Last Tuesday, Oakland City Council unanimously approved an agenda item acknowledging the impact of the current health emergency on the African American community, yet declined to adopt a proposal by Black community leaders entitled the Black New Deal that is designed to mitigate COVID-19’s decimation of the Black community.
Black New Deal advocates requested that the Board of Education and the City Council work together to provide internet access and computers to impoverished children.
In addition, the Black New Deal would;
• provide free COVID-19 testing for all of Oakland’s 400,000 citizens;
• immediately shelter every unhoused person in hotels, utilizing FEMA funds;
• call for the release of all Black people incarcerated in Alameda County, and upon their release that they be tested, provided medical care, housing and other services.
Carroll Fife of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) said that Black folks were left out of the New Deal in the 1930s and 1940s under Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. So the Black New Deal was created out of concern for people left behind who became victims of institutional racism, which is now directly responsible for Blacks dying of the virus at a 300% higher rate than others.
The City Council deferred adopting the Black New Deal (BND), stating the need for more time to consider all plans before moving forward.
Justin Lee, a member of Oakland Frontline Healers (OFH), advocated for the council’s support of the BND and noted that, “in April, OFH collectively served over 7,000 residents with services ranging from food delivery and distribution to case management and shelter stays. We recognize that sheltering in place is a privilege not everyone can afford and we are proud to have played a part in the Bay Area’s rapid response.
“However, to continue this good work, many of our member organizations are in need of financial support and PPE. Of our 27 organizations, 14 do not have City or County contracts and are paying for those costs out of their pockets.
“As service providers working day in and day out, these organizations have been put in the difficult situation of having to work with diminishing resources to meet ever greater demand. We are eager to work with this Council to devise solutions and bolster the City’s COVID-19 response.”
Councilmembers Taylor, McElhaney, Reid and Gallo have formed an Equity Caucus with the intent to present a plan for the African and Latino community.