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Birmingham students get seat at political roundtable in D.C.

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — Two Birmingham High School students now have a seat at the political roundtable. Kamil Goodman, a junior at A.H. Parker High School and Stacy Foster, a senior at Wenonah High School, both attended the Eighth Annual Black Women’s Roundtable in Washington D.C. earlier this month courtesy of Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson.

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By Erica Wright

Two Birmingham High School students now have a seat at the political roundtable.

Kamil Goodman, a junior at A.H. Parker High School and Stacy Foster, a senior at Wenonah High School, both attended the Eighth Annual Black Women’s Roundtable in Washington D.C. earlier this month courtesy of Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson.

The students were able to discuss issues with Alabama lawmakers such as Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Senator Doug Jones.

The roundtable, part of the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), was held March 14-19 and brings together black women leaders from across the country to share its public policy agenda priorities with the 116th Congress.

Tyson and a delegation from the county that included the students left on Thursday, March 14 and returned Monday, March 18.

“We take girls out of underserved areas . . . we want children that would not otherwise get an opportunity to do this in their life,” said Tyson, a member of the Alabama chapter of the NCBCP. “We want this to be an experience that they can say ‘I would have never been able to do this had it not been for the Black Women’s Roundtable’ and we’re trying to build leaders.”

In the nation’s capital the girls got to attend workshops, meet with lawmakers and discuss ways they are improving their communities.

While at the summit, Foster also won the Emerging Leader Award for being active in her community hosting conferences for young people, working with First Priority, a ministry for youth and starting her own Let’s Talk Spiritual where she speaks about faith with other students at her school.

Foster, 18, valedictorian of her senior class, Senior Class President, Student Government Association (SGA) President and Miss Wenonah, was also tasked with preparing for other issues ahead of the conference.

“I had to have a speech and talk about everything that was going on in Alabama and all of the issues . . . starting with working with Commissioner Tyson and . . . restoring votes to [ex-offenders] to let them know that just because you were exed out of society [at] one time, it doesn’t have to continue to be that way.”

Foster said she now is working with the Alabama Black Youth Vote and “so I’m going to start a tour in all of the city schools and encourage young people who are 18 to vote.”

She also had an opportunity to meet with Sewell.

“She told me to stay in contact with her as many times that I need her and anytime I just want to talk about things, now . . . I’m like ‘ok, my voice really matters now’ and now we’re going to stay in contact,” said Foster.

Goodman, 17, also took advantage of the networking. “I have women that I met there [who attended] schools I want to go to, so anytime I need help or need just a guide on that school, I can call them or if I need an internship or I just need extra guidance and just call them and let them know how I’m doing.”

Goodman, SGA President at Parker, captain of the girls’ soccer team, member of Beta Club Honor Society and the Theater and Fine Arts Guild, who began volunteering with Tyson last year, said she has learned to be more aware of how politics work.

“We need to be able to understand and know what’s going on so we can have black women encourage other African-Americans to go out and vote,” said Goodman, “we need help in our communities and we have other issues around Birmingham that needs to be fixed and we need the proper political representatives to help us get those things done.

Since returning from the summit, Goodman said she is even more motivated to work in her community and empower young people.

“Youth voice matters and with the Black Women’s Roundtable, helping me realize that, it’s helping me be more aware . . . and making sure I know what to do when I’m voting and making sure I’m motivating others to vote,” she said.

While it’s important to expose girls like Goodman and Foster to the Roundtable Tyson said she wants to extend the opportunities to students as early as sixth grade.

“We really need to start with sixth graders and having mock elections. If you have three sixth grade classes, each class needs to have a president, secretary and a treasurer,” said Tyson. “That’s how I grew up… so it’s just something for children to keep them informed and make them realize, when they turn 18, the first thing they need to do is go vote.”

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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Activism

City Receives $3 Million Grant to Advance Violence Prevention Among School-Age Youth

Although the Department of Violence Prevention works to advance community outreach with life coaching, gender-based violence services, violence interruption, and community healing, this funding is focused on the family systems model, targeted specifically at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools for school-site violence intervention and prevention teams.

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Guillermo Cespedes is the head of Oakland’s Dept. of Violence Prevention.
Guillermo Cespedes is the head of Oakland’s Dept. of Violence Prevention.

By Post Staff

The City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention (DVP) has received a $3 million, three-year grant to support its violence interruption efforts.

In partnership with the Oakland Public Fund for Innovation, the Gilead Foundation awarded the grant to invest in health equity strategy, including a focus on prevention and intervention services to school-age youth, disrupting the pattern of violence.

“The Gilead Foundation is proud to support the Oakland Fund for Public Innovation and the City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention,” said Kate Wilson, executive director of Gilead Foundation.

Chief of Violence Prevention with the City of Oakland Guillermo Cespedes said the grant will allow “DVP to strengthen families and protect its members from becoming involved in lifestyles associated with violence, while increasing educational outcomes and lifelong learning skills.”

Although the Department of Violence Prevention works to advance community outreach with life coaching, gender-based violence services, violence interruption, and community healing, this funding is focused on the family systems model, targeted specifically at Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools for school-site violence intervention and prevention teams.

Students who are routinely exposed to violence at home or in the community often experience toxic stress that leads to cognitive impairment, hyperactivity, and attention deficits that make it challenging to succeed in the classroom.

Exposure to violence also contributes to lower school attendance and a higher likelihood of suspension, which further promotes disengagement from school.

Using a public health approach, the DVP will strengthen family, school, and community contexts for OUSD school students living in neighborhoods with high rates of violence, to reduce their exposure to violence and increase their chances of succeeding academically.

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Activism

Oakland Promise and Kaiser Support Promising Student

Kaiser Permanente gave a significant grant to Oakland Promise, helping it reach a $50 million goal for its Generation Fund, which will offer college savings accounts and scholarships to all low-income Oakland public school students while they’re pursuing college degrees or trade certificates.

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Kaiser Permanente partners with Oakland Promise to cultivate mentor program, scholarships, academic guidance. Pictured, Kaiser Permanente mentor Ingrid Chen, MD, at right, with Sandy La, who begins her second year of college this fall.
Kaiser Permanente partners with Oakland Promise to cultivate mentor program, scholarships, academic guidance. Pictured, Kaiser Permanente mentor Ingrid Chen, MD, at right, with Sandy La, who begins her second year of college this fall.

By Carla Thomas

When Sandy La applied to two programs while a senior at Oakland High, she had no idea the Oakland Promise program would truly reward her for being a promising student on the rise. Now a successful student at UC San Diego majoring in Public Health, La has spent over 12 months mentored by Kaiser Permanente Oakland psychiatry resident Ingrid Chen. For Chen, mentoring a student and just being there for her was key.

Kaiser Permanente gave a significant grant to Oakland Promise, helping it reach a $50 million goal for its Generation Fund, which will offer college savings accounts and scholarships to all low-income Oakland public school students while they’re pursuing college degrees or trade certificates.

“The program is very well organized, and very accessible for busy working people,” said Dr. Chen. Kaiser Permanente is partnered with Oakland Promise to cultivate mentor programs, scholarships and academic guidance.

La was one of the lucky few of 300 to 400 Oakland high school students who received college scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $16,000 each year from Oakland Promise, and Dr. Chen is one of the 34 mentors from Kaiser Permanente who help keep them in college, often forming long lasting friendships.

“When I first moved to Oakland in 2020 to start my residency, the social justice movements spotlighting racial inequality in our society inspired me to help the community,” said Dr. Chen. “My parents are first generation Taiwanese immigrants, so I have a heart for immigrant families and other groups that are often marginalized in society.”

Dr. Chen makes herself available to La and one other student to talk about anything and help them identify opportunities in college and beyond.

“It’s been great to have someone to talk to and support me,” said La, who says the extra support really matters.

Dr. Chen says it has been great getting to know La and supporting her. La says the support has been a great confidence booster and she now pays it forward while counseling incoming freshmen. “I’m majoring in public health because I want to make a difference in health care and solve some of the disparities in the field,” said La.

Kaiser Permanente is also a founding sponsor of Oakland Promise, said Yvette Radford, Kaiser Permanente Northern California vice president of External and Community Affairs. “Oakland Promise is creating brighter futures for children and families by supporting children at every stage in their lives, from the day they’re born to the day they graduate from college,” said Radford. “This innovative public-private partnership is helping Oakland’s children become more successful in school and in life.”

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Activism

Meet the Woman Who Spearheaded Equity, Inclusion in the Business World

Among many things, Mason Tillman Associates conducts disparity studies that show how equitably or inequitably governments distribute contracts to outside businesses. “We have been able to improve the lives of many minority and woman business owners,” said Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of the firm Mason Tillman Associates, adding that the work has been helping them secure contracts and improve profitability.

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Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of Mason Tillman Associates, a consulting firm that shines the light on unfair practices in government contracting nationwide. (Pat Mazzera/Mason Tillman Associates via Bay City News)
Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of Mason Tillman Associates, a consulting firm that shines the light on unfair practices in government contracting nationwide. (Pat Mazzera/Mason Tillman Associates via Bay City News)

By Keith Burbank, Bay City News

Eleanor Ramsey, president and CEO of the firm Mason Tillman Associates, has been creating change for Black people and other minorities long before she started consulting.

In an interview last Wednesday at her office in downtown Oakland, Ramsey said she first worked on easing racial conflict by serving on the student relations council in high school. The goal was to integrate the lunchroom in a school that consisted of 80% white students and 20% Black students.

Ramsey went on to get a doctorate in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and has been operating Mason Tillman Associates since starting it in 1978. Her firm’s name is a combination of Ramsey’s maiden name, Mason, and Tillman, a last name by which her husband was known.

Among many things, Mason Tillman Associates conducts disparity studies that show how equitably or inequitably governments distribute contracts to outside businesses.

“We have been able to improve the lives of many minority and woman business owners,” Ramsey said, adding that the work has been helping them secure contracts and improve profitability.

Mason Tillman Associates’ statistical research has revealed institutional practices systemically limiting minority businesses’ access to public contracts.

The company’s disparity study research and policy recommendations have helped identify and modify governments’ practices. Consequently, billions of dollars have been distributed more fairly in over 150 cities, counties, and states since 1978, she said. For example, New York State’s current minority business law is predicated on a Mason Tillman disparity study.

Oakland officials were at first reluctant to release a disparity study for their city, causing an outcry from the Black community. The study — kicked off by Ramsey’s firm — was eventually released in November 2020. Mason Tillman Associates plans to update it following a year of talks.

The company is also credited with preparing the nation’s first competitive disparity study, which was done for Maricopa County, Arizona, in 1990.

Disparity studies aren’t just the right thing to do, they’re the law. Following a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson, disparity studies must be prepared to document the need for awarding contracts to minorities. Lawmakers can no longer give preference to minorities without evidence from a study.

Ramsey suspects 300 to 400 studies have been conducted since the SCOTUS decision.

She has also been at the forefront of breaking through ceilings for businesswomen.

“The notion of the glass ceiling was very real,” she said, adding that for Black women, the ceiling was made of “concrete.”

Starting Mason Tillman Associates gave her an occupation when doors were closed for Black women following her attempt to become a university professor, she said.

“You walked a fine line,” said Ramsey.

Women could not come off as too intelligent without offending men. She refined the art of levity to make people feel comfortable.

Before Mason Tillman Associates, Ramsey worked as a flight attendant for the now-defunct yet iconic Pan American Airways. She was the second Black female flight attendant to be hired by Pan Am, which was the only international carrier in the U.S. in the 1960s. Pan Am was known for its stewardesses — now called flight attendants, another positive change for women in the workforce.

Ramsey managed to earn her doctorate in 1977 while raising six children. Then she applied for jobs as a professor and neither UC Berkeley nor the University of Colorado Boulder would hire her. Society wasn’t ready for a Black female professor, she said.

Her experience has taken her on some interesting journeys. While living in Boulder, she secured a contract with the National Park Service to investigate whether Wilberforce, Ohio, was once part of the underground railroad. That, she said, was the start of her consulting business.

Since starting Mason Tillman Associates 44 years ago, Ramsey has trained many professionals in the company’s Oakland headquarters. The firm continues to help redefine managers’ views of Black businesses in agencies nationwide.

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