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Board of SuperMoms Rallies Outside Alameda County Headquarters to Demand ‘Homes Not Harm’

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Barbara Doss (left) of The Ella Baker Center speaks gives a speech at the Board of SuperMoms Demands Homes Not Harm rally outside of The Alameda County Administrative Building in Downtown Oakland on Sept. 1. Dominique Walker (right) stands next to her. Photo by Zack Haber

Moms 4 Housing, a coalition of support groups and about 150 local residents gathered outside the Alameda County administration building in downtown Oakland on Tuesday to participate in a rally called Board of SuperMoms Demands Homes Not Harm.

Members of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ), the Anti Police-Terror Project and Decarcerate Alameda County also spoke. Bay Area People’s Strike and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) hosted the rally.

“After voting to give this notoriously racist Sheriff’s Department a budget increase of over $100 million a year, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors has canceled their meeting set for September 1st,” read a Facebook invitation calling for supporters to attend the rally, which took place from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. “We are in a crisis and this failure of leadership is unacceptable.”

Moms 4 Housing and supporters arranged a table outside of the building at 1221 Oak St. and spoke in a manner that emulated and played with the style of a county meeting.

Behind the table, supporters held signs painted in yellow, red and black. One sign outlined the four demands of the Homes Not Harm agenda: Defunding the sheriff by 30-50%; placing a moratorium on all evictions during the COVID-19 crisis; canceling all rent and mortgage debt; and permanently banning law enforcement from carrying out evictions.

While no current City Council members showed up to support the rally, Moms 4 Housing member Carroll Fife, who is running for office in District 3, as well as District 5 Council candidates Zoe Lopez-Meraz and Richard Santos Raya, were in attendance.

“We live in a police state that puts capital over human life,” said Dominique Walker, a founding member of Moms 4 Housing who spoke at the rally.  “The eviction of Mom’s house showed that.”

Walker, along with several other speakers referenced the militarized pre-dawn eviction on Jan. 14 when the Alameda County Sheriff raided a speculator-owned property that had long been left vacant and kicked out unhoused Black mothers and children who had taken shelter inside. The sheriff’s officers used tanks, drones, a battering ram, and assault rifles to enforce the eviction.

Speakers pointed out that law enforcement terrorizes the same people that face housing insecurity and homelessness. Black Oakland resident Barbara Doss, of the Ella Baker Center, spoke of how guards at Santa Rita Jail killed her son, Dujuan Armstrong, at age 23.

But celebrating her son’s life was difficult because the owners of her rented housing unit wanted to inspect it on the same day. After delaying the inspection, she said they sent her a threat that she would be evicted if she continued to delay the inspection. She characterized the housing in the area as “unfair” and shared fond memories of her son, who, starting at the age of 9, would feed unhoused residents in Oakland.

“He would take food underneath the ramp down at 29th street and we would feed the homeless,” she said. “That was something he wanted to do, believe me, I didn’t push him to do that. I love him for doing that.”

Speakers pointed out the same money that can be used to harm and incarcerate people could be used to provide housing. Others spoke directly to the need to cancel rent and grassroots efforts to organize tenants.

Tur-Ha Ak, of Community Ready Corps, spoke of the need for those fighting for housing justice and against the criminalization of dissent and police oppression to stand united with each other.

Pointing at the county administration building, he repeatedly said “this is the same system that killed Martin and Malcolm,” and emphasized that though activists might have disagreements about tactics, they all need to unite against the criminalization of dissent.

Fife spoke last.

“We don’t have to reimagine policing,” Fife said. “Because we live and dream about our lives mattering every day. We have organizations that have been working on this for years. Some of my mentors and elders have been working on this for decades. We just have to do it.”

Activism

Ask County Supervisors Not to Spend Millions in Tax Dollars on Oakland A’s Real Estate Deal

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

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A rendering of the proposed new A’s ballpark at the Howard Terminal site, surrounded by port cranes and warehouses. Image courtesy of MANICA Architecture.

The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) and other groups are asking local residents to attend and speak at next week’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose a proposal to spend county residents’ tax dollars to pay for the Oakland A’s massive multi-billion-dollar real estate deal at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. 

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

The Stadium Alliance urges community members to “let (the supervisors) know that Alameda County residents don’t want our tax dollars to pay for a private luxury development. This proposal does not include privately funded community benefits and would harm our region’s economic engine – the port- putting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs at risk.”

 

“The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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Activism

John George Democratic Club to Hold Social Justice Awards on Oct. 16

This year the Club will honor Pamela George, daughter of John George, who was the first African American elected to the Alameda Board of Supervisors in 1978.  Come on the 16th to meet Pamela (virtually) and hear more about her work as well her father.

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John George - Photo courtesy of John George Democratic Club website

Activists for social justice are often unsung heroes. To help remedy that, the John George Democratic Club will virtually hold its Eighth Biennial Social Justice Awards ceremony on Saturday October 16 at 300 p.m. to recognize local social justice activists.

The tireless work for racial and economic justice by the late Alameda County Supervisor John George stands as a model for elected officials. The John George Democratic Club strives to keep George’s spirit alive by getting progressive candidates elected to posts in Oakland.

The keynote speech will be delivered by newly elected State Assemblymember Mia Bonta, on the topic “Advancing Democracy for the 2022 Election and Beyond.”  Clearly, reactionary forces on the right are attempting to undermine voting rights and overthrow democracy itself, so all progressives need to mobilize to defeat this attack.

This year the Club will honor Pamela George, daughter of John George, who was the first African American elected to the Alameda Board of Supervisors in 1978.  Come on the 16th to meet Pamela (virtually) and hear more about her work as well her father.

The Club will also give lifetime Social Justice Awards to Geoffrey Pete and Gus Newport, longstanding activists in Oakland and Berkeley.  The Club’s Young Adult Social Justice Award will go to Brandon Waugh, active in the NAACP.  Dr. Noha Aboeleta, founder of the Roots Community Health Center will receive the Public Health & Social Justice Award.  And the Club will honor ILWU Local 10 with the Labor and Social Justice Award, not only for fighting for the rights of its members, but also for its international solidarity efforts from South Africa to Palestine.

You can register for the event at the Club’s website: jgdc.org. For more information, please e-mail the Club at JohnGeorgeDemocraticClub@gmail.com.

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Activism

Helping Women Win: Catching Up with LaPhonza Butler, First Black President of EMILY’s List 

When she was just 30 years old, more than 400,0000 members of California’s largest labor union, SEIU Local 2015, elected LaPhonza Butler to be their president. Known for her outspoken, straight-shooting style as well as her poise and even temper, Butler has a reputation for being a leader capable of building bridges and driving consensus.

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LaPhonza Butler/ Emily's List

When she was just 30 years old, more than 400,0000 members of California’s largest labor union, SEIU Local 2015, elected LaPhonza Butler to be their president. Known for her outspoken, straight-shooting style as well as her poise and even temper, Butler has a reputation for being a leader capable of building bridges and driving consensus.

As the head of the largest union of health care workers in the country, Butler led the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 in California.

A respected and trusted political strategist, prominent women in California politics have relied on her advice and understanding of the political ground game to get them elected. Among them are Vice President Kamala Harris, Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell and state Assemblymember Wendy Carillo (D-Boyle Heights). 

Now, at 42, Butler was recently named the president of EMILY’s List, a move that will take her from Los Angeles to Wash., D.C., to head the organization that bills itself as “the country’s largest resource for women in politics.” 

She is the first African American CEO of the organization that says its mission is “to elect democratic, pro-choice women to office and to add diversity to our political leadership.” 

California Black Media spoke with Butler recently about her vision and top priorities for EMILY’s List, her thoughts on how to assist Black and other women of color who feel unsupported by their political parties, and more.  

CBM: Congrats. How does it feel taking over an organization that has done so much to move the needle for women involved in politics?

BUTLER: I’m very excited. I am only the third president of EMILY’s List in our organization’s 36-year history. It is a real point of pride for sure as well as an incredible responsibility.

When I think about my role at EMILY’s List, I think about my 7-year-old daughter and the kind of community she wants to be a part of, and I see this role as an opportunity to make that possible. 

CBM: What are some of your short-term goals? 

BUTLER: It’s still early. This is just day nine for me, but I can tell you conceptually what I want to accomplish.

I want to build power for women voters and women candidates, ensuring that we are first-in-class as it relates to creating an example of an organization with diversity at its center. I want us to win. 

Immediately, I am focused on making sure that we are able to win in Virginia in 2021.  

We must hold the Democratic majority and grow the number of Democratic pro-choice women that are in the Virginia statehouse. We have fantastic candidate for Lieutenant Governor in Hala Ayala. She will be the first Afro-Latina to hold that office if we are successful. 

Also, there is anti-abortion legislation moving forward in states across the country. We are doing the work to engage the electorate at the state and local levels. It is important for us to push back on restrictions on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. 

CBM: What’s your longer-term vision? 

BUTLER: Building partners. From working with unions in California, I realize the importance of partnerships, of forming coalitions.  

When we worked to raise the minimum wage, we included small business partners. We included workers. 

What I would like to do with EMILY’s List is to make sure that we are throwing the doors open for every woman – no matter what her financial background may be. If she wants to serve, she can find the resources, training and support that she needs at EMILY’s List.  I want to do that in partnership with organizations like Higher Heights, Emerge, Voto Latino and #VoteProChoice.

CBM: What do you want EMILY’s List to represent for women and girls across America?

BUTLER: I want it to mean that every woman can belong anywhere she chooses and at any decision-making table where she wants to be, assured that her voice will be heard. 

I also want the organization to be able to communicate clearly that whether you are a woman of color, or from a working-class background, or immigrant woman, your place in electoral politics is normal. You’re not a groundbreaker, not a celling breaker. You belong at those tables. 

CBM: What’s your message for men?

BUTLER: I want men to know that they, too, have a place and a role in ensuring that their wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts are capable of being strong leaders, not just in their families, but in the halls of government. 

I want men to know that their resources are welcome in supporting organizations like EMILY’s list to help make the dreams their family members’ dreams come true. 

Black women overwhelmingly vote for Democratic candidates. They are leaders and grassroots organizers, and they are the most loyal voting bloc in the party. Yet, Black women candidates often point out that they are not always supported with the levels of enthusiasm, endorsements or funding they deserve. What are your thoughts about this problem?

They are legitimate concerns for Black women, specifically, and women of color, generally. Their voices are the last heard if heard at all. Their experiences are the least valued if valued at all. I can surely appreciate and attest to their leadership. 

As it relates to EMILYs list, I want to hear those concerns and I want to understand them. I want to continue to support Black woman, women of color and all women. 

At the same time, I would invite people to take a look at EMILY’s List and the work we have done to support Black women like U.S. Congresswomen Lucy McBath,  Lauren Underwood or Jahana Hayes. These Black women, who ran and won in majority white districts — white Republican districts.  They all had the support of EMILY’s List. 

The new mayor of St. Louis, Tishaura Jones, for example, has also benefitted from the work of EMILY’s List. 

EMILY’s list has a strong history of being an organization created to diversify women holding elected office. And we can do more to work inside a system that wasn’t built for us. A system that we forced our way into and want to continue to be a part of. 

I’ve heard you say in other interviews ‘when women win, we all win.’ What do you mean? 

What we know about women is that when they go to the ballot box, they carry their whole families. They carry their children, their husbands, their mothers, their fathers. They do not only carry those persons as individuals; they also carry their concerns. I made that statement and I believe that when women are in elected office, the choices that they make are representative of entire communities. That is the way that we lead our families. That is the way we lead our civic organizations and churches. 

CBM: Do you have any advice for women who are interested in running for elected office but don’t know how to get started?

BUTLER: I would say reach out to EMILY’s list if she is looking for a way to get started. We actually have an online community called Run to Win that is made up of tens of thousands of women who are contemplating this very question. Our staff gives them advice and I think the most powerful part is that they give advice to each other based on real-life experiences. 

Even if they have doubts, those women should run anyway. Our Congress and state legislatures are filled with women who didn’t win the first time. 

CBM: You went to an HBCU, Jackson State. Does that experience play a role in shaping who you are as an organizer, visionary and person?

BUTLER: I wouldn’t be who I am today or where I am today but for my experience at Jackson State. My fellow Tigers and the professors that I had who were SNCC or CORE organizers, who may have spent their young adulthoods going to jail fighting to expand the right to vote. They took those experiences and poured them into us in the classroom. They provided the intellectual rigor of higher education and combined it with the civic responsibility to continue to push for better, to fight when there is struggle and to lead when no one else will stand.

It is more than just an institution of higher learning. It is a space where you really do come into the fullness and beauty of all that it means to be a Black person in this nation.

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