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Berkeley Post Office, Six-Day Delivery on Chopping Block

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Berkeley Post Office

By Judith Scherr

Berkeley’s historic downtown post office is for sale. Across the country, the cash-strapped United States Postal Service is selling property, slashing postal hours, consolidating sorting centers, attempting to outsource jobs and, on Wednesday, announced plans to stop Saturday mail delivery.
Dave Welsh, retired letter carrier, Berkeley resident and Community and Postal Workers United member, is among those across the country fighting back.
“Our position is they have no right to sell anything,” Welsh said. “The post office is the people’s property.”
But USPS has lost  billions of dollars, and downsizing can stop the bleeding, said Postmaster General Pat Donahoe.
The most evident cause of USPS’ financial woes is the growth of electronic mail and accompanying decrease in “snail” mail. Less known is a 2006 law requiring USPS to prepay 75 years of retiree health benefits over 10 years. That costs about $5.5 billion annually. And, USPS has overpaid billions of dollars into pension funds.
However, without Congressional approval, the post office can’t adjust rates or add services such as banking or leasing excess space.
Downsizing also means the loss of middle class jobs.  The National Association of Letter Carriers estimates that cutting mail delivery from six to five days will cost 25,000 jobs.
In the Bay Area, the American Postal Workers AFL-CIO is in court fighting USPS attempts to outsource 800 postal trucking jobs.
Post office job loss is especially critical within the African American community. About 21 percent of postal employees are Black, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Reacting to impending cuts in Saturday delivery, Rep. Barbara Lee issued a statement Thursday: “Ending Saturday mail service would immediately cut jobs for as much as one sixth of the USPS work force, and as our economy recovers from the recession, it is especially important that we keep these quality jobs intact. These job losses would also disproportionally impact communities of color. For years, being a letter carrier has been a critical pathway into the middle class for African Americans, including my grandfather, who was a proud USPS letter carrier for 35 years.”
Steven Pitts, labor policy specialist at the University of California Berkeley Labor Center, further noted, “What’s frustrating is, when people look at the well-being of the Black community, and they look at outcomes in terms of crime and the larger issue of poverty, what people fail to do is look at what’s done to destroy those pillars of success.”
Reducing services could lead to privatization, “paving the way for Fed Ex and UPS to dominate the business,” said Gray Brechin, a UC Berkeley geography professor active in saving the Berkeley post office. Brechin noted that USPS has hired the powerful real estate group Caldwell Banker Richard Ellis to sell postal properties. CBRE Chair Richard Blum is Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband.
“The post office is selling our property at mark-down prices to people who are then ‘flipping’ them for large profit,” Brechin said.
After a large protest at one San Francisco post office in June, USPS took four San Francisco post offices off the market. Berkeley resident Ying Lee encouraged people to fight the Berkeley post office sale.
“We want to cause as much community opposition to even the idea of selling the place so that no private developer will dream of developing it because they’d have a riot on their hands,” Lee said.
A city council committee on the post office meets Feb. 12, 6 p.m. at the Maudelle Shirek building, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley. Postal officials meet with the community Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m. at the Maudelle Shirek Building.

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Coronavirus

SEN. TIM SCOTT SOLVES ASIAN AMERICANS’ MODEL MINORITY PROBLEM

In the official GOP response to President Joe Biden’s Joint Speech to Congress last week, Scott offered up his childhood growing up with a single mother in a one-room apartment, and then looked America in the eye and said, unequivocally, “America is not a racist country.”

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Asian Americans have long been  hampered at times by the “Model Minority” stereotype. What’s that about? You know, how Asian Americans’ success has been used against them in that “look how good they are” way. It’s an excuse to ignore them.  Here’s the thinking: as model minorities, we can all  ignore them. They don’t need any government help, affirmative action, or any such handouts. They are model minorities, ergo, the subtext–Why can’t you all be like them! 

But not this year! 

Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) has made a gift to all Asian Americans.

We aren’t the model minority anymore.

He is.

In the official GOP response to President Joe Biden’s Joint Speech to Congress last week, Scott offered up his childhood growing up with a single mother in a one-room apartment, and then looked America in the eye and said, unequivocally, “America is not a racist country.”

He was taking away our crown of “model minority” and placing it on his own head. And tying it on with his own bootstraps. 

Got to hand it to Scott. He likes to brag: “I get called Uncle Tom and the N-word by progressives, liberals.” But honestly, to say America is not a racist country is possibly a bigger lie than “Trump won last November.”

A Biden margin of victory of nearly 7 million voters debunks that lie.

It would take just one chapter  of Asian American history—just the Filipino part– to refute Scott.

In an historical context, taking away Asian Americans’  “model minority” burden is quite significant. 

Dropping the stereotype is important as America, after the Atlanta mass murders , finally begins to understand that we Asian Americans are beyond stereotypes. All together, Asian Americans are  23 million strong and diverse, from more than 20 countries. And we’re growing, destined to overtake the Hispanic population as the No.1 ethnic minority by 2060, according to the Pew analysis of Census data.

It’s especially important as the government looks to engage with all of its people in a new inclusive way.

It is the New America many of us in the ethnic media have been talking about for the last 20 years.

And that’s what Scott and the GOP are trying to negate that positive uplifting message of President Biden’s national address to a new America. 

We’re getting a lot of history in the first hundred days of Joe Biden. In that speech, we got the precious first image of a U.S. president speaking to a joint session of Congress, flanked by a female speaker of the house, and a female vice president—a multi-racial woman of Black and Asian descent.

It’s the good history of an evolving democracy.

When Biden talked about “real opportunities in the lives of Americans,” he didn’t any of us leave us out.

“Black, white, Latino, Asian American, Native American,” Biden said, then he segued into a thank you. “Look, I also want to thank the United States Senate for voting 94-1 to pass the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act to protect Asian American Pacific Islanders.”

Seven seconds of applause. And then to top it off, he transitioned to a mention of the Equality Act to protect transgender youth.

These were the specific and necessary moments when many of us could see ourselves. They were signs that government hasn’t forgotten who it’s governing—all Americans, of all stripes, collars, and colors. Biden’s all-encompassing economic plan covering infrastructure and families would cost anywhere up to $4 trillion.

Worth it? It is if we still want to be an America that’s of the people, by the people and for the people.

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Art

Student Work – Nayzeth Vargas

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

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This piece was created by Nayzeth Vargas, a senior at Oakland Technical High School. The Zentangle Method is a therapeutic technique which uses combinations of contrasting patterns and values to create an image. Students were introduced to the Zentangle Method to offset the mental stress they were experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation.  

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

Nayzeth is enrolled in the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project, an integrated arts program that supports youth in developing thoughtful, educated voices for their communities. Though art, youth practice mindfulness and boundless creativity. Enrollment for the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project is open to youth ages 13-18 through AHC, for more information visit ahc-oakland.org/legacy.

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Community

Edna Lewis: Humanizing the Black Chef

In 1948, female chefs were few and far between; black female chefs were almost nonexistent. But that didn’t stop Lewis from partnering with John Nicholson, an “antique dealer and bohemian with a taste for high society,” to open her own restaurant. It was called Café Nicholson. Located on East 57th Street in Manhattan, the café quickly became legendary.

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For decades, chefs, food critics, and writers neglected Southern cooking. Stereotypes dehumanizing chefs remain an echo in black culture today, from Aunt Jemima, the so-called happy servant on the syrup bottle to the promise of black servitude flooding TV commercials targeted at white American travelers to the fictional character Uncle Ben, created to sell rice to those in black communities. But Edna Lewis (1916–2006) was real and a giant in the culinary world.
Lewis was born on her grandfather’s farm in the rural community of Freetown, Va., a town founded in the late 19th century by three formerly enslaved people. One was Lewis’ grandfather. He also started the first school in Freetown, holding classes in his living room.
Despite not having modern conveniences, Lewis learned to cook early on. Most of her cooking lessons were taught by her aunt, Jenny. The two would prepare food using a wood-fire stove. Without fancy spoons or scales, they used coins and measured seasonings the old-fashioned Southern way: piling baking powder on pennies, salt on dimes, and baking soda on nickels. It has been said that Lewis could tell when a cake was done “just by listening to the sound it was making.”
Lewis left home after the death of her father; she was 16 at the time. She first relocated to Washington, D.C. and later to New York City. There she took on jobs as a presser in a Laundromat and at the Daily Worker, a local newspaper. She took part in political demonstrations and campaigned for Franklin D. Roosevelt. But what Lewis didn’t know was that her cooking was about to make her a local legend in The Big Apple.
In 1948, female chefs were few and far between; black female chefs were almost nonexistent. But that didn’t stop Lewis from partnering with John Nicholson, an “antique dealer and bohemian with a taste for high society,” to open her own restaurant. It was called Café Nicholson. Located on East 57th Street in Manhattan, the café quickly became legendary.
Lewis did all the cooking. Her simple Southern dishes, the ones she learned to prepare on a wood-fire stove, attracted a crowd of famous faces: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Gloria Vanderbilt, Marlene Dietrich, and Diana Vreeland. Business was great and Lewis was making a name in the culinary world.
Lewis stayed with the restaurant until 1954. Café Nicholson was sold years later to Chef Patrick Woodside.
In the late sixties, Lewis broke her leg and took a hiatus from cooking professionally. It was then that she began to compile some of her recipes. The result: the Edna Lewis Cookbook. In 1976 she wrote The Taste of Country Cooking, which became was one of the first cookbooks penned by an African-American woman to reach a nationwide audience.
Lewis’ teaching and cookbooks have influenced and inspired countless young chefs. She retired as a chef in 1992.

Source: https://www.thespruceeats.com/edna-lewis-1664995
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edna_Lewis
https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/edna-lewis
Image: https://www.eater.com/2017/1/7/14200170/edna-lewis-cookbook-bestseller-top-chef

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