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Berkeley School of Theology Announces Creation of the J. Alfred Smith, Sr. Endowed Chair of Theology in the Public Square

BST President Dr. James Brenneman stated “This endowed chair in Dr. Smith’s name is part of the establishment of a new Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Restorative Justice made possible through the largest lead gift ever given to BST from the good people of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto and other donors of nearly $3 million.

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Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church. Courtesy of Dr. Smith.
Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church. Courtesy of Dr. Smith.

By Rev. Dr. Martha C. Taylor

Berkeley School of Theology’s president and Board of Trustees unanimously approved the creation of the J. Alfred Smith, Sr. Endowed Chair of Theology in the Public Square on April 8, 2022.

Berkeley School of Theology (BST), located at 2606 Dwight Way in Berkeley was formerly known as the American Baptist Seminary of the West.

An endowed chair is the highest academic honor that a college, university, or seminary can bestow upon a person and/or the faculty member who will serve their professorship in the endowed chair.

For clarity, an ‘endowed chair’ is not a plaque, certificate, or money contribution to Dr. Smith, rather having a chair named in one’s honor means they have reached the highest academic honor.

Further, people are not endowed, but the position is endowed, meaning it is fully funded. An endowed chair is a tribute to the donor who establishes it and to the person whom they have chosen.

BST President Dr. James Brenneman stated “This endowed chair in Dr. Smith’s name is part of the establishment of a new Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Restorative Justice made possible through the largest lead gift ever given to BST from the good people of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto and other donors of nearly $3 million.

Dr. James Brenneman, president of the Berkeley School of Theology. Courtesy of BST.

Dr. James Brenneman, president of the Berkeley School of Theology. Courtesy of BST.

‘In the Public Square’ refers to how Smith deliberately ministered beyond the walls of the church. With deep gratitude, Brenneman noted the spiritual legacy Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. imprinted upon BST and countless students, faculty, and graduates that will live on in perpetuity because of “these generous life-changing gifts.”

The person selected to hold the chair position must be a highly qualified, full-time faculty member, with proven ability to do inter-disciplinary and contextual work, be knowledgeable of experience in anti-racism, restorative justice and more.

Dr. Smith Sr. is a BST graduate (’72) who also served for some 35 years as distinguished professor, acting dean, and now emeritus professor of Christian Ministry and Preaching when the seminary was formerly known as the American Baptist Seminary of the West (ABSW).

Dr. Smith holds a Bachelor of Science (’52), a Bachelor of Divinity (’59), two master’s degrees in Theology (’66, ’72), a doctorate in ministry (’75), and several honorary doctorates and served as the state and national president of the Progressive Baptist Convention.

He was a national leader in the Civil Rights Movement with a lifetime of doing theology in the public square, public advocacy at City Hall. He is the author of 16 books, has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Duke, Morehouse, and Howard, and other esteemed institutions. He has testified against apartheid before the United Nations, preached to thousands from Seoul, Korea, to Sierra Leone (Africa) to China and beyond.

He served 38 years as Senior Pastor, now emeritus, of the historic Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, CA.

I had the honor of serving as the Pastoral Administrative Assistant to Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. for 10 years. On occasion I assisted him in teaching at the seminary, providing me with an “insider’s look” at his pastoral and academic works and responsibilities.

He introduced hundreds of seminary students to theological training, the art of preaching, African American Spirituality and the deep meaning of Howard Thurman’s “Jesus and the Disinherited” and much more.

‘Theology in the Public Square’ is how Dr. Smith engaged his ministry to communities. We are familiar with the phrase ‘Thy will be done on Earth.’ Dr. Smith ‘majored’ in the will of Jesus Christ for his concern for the well-being of society on earth.

Like the ministry of Jesus who ‘majored’ in his ministry beyond the walls of the synagogue, Dr. Smith Sr. preached, prophesized, pastored, taught, and ministered beyond the walls of the church.

Dr. Smith Sr. was passionate about helping others understand the meaning of his famous phrase, “In order to get to the sweet by and by, you must deal with the nasty now and now.”

In other words, theology in the public square is about addressing the needs of people who are hurting economically, who are disenfranchised, and victims of an unjust society.

Bay Area

Board Bars Evictions Related to COVID-19

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

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The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.
The County budget is balanced and structurally sound, although national economic indicators are showing signs that the recovery is slowing down.

Protections intended for those experiencing hardship because of pandemic

Courtesy of Marin County

Determined to prevent housing displacement for residents financially hampered by the ongoing pandemic, the Marin County Board of Supervisors took another action June 21 to prohibit residential renter evictions in unincorporated Marin effective July 1 through Sept. 30, 2022. The State of California’s eviction protections are scheduled to expire June 30.

Several times during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Preventing evictions for nonpayment due to financial hardship related to COVID-19 allows the County and its partners to continue making funds available for tenants who have struggled to pay rent. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance.

The County is continuing to assist tenants who have applied for rental assistance and working with community partners to assure an equitable distribution of federal funds earmarked for eviction prevention. All renters have been protected by state or local laws, regardless of a person’s citizenship status, during the public health emergency. The County continues to process rental assistance applications as quickly as possible with added staff over the past year to accommodate assistance applications.

Rental assistance priority has been given to households that are considered extremely low income, which in Marin would be a family of three with an income of no more than $43,550. Nationally, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are often at the highest risk of housing displacement. The County recognizes that those most in need of eviction protection experience barriers to access such a program. While more than two-thirds of non-Hispanic white residents are homeowners in Marin, roughly three-quarters of both Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx communities in Marin are renters.

Between state and federal funds, the County’s pandemic rental assistance program was awarded $36,414,871 of which $23,970,885 has been distributed to 1,260 local households in need. There is a remaining balance of $8,579,705, which will serve the remaining applicants and waiting list and is anticipated to be spent by September 30, 2022.

Clearing accumulated debt is designed to provide a lifeline to the hardest-hit families and provide income stability for landlords. Several local agencies, such as Canal Alliance, Community Action Marin, and North Marin Community Services, are assisting applicants with the process.

Property owners may call the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at (415) 473-6450 for assistance on rights and responsibilities. Renters are encouraged to contact Legal Aid of Marin at (415) 492-0230, extension 102, for inquiries on eviction protections.

Anyone needing help with the online application may call (415) 473-2223 or email staff to learn more about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. More information about the County’s eviction moratorium is on the County’s COVID-19 Renter Protections webpage.

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Bay Area

Marin Prepares to Vaccinate Young Children

Parents and guardians should contact their pediatrician to discuss appropriate timing to have their child vaccinated for COVID-19, especially if due for another routine pediatric vaccination. Children in their first 5 years are regularly visiting their pediatrician and vaccines are a routine part of these visits. The COVID-19 vaccine can be given in the same visit as the other important vaccines needed. MCPH will support pediatricians to ensure access to the vaccine over the coming weeks.

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Parents and guardians in Marin County will be able to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids 6 months to 4 years starting this week. (Copyright-free photo from Unsplash).
Parents and guardians in Marin County will be able to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids 6 months to 4 years starting this week. (Copyright-free photo from Unsplash).

New COVID-19 vaccine reduces risk in childcare and youth settings

Courtesy of Marin County

Now that federal and state regulators have approved the use of COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months through 4 years old, local pediatricians, health centers and Marin County Public Health (MCPH) are preparing to vaccinate the nearly 8,000 children in that age group who call Marin County home. Appointments are opening this week.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer. “Until now, 8,000 of our residents – everyone under 5 years – has been excluded from the protection of vaccines because they were too young. Vaccinations will make every setting where kids gather safer, for kids and adults. We’ll all be able to worry a lot less about childcare centers, playdates, parties, and summer camps.”

Community transmission rates in Marin and across the Bay Area remain high. Since the beginning of June, Marin children up to 4 years old have the highest rates of COVID-19 of any age group. Nationally, over 500 children aged 5 or younger have died from COVID-19, making the virus among the top 10 causes of death in children.

The two authorized vaccines are Moderna and Pfizer, offered in lower doses than for adults and older children. Moderna will be for children aged 6 months to 5 years, as two shots spaced one month apart. The Pfizer vaccine will be for children 6 months through 4 years, as three shots over 11 weeks, two within three weeks and a third eight weeks later. The three-dose Pfizer regimen was found to be 80% effective at preventing infection, roughly twice as effective as the Moderna vaccine.

One of the settings that will benefit most from pediatric COVID-19 vaccination is childcare. In Marin, over 80% of school-aged children 5-18 are fully vaccinated, after a dedicated countywide campaign to make schools safer through vaccinations.

“Our childcare providers have been heroes, taking care of our kids since the very beginning of the pandemic while knowing none of the children were vaccinated,” said Michelle Fadelli, Manager of Public Policy and Communications at First 5 Marin. “Now very young children will be safer in childcare, and their providers will be, too.”

ACCESSING THE VACCINE

Parents and guardians should contact their pediatrician to discuss appropriate timing to have their child vaccinated for COVID-19, especially if due for another routine pediatric vaccination. Children in their first 5 years are regularly visiting their pediatrician and vaccines are a routine part of these visits. The COVID-19 vaccine can be given in the same visit as the other important vaccines needed. MCPH will support pediatricians to ensure access to the vaccine over the coming weeks.

Kaiser Permanente, which is the primary medical provider for more than half of Marin households, will welcome children 6 months to 5 years old for COVID-19 vaccination starting Friday, June 24. Parents and guardians can book a vaccination appointment via Kaiser’s call center at (415) 444-4460. Walk-ins or drop-ins are not immediately available.

In addition, parents and guardians will be able to find appointments in a variety of settings – including pharmacies, pediatricians, and public health clinics – online via MyTurn.ca.gov. Select MCPH clinics will offer vaccines to infants and young children without a primary care physician beginning Thursday, June 23. Appointments can be made online via MyTurn and the ongoing schedule will be published at GetVaccinatedMarin.org.

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Bay Area

Cautious Parents Weigh Decision to Give Children Under 5 COVID Vaccine

“There is definitely still a need for vaccinations for the whole population,” said Dr. Lucia Abascal, a physician and researcher at CDPH. “There is this idea that Omicron is milder, but if we look at children’s data in this age group, we can actually see that hospitalizations peaked as well as deaths. We have more and more evidence that kids are at an acute risk of COVID.”

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Visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available for all children in California ages 6 months and older.
Visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available for all children in California ages 6 months and older.

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

Antonio and Tenaja Kizzie, a San Diego area couple, are parents of a 3-year-old daughter. Although both parents are vaccinated and boosted, the Kizzies have reservations about giving their toddler the COVID-19 vaccine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended last week for children younger than 5 years old.

“It’s one thing to feel like her body is still developing and growing. She’s been vaccinated for everything else for things that have been around for years. It’s a little scary thinking about something that’s new. We don’t want to jump in right now,” Tenaja told California Black Media. “We just want to wait a little bit and see the side effects for other kids in her age group and reassess from there.”

Her husband chimed in.

“We believe in the science, we believe vaccines work, but when it comes to the under-fives, just being a parent we’re a bit more hesitant to give her the vaccine so far. We’re waiting to see how it goes with other under 5 kids that get the vaccine. Even though science and logic say yes, as a new parent you’re extra cautious,” Antonio said.

The Kizzies are not alone.

Numbers the CDC released at the end of May indicate that hesitancy about vaccinating their children is high among parents across the country. Although the U.S. Food and Drug administration approved COVID vaccines for children between the ages of 5 and 11 last October, only about 30% of kids in that age range have received the shot.

“For those families that are hesitant and questioning, I try to understand what their fears and questions are. I try to remind them that we are in this together. I care about the health and wellbeing of their children, and I will always suggest the best possible course for them,” said Dr. Jennifer Miller, a pediatrician with East Bay Pediatrics, a medical practice with offices in Berkeley and Orinda.

Miller was speaking during a medical panel co-hosted by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Ethnic Media Services (EMS). The discussion was held to offer information about vaccinating children 6 months to 4 years old against COVID-19 to parents, caregivers and the media.

“I let them know that ultimately it is their decision to make, and I am here as a resource,” Miller added. “It is normal to be afraid of the unknown and to want to protect your child. With that in mind, vaccination is the best protection around.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech earlier this month. The agency’s approval came on the heels of news that COVID-19 is now the fifth leading cause of death in children 1-4 years old and the fourth leading cause of death for children younger than 1.

“These are sobering statistics for all of us,” said Sandy Close, EMS director and moderator of the news briefing. “Vaccination is an important tool to protect their long-term health against COVID-19 and helps achieve full family protection against this deadly virus.”

Panelists said it is a myth that COVID does not affect children. The CDC reports that 1 in 5 hospitalized children end up in the ICU. And during the Omicron surge, children were hospitalized five times more than in the Delta surge.

“There is definitely still a need for vaccinations for the whole population,” said Dr. Lucia Abascal, a physician and researcher at CDPH. “There is this idea that Omicron is milder, but if we look at children’s data in this age group, we can actually see that hospitalizations peaked as well as deaths. We have more and more evidence that kids are at an acute risk of COVID.”

Abascal detailed the steps of the vaccine approval process at the state and federal levels. An independent expert panel reviewed the data that Moderna and Pfizer provided and unanimously voted that the FDA approve the vaccine. The CDC was the final step of approval for the vaccine at the federal level.

Before California recommends any COVID vaccine, it is reviewed by The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, a commission comprising medical professionals and scientists convened by Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California.

Children 3 years old and above will be eligible to receive vaccines at pharmacies. However, children under 3 will need to get vaccinated at a pediatrician’s office or a community clinic.

California has purchased enough vaccinations for every child in the state. The first shipment of 500,000 doses will arrive next week. About 2.2 million children are eligible for vaccination in California.

The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose regimen like the adult shot, with a one-month wait between doses. The Pfizer vaccine requires three doses. The first dose is followed by the second 21 days later and the final dose comes 60 days after that.

Authorities familiar with the vaccine trials say the side effects of minor fever and pain at the injection site may be stronger for children who receive the Moderna shot.

Dr. Sarah Takekawa, an obstetrician-gynecologist, who is currently raising three children under age 5, was also a panelist.

Takekawa spoke to some of the concerns pregnant women may have. She said she was fully vaccinated before conceiving her third child. She received her booster while pregnant.

“I have seen firsthand what COVID-19 infection can do to otherwise extremely healthy young women during their pregnancies. Watching adults who are otherwise healthy succumb to the disease, it seems easy to us to make this decision about wanting to get vaccinated and encouraging other parents to have their children vaccinated.

Visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available for all children in California ages 6 months and older.

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