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Coach McKenzie helps diversify Final Four operations

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — The last time Minneapolis hosted the Final Four in 2001, Minneapolis North Boys’ Basketball Coach Larry McKenzie helped the NCAA run a camp for local youth. That was essentially McKenzie’s only contribution to one of the world’s most celebrated sporting events.

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By Ray Richardson

The last time Minneapolis hosted the Final Four in 2001, Minneapolis North Boys’ Basketball Coach Larry McKenzie helped the NCAA run a camp for local youth. That was essentially McKenzie’s only contribution to one of the world’s most celebrated sporting events.

Eighteen years later, McKenzie’s connection to the Final Four has gone through a major upgrade: from the gym to the board room.

“We needed to reach into some networks that we weren’t a part of,” Kate Mortenson, CEO of the Final Four local organizing committee, said of McKenzie. “Larry has made a huge difference with his wisdom, support, encouragement and inspiration to make sure the Final Four here is inclusive.”

Mortenson reached out to McKenzie two years ago to become a part of the committee’s Impact Advisory Council (IAC), a select group of business and community leaders brought together to ensure the Final Four provided economic and employment opportunities for people of color.

McKenzie has been an integral part of strategies that helped the IAC identify minority contractors and young people of color to work on the business side of the Final Four’s operations.

With the Final Four only a few days away, McKenzie is confident the work he and the IAC have done has been successful. “Without a doubt, the organizing committee has gone beyond what was expected to include people of color in this process,” he said.

“Everybody can’t benefit, but what I’m pleased about is how they went about the bidding and selection. There was genuine discussion about inclusion every time we met.”

Chuck Hill was among the first Black business owners to get a contract with the local organizing committee. Hill’s company, Programming Solutions Inc., based in Brooklyn Park, set up the communications systems for the committee’s downtown Minneapolis offices in 2018.

Hill’s staff installed phone lines, computers, internet and other communications requirements for Mortenson and her team.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity for my company,” said Hill. “I’ve been able to establish connections and network with people I ordinarily would not have been able to meet.”

Through referrals from the IAC, Mortenson said, the committee also agreed to a “six-figure contract” with Barry Rogers of BWK Rogers PC, a Black-owned certified public accounting firm in downtown Minneapolis. Rogers’ company was hired to handle the committee’s bookkeeping and financial support.

And for the major task of coordinating the numerous Final Four events, Cydni Bickerstaff, an African American woman and sister of former Timberwolves assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff, was hired by Mortenson as vice president of operations. Bickerstaff, who moved to the Twin Cities from Washington, D.C. to take on the role, functions as second-in-command behind Mortenson on the committee’s management team.

“We have 60 percent female on our staff and 60 percent people of color working for us,” Mortenson said. “Too often, we have professional talent and qualified people who are under-utilized. We wanted to address that from day one.”

One of McKenzie’s key triumphs with his committee role was recommending North Commons Park Recreation Center to the NCAA for its annual Legacy Project Grant. In every Final Four city, the NCAA looks for community athletic organizations or facilities that could benefit from additional resources.

The North Minneapolis recreation center received a $200,000 grant from the NCAA Legacy Project in 2018. McKenzie said the money was used to give North Commons a complete “makeover,” including a new gym floor. A grand opening dedication at North Commons is scheduled for Tuesday, April 2 at 10 am.

“I don’t know many people who benefited when the Super Bowl was here [in 2018],” McKenzie said. “The way things have gone with this initiative for the Final Four, we could be a model for other cities. This takes away the excuse that diversity can’t happen.”

This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

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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Activism

California Senate Gets Second Chance to Pass Prison Slavery Bill This Week

“One of the preliminary recommendations in our report was to support ACA 3,” said Los Angeles attorney Kamilah V. Moore, chairperson of Task Force. “The Task Force saw how that type of legislation aligns perfectly with the idea of reparations for African Americans.”

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Samuel Nathaniel Brown, at a Reparations Rally on June 12 at the state capitol in Sacramento, helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence. (CBM photo by Antonio R. Harvey).
Samuel Nathaniel Brown, at a Reparations Rally on June 12 at the state capitol in Sacramento, helped author ACA 3 while he was in prison. He was released in December 2021 after serving a 24-year sentence. (CBM photo by Antonio R. Harvey).

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

On June 23, the California Senate rejected a constitutional amendment to remove language in the state Constitution that allows involuntary servitude as punishment to a crime with a 21-6 vote.

The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865, prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude with one exception: if involuntary servitude was imposed as punishment for a crime.

The state of California is one of nine states in the country that permits involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment.

Article I, section 6, of the California Constitution, describes the same prohibitions on slavery and involuntary servitude and the same exception for involuntary servitude as punishment for crime.

The number of votes cast in favor of Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 3, the California Abolition Act, fell short of the two-thirds vote requirement needed to move the bill to the ballot for Californians to decide its fate in the November General Election.

The Senate is expected to hold another floor vote on the legislation this week.

Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), who authored ACA 3 in 2021 while serving in the Assembly, said she focused the language in the bill on the slavery ban and vowed to bring it back for a vote when Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, asked her about it June 23.

“The CA State Senate just reaffirmed its commitment to keeping slavery and involuntary servitude in the state’s constitution,” Kamlager tweeted.

Jamilia Land, a member of the Anti-Violence Safety, and Accountability Project (ASAP), an organization that advocates for prisoners’ rights, said she remains committed to making sure slavery is struck out of the California constitution.

“All we needed was 26 votes,” Land said. “But we have made amendments to ACA 3 on (June 24). Now it could either go back to the Senate on (June 27) or Thursday, June 30.”

Five Republicans and one Democrat, Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), voted against the amendment.

He stated that the issue is “certainly a question worthy of debate” and “can be addressed without a constitutional amendment.”

“Slavery was an evil that will forever be a stain on the history of our great country. We eliminated it through the Civil War and the adoption of the 13th Amendment,” Glazer said in a June 23 statement. “Involuntary servitude — though lesser known — also had a shameful past. ACA 3 is not even about involuntary servitude — at least of the kind that was practiced 150 years ago. The question this measure raises is whether or not California should require felons in state or local jails prisons to work.”

Glazer said that the Legislative Counsel’s office gave him a “simple amendment” that involuntary servitude would “not include any rehabilitative activity required of an incarcerated person,” including education, vocational training, or behavioral or substance abuse counseling.

The Counsel also suggested that the amendment does not include any work tasks required of an incarcerated person that “generally benefit the residents of the facility in which the person is incarcerated, such as cooking, cleaning, grounds keeping, and laundry.”

“Let’s adopt that amendment and then get back to work on the difficult challenge of making sure our prisons are run humanely, efficiently and in a way that leads to the rehabilitation of as many felons as possible,” Glazer added.

Kamlager says “involuntary servitude is a euphemism for forced labor” and the language should be stricken from the constitution.

The state’s Department of Finance (DOF) estimated that the amendment would burden California taxpayers with $1.5 billion annually in wages to prisoners, DOF analyst Aaron Edwards told Senate the Appropriations Committee on June 16.

“These are facts that we think would ultimately determine the outcome of future litigation and court decisions,” Edwards said. “The largest potential impact is to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which currently employs around 65,000 incarcerated persons to support central prison operations such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry services.”

Right before the Juneteenth holiday weekend, the appropriations committee sent ACA 3 to the Senate floor with a 5-0 majority vote after Kamlager refuted Edwards’ financial data.

This country has been having “economic discussions for hundreds of years around slavery, involuntary servitude, and indentured servants” and enslavement still exists in the prison system, Kamlager said. She also added that a conflict was fought over the moral issue of slavery.

“This bill does not talk about economics. It’s a constitutional amendment,” Kamlager said. “The (DOF) is not talking about any of this in this grotesque analysis about why it makes more sense for the state of California to advocate for and allow involuntary servitude in prisons. I think (this conversation) is what led to the Civil War.”

Three states have voted to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude — Colorado, Utah, and Nebraska — and in all three cases, the initiative was bipartisan and placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of legislators, according to Max Parthas, the co-director of the Abolish Slavery National Network (ASNN).

ACA 3 is already attached to a report that addresses the harms of slavery. The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans issued its interim report to the California Legislature on June 1.

The report included a set of preliminary recommendations for policies that the California Legislature could adopt to remedy those harms, including its support for ACA 3. It examines the ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery and its lingering effects on American society today.

“One of the preliminary recommendations in our report was to support ACA 3,” said Los Angeles attorney Kamilah V. Moore, chairperson of Task Force. “The Task Force saw how that type of legislation aligns perfectly with the idea of reparations for African Americans.”

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Bay Area

Schaaf Seeks Retraction from Post Over School Closing Remarks

In a KQED interview, Mayor Libby Schaaf supported the proposed closing of 15 schools as an “opportunity” and even went father. “This is not just some painful but necessary budget cut,” she said. “I really feel for parents, students, teachers. We have been through so much trauma, and they have every right to feel distrustful and fearful about this decision. But I believe that it is different this time.

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Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Oakland.ca.org photo.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Oakland.ca.org photo.

By Ken Epstein

The Office of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has demanded a retraction from Oakland Post, saying the newspaper was incorrect to characterize Schaaf as a supporter of permanently closing up to half of the public schools in Oakland.

“She’s never held that position,” said Justin Berton, the mayor’s spokesperson, in an email to the Post.  “As you know, knowingly publishing false information is not only unethical, it’s potentially actionable,” he wrote.

Berton was responding to a sentence in an article in last week’s Post that said, “Schaaf, a longtime supporter of charter schools, has spoken forcefully in the media in favor of closing as many as half of the city’s public schools.”

The Post’s comments on the mayor’s position was based on a Feb. 4, 2022, interview with KQED. At the time, the school district had just announced that it was closing 15 schools this year and next and was planning to close more in future years.

The City Council took a strong position opposing the school closings not Mayor Schaaf.

In the KQED interview, Schaaf supported the proposed closing of 15 schools as an “opportunity” and even went farther.

“This is not just some painful but necessary budget cut,” she said. “I really feel for parents, students, teachers. We have been through so much trauma, and they have every right to feel distrustful and fearful about this decision. But I believe that it is different this time.

“When you look at districts like Stockton, Fremont, San Jose, they serve roughly the same number of students, about (33,000). But they do it in almost half the campuses, between 41 and 48 campuses in those three districts, whereas Oakland has EIGHTY CAMPUSES (Schaaf’s emphasis).

“This is an opportunity to do better for our students, our educators, our families, and I trust this leader to deliver on that promise in a way that has never happened before.”

To review Mayor Schaaf’s remarks, go to the original interview at https://archive.org/details/KQED_20220205_030000_KQED_Newsroom/start/360/end/420

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