not been enforced.

“They were supposed to evict us on Tuesday [Oct 13], but the activists showed up,” said Puffy, an unhoused person who is 66 and claims he has lived in West Oakland since 1989 and on the tract for two years and seven months. He has been out of work due to a disability that makes sustained movement impossible.  

Puffy said on Tuesday that Sheriff Officers “drove by, but they didn’t stop.”

Fearing that giving his full name could allow Game Changer LLC, the company that owns the land and petitioned for the evictions, an easier ability to retaliate against him, Puffy declined to give the Oakland Post his legal name. Although seven parties appear on the ‘Notice to Vacate’ that the Alameda Sheriff delivered on Oct. 6, only two full names appear.

Shortly after the ‘Notice to Vacate’ was delivered, the United Front Against Displacement, a direct-action centered housing justice group, put out a call to resist the eviction, which was legally allowed to occur after 6:01 a.m. on Oct. 13. Over 50 protestors responded, showing up at or just after 5 a.m. on that Tuesday. 

“We’ve really been focused on preventing the Sheriff’s Officers from entering the lot itself,” said Dale Smith of UFAD. “People are definitely throwing down and that’s a good thing.”

It is currently unclear when Sheriff’s Officers plan to enforce the eviction.

“We are following due process,” said Alameda County Public Information Officer Sgt. Ray Kelly. “We have 180 days to enforce the order. We will enforce when we feel the time is best for all parties.”

Activists are focused on non-violent defense. On Tuesday, they brought about 10 brightly covered shields to defend the land. They set up a canopy for shade, which is next to the Game Changer tract, on land owned by CalTrans near Wood Street and Grand Avenue. 

The canopy has been there ever since, from early mornings on weekdays until around 4:00 p.m., the end of the working day. Small groups of protestors who want to help with the defense sit under the canopy, chatting, eating snacks, and drinking water — which they have been sharing with homeless people living nearby — as they keep an eye out for Sheriff’s officers. If officers show up to enforce the eviction, the protestors plan to make a call out to over 60 people who would be willing to show up on-site again.

San Francisco resident Fred Craves owns Game Changer LLC and also owns Bay City Capital. Bay City Capital’s website describes itself as a “life science investment firm” and describes Craves as “a leader in healthcare venture capital,” boasting he has invested in “nearly 100 companies” that have raised “more than $1.6 billion.”

While Craves has not responded to Oakland Post’s request to comment on this article, Pat Smith of Smith LLP, has agreed to speak on his behalf. She has represented Craves in legal matters related to the tract, which he purchased in March 2016 for about $1.3 million. 

Starting in the summer of 2019, Smith has worked with Craves to arrange an 18-month lease for a dollar a year between Game Changer and the City of Oakland. In an interview, she said the lease could be extended after 18 months if both parties agreed and that she envisions the agreement lasting two to three years. 

Both the City and Game Changer agreed that if leased, the City would use the tract as a Safe Parking Site for people living in RVs.

“I think the owner feels like he’s being able to do something positive for the City and the homeless,” Pat Smith said.

But activists disagree. 

“He’s clearing this lot to keep making money,” said Dale Smith. “But there’s a lot of people who live on the lot or in the area that have lived there longer than he’s owned the land or tried to develop the land.”

Dale Smith expressed worry that if residents cede the land to Craves, it could eventually displace all the homeless people in the area. The tract, which is now mostly vacant and always has fewer than seven inhabitants, sits in the middle of an area on and around Wood Street, in between 18th and 26th streets, and under and near the 880 Highway that is densely populated by people living in vehicles, tents, self-made homes, and a few who sleep under no cover at all. 

No one knows exactly how many people live in the surrounding area, but most people claim well over 100. While some residents could move into a Safe RV Parking Site, the site would be unavailable to those who do not live in vehicles who make up a majority.

The current stand-off is not the first one protestors and Game Changer have engaged in. Game Changer helped the City pay a towing bill in order to clear the tract of land on November 5 and 6 of last year, stating a similar plan to lease the land to the City for a safe parking site. 

During the clearance days, about 35 protestors including homeless residents on the land, showed up to a rally against the clearance. A handful of determined residents stayed on the property. This delayed the construction of the Safe RV site.

“A bunch of people showed up with a bunch of people from the camp,” said Puffy describing last year’s rally, “and the dogs started barking and these big burly cops decided they didn’t want to [mess] with all the people or the dogs. So they left.”

Shortly afterward, Game Changer erected a fence around their property and hired a security guard, which has not dissuaded some residents from staying on the site.

In late July 2020, the city released e-mails through public records request indicating that if the City created a Safe RV Parking Site on Game Changer’s land, they would invite some residents in the area to stay on the site but that those who were not invited or who did not wish to join a Safe RV Parking site would be cleared from the area.

No formal agreement currently exists between the City and Game Changer, but the City is still interested in pursuing a lease according to spokesperson Karen Boyd.

“The City is in negotiations to lease the property for the Safe RV Parking Program,” she said. “The timing depends on when/if the property will be free of occupants and personal property.”

It is unclear what will happen to residents at a Safe RV Parking site after Game Changer and the City end a lease. Pat Smith said that would most likely happen after two or three years, but possibly longer, when Craves would then develop the property.

“I realize it’s a finite period,” Pat Smith said. “But hopefully the homelessness problem will start to be addressed more successfully by the city.”

In the meantime, protestors plan to stay on the site to defend against eviction, although they are unclear as to how long they plan to stay.

Mavin Carter-Griffin, who was given a ‘Notice to Vacate’ and claimed she has lived in the area for over eight years, expressed gratitude for their presence. 

“They’re here and they’re being really protective, which is great,” she said. “They’re helping to stave off the eviction.”

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Activism

Tiny Homes Offer Hope for Holidays and Beyond

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes. 

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As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.
As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

By Dr. Maritony A. Yamot and Rev. Ken Lackey

The holidays are the season when we stop and begin to think, “How can I give back this year and what are some different ways to help out?”

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help out during the holidays that don’t cost a thing. The Tiny Homes Project — with Rev. Ken Lackey of the Center for the Perfect Marriage Church at 6101 International Blvd. — needs to increase its capacity and we wanted to remind our community that everybody matters to God.

As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

We want to launch an intensive month-long generosity campaign to help the increasing homeless issues in our neighborhoods by adding to the number of tiny homes that we have already built at various private locations in Oakland.

We invite you to join us as we partner with some of Oakland’s fabulous nonprofit organizations to meet critical needs in our communities.

Whether through donation or action, there are plenty of opportunities to give.

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes.

We are also looking for vehicle donations of trailers or any truck for hauling material and picking up volunteers and homeless people that are helping to build Tiny Homes. We build our homes with primarily donated and surplus materials, allowing us to cut costs and provide a pleasant home for under $40,000.

Each and every person who wants to help out and eradicate the homeless problem in the City of Oakland can donate funds for us to build a Tiny Home. If donors want to give money to the ministry, we will build a tiny home and name it after them. Know that your donations will be able to take a whole family off the street during this cold season.

In addition, we are open to getting a sponsor or sponsors for an entire Tiny Homes Community Park and we have a separate location that will be designated for homeless veterans, the elderly, single mothers or single fathers, and any individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, such as those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, places not meant for habitation, or sleeping on our streets.

Please spread the word and contact us about any way you can help our Tiny Homes Community Project with Rev. Ken Lackey.

There are three ways to contact us

  1. By Phone/toll-free number: 1-833-233-8900 ext. 1
  2. By Email: TinyHomesC@gmail.com
  3. By Appointment/Donation Drop off location at the All About Grits Restaurant at 6101 International Blvd., Oakland, CA

Or you can attend our next two major events:

  1. Tiny Homes Fundraising Event on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. Place to be announced.
  2. Tiny Homes Community Building Workshop with the help of our community and local partners in the Bay Area. Date and place to be announced.

Contact us for more details of these two events or any ways you can help in this season.

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Activism

Faith Baptist Church Becomes Oakland’s First Official Resiliency Hub

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project. With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

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As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.
As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.

By Curtis O. Robinson, Sr., M.A., Harvard University fellow, ’19, Senior Pastor, Faith Baptist Church

So, when I say that Faith Baptist is Oakland’s first Resiliency Hub, the first question that many people ask is, “what is a resiliency hub?”

In an article from the Christian Science Monitor entitled “Resilience hubs: A new approach to crisis response,” the author writes, “Things that shock a community have to do with climate, but more urgently they have to do with systemic inequities.”

He was referring to police shootings, civic unrest, the growth of homeless encampments and more. The resiliency hub approach to these inequities uses a respected local organization, such as a church or community center, and bolsters it to help neighborhoods prepare for crises — hurricanes, heat waves, pandemics or unrest — and to respond and recover from them.

When Faith was approached with the idea of solar panels for its rooftop as a source of heat, the decision was relatively a no-brainer.

As a House of Worship, there is a collective emphasis on the workings of God in the universe. The first job that God gave humanity was to tend the Garden. When it comes to environmental justice, our goal then is to take care of this place called planet Earth.

The world is now in an environmental tailspin. However, with technology that teaches us how to create sustainable outcomes, sprinkled with common sense, we can achieve an environmental balance that can create safe spaces environmentally for our children and for our future.

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project.

With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

With the help of California Interfaith Power and Light and energy experts from the U.S. Green Building Council, we held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 14.

Joining us, among others, were Susan Stephenson, executive director of California Interfaith Power and Light, Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb of District 1, Shayna Hirschfield- Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager and members of Faith Baptist and the Pentecostal community that shares our space and Green Building volunteers.

We bask in the glory of energy independence, because we now tap into clean energy from above and not dirty energy from below.

Publisher’s note: Rev Curtis Robinson also is a columnist for the God on Wall Street column for the Post News Group.

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Activism

March Against Fear: When ‘Black Power’ Became Mainstream

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

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James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)
James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)

By Tamara Shiloh

It was June 5, 1966.

James Howard Meredith (born 1933), on a mission to encourage Black voter registration and defy entrenched racism in the South, set out on a solitary walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.

On the second day of his journey, Aubrey Norvell, a white gunman, waited on a roadside a few miles south of Hernando, Mississippi. He ambushed Meredith, shooting him in the neck, head, and back.

Within 24 hours, the nation’s three principal civil rights organizations vowed to continue the march: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Success of the event could not be predicted. Leaders were aware that last-minute planning of a march could be dangerous, and the route chosen was not without uncertainty. The three-week march led to death threats, arrests, and the use of tear gas. Internal tensions surrounding leadership swelled and use of the slogan “Black Power” became a revolutionary phrase urging self-determination and Black pride.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice, a group of Black veterans from World War II who believed in armed self-defense, provided protection for participants. Founded in Jonesboro, La., in 1964, The Deacons for Defense had already protected civil rights activists from the Ku Klux Klan. About 20 chapters were created throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The march ended on June 22, 1966. Meredith, sufficiently recovered, had been able to rejoin the event. Participants supporting Meredith along the way joined in, making the total number of marchers arriving in Jackson about 15,000. The March Against Fear was one of the largest marches in history for that geographical area. It was during the post-march rally that Stokely Carmichael first used the phrase “we want Black Power” during a public speech.

Carmichael sought to define the quest for Black Power in constructive terms, explaining to supporters in Detroit that “Black votes created Black Power…That doesn’t mean that we are anti-white. We are just developing Black pride.”

Meredith had become well known when he successfully challenged the Kennedy administration to protect his civil rights. His application for admission to the University of Mississippi, dubbed Ole Miss, had been twice denied. With backing from the NAACP, he filed suit for racial discrimination.

After heavy negotiations with U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Meredith was permitted to enroll at Ole Miss but only under escort of federal troops. He graduated in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

Understand the complex issues of fear, injustice, and the challenges of change in Anne Bausum’s “The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power.”

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