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COMMENTARY: Women’s History Month Shouldn’t Go Unrecognized

JACKSONVILLE FREE PRESS — With so much to write about, like local elections, crime, etc. it is important to take a pause from time to time to recognize worthy causes.

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By Reggie Fullwood

With so much to write about, like local elections, crime, etc. it is important to take a pause from time to time to recognize worthy causes.

Reggie Fullwood

Mary McLeod Bethune said it best, “The true worth of a race must be measured by the character of its womanhood.”
This month is a time for us to reflect back on the vast contributions that women have made in this country, and particularly black women who have been the strength and backbone of the African American community.

As I just mentioned, I believe that women are the strongest beings on this earth. And let me quantify that by saying I am not merely speaking of physical strength or the fortitude it must take to bare a child, but a woman’s ability to be a leader, provider and nurturer makes her very unique.

What is so amazing about women are the remarkable strides that they have made over the years. Much like African Americans, women in general were not allowed to vote and even once those rights were granted often faced discriminatory challenges when attempting to vote.

Because of the struggles faced by American females, black women were essentially double minorities. They couldn’t vote because they were black and because they were women. But that never stopped women like Mary McLeod Bethune, Shirley Chisholm and Fannie Lou Hamer.

One of the most prophetic statements I heard regarding the strength of black women was from W.E.B. Dubois who said, “I most sincerely doubt if any other race of women could have brought its fineness up through so devilish a fire.”

Entertainer Lena Horne, said, “Black women have the habit of survival.” And there are so many examples of strong women. We have all heard of the strength, fortitude and drive of Harriet Tubman, who lead hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, but there are everyday people who we should acknowledge as well.

In most black families the grandmother is the stabilizing force in the family. She provides wisdom, helps us raise our children, teaches us how to cook, teaches responsibility and often instills in us the importance of education and religion.

My grandmother and many other grandmothers or “Big Mamas” have always been the backbone of our families. They are the wise ladies that not only cook a mean sweet potato pie, but also can give you advice on every topic from home health remedies to relationships.

A woman’s worth is invaluable. Jacksonville has had a tradition of trailblazing black women. From Mary Singleton becoming the first black woman elected to the City Council and first woman from North Florida to be elected to the House of Representatives to Rita Perry founding and publishing the Jacksonville Free Press, women have made a significant mark on local and state history.

Today women play prevalent roles in politics, business, social movements and entertainment in this country, and many of them do this while being great mothers and wives. Once sanctioned primarily to being nurses, teachers and secretaries, women are now dominating corporate boardrooms, law offices and the political scene.

My heart goes out to “The ladies having babies on your own, I know it gets rough and you are feelin’ all alone,” said deceased rapper, Tupac Shakur. He understood the value of woman growing up in a single parent household. That’s what is so phenomenal about women – they are natural leaders, providers, caregivers, and lovers.

And as I mentioned before, black women are certainly unique because of all of the challenges they have faced since the days of slavery. Working as field laborers, nannies to the plantation owner’s children and even mandatory mistresses to slave owners certainly tested the will of black women and proved that sisters have had to go up the rough side of the mountain.

I can’t imagine the pain and anguish felt from having a child and that child being taken away and sold as one would sale a puppy. Or what about being a designated “bed wench” against your will or being raped at anytime or even dying because of the lack of basic healthcare – these are all the conditions black women lived in during slavery.

The legacy of slavery is vast and much more far-reaching than many will admit to, but it basically destroyed the black family structure. It made black women stronger and took away the black male’s responsibility of raising their children. That is a fact that African American families deal with today in America.

From Sojourner Truth to Barbara Jordan and my grandma, black woman have led when men were not able to lead or were too afraid. And as a great man once said, “There was never a great man who had not a great woman behind him.”

Perhaps President Obama said it best during a speech about equal rights for women. “We must carry forward the work of the women who came before us and ensure our daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacle to their achievements and no remaining ceilings to shatter,” he said.

Signing off from the League of Women Voters Office,

Reggie Fullwood

This article originally appeared in the Jacksonville Free Press

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Commentary

First in a series on Jobs in Oakland City Government: Please Do No (More) Harm

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.

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Gay Plair Cobb
Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.
City administration professes concern for its residents who need help with access to jobs and training, while at the same time failing to issue contracts to the community organizations that stand ready to provide needed services.
The city council approved these contracts in June. As of late September, they have not been issued by the city administration.
Q: What does this mean? A: Non-profit organizations, operating on shoestring budgets in the best of times, have been required to advance their own funds in July, August, and September to serve the unemployed, with no reimbursement by the city because as the administration says, “Your contract has not been signed yet.”
Another impact: the workers who provide front line job services may not receive their paychecks on time…. creating unnecessary instability in their own households.
And who is responsible for issuing these contracts? Yup…it’s the city…. painfully tone deaf to the needs of the community, particularly those on the economic margins. Most of those served with job help are Black and Latinx residents who consistently suffer double digit unemployment. Many are returning home after incarceration.
And for this level of harmful disregard, the city receives  28 percent of scarce job training funds. Astonishing, since the city provides no direct services to job seekers.
As Oakland struggles with its horrific crime wave, it seems that attention would be paid to root causes, joblessness being paramount among them. Instead, the city administration seems intent on hobbling the very groups who stand ready to help. This happens year after year…. with no apparent consequences to an impenetrable bureaucracy.
Oakland, we can do  better than this.
We must.

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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Commentary

Biden, Vax Americana, and What the Recall Could Mean in COVID-19 Wars

Masking works. You can see it working. Vaccines work too, but we’re on the honor system for that. And people lie or show a fake vax cards. 

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COVID/Photo Courtesy of Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire 

At Oakland’s Stagebridge, I taught a class this year. One of my students couldn’t make the final. The student had COVID.

I don’t know if the student was vaccinated or whether this was a breakthrough case. But the fact remains, the COVID war must be our No. 1 priority—no matter how many people you see on TV at football games and sporting events unmasked. 

Masking works. You can see it working. Vaccines work too, but we’re on the honor system for that. And people lie or show a fake vax cards. 

This is why President Joe Biden’s speech last week, what I call his “Vax Americana” speech was so much more important than people want to admit.

It was his first get tough moment. And it reminded me of the phrase, “Pax Americana,” from post-World War II in 1945 to describe how the U.S. used its dominance to bring peace and prosperity to the world. 

After months of “nice,” Biden was a little less nice ordering federal workers to get vaxed, and OSHA to lean on employers with 100 workers to mandate vaccinations.

But all you need to remember from the speech was the last line, when Biden in a hushed, aggressive whisper said, “Get vaccinated.” 

What are you waiting for—a death bed conversion? 

It’s time to get serious about public health, about caring for our country and each other. 

We can end the war on COVID if we all do our part, masked and vaxed. 

I wonder if Biden knows about a non-profit in Stockton called Little Manila Rising

“Someone Pulled a Gun” 

You know what guns do to a situation. In the COVID wars, the anti-vaxers are insane. 

One of the handful of Filipino American canvassers for Little Manila Rising going door to door to provide the public with good information, got a rude greeting from an anti-vaxer.

“A gun!” said Amy Portello-Nelson, the head of the Get-Out-The-Vaccine drive in Stockton. The canvassers are armed only with information. No one was hurt, but you see how dangerous fighting COVID can be when you’re armed only with facts. 

Here’s what Little Manila Rising’s done in two months on the job. It has knocked on more than 32,000 doors and had 20,000 conversations. The area they’ve worked has gone from a vaccination rate of 32% to more than 50%. 

Talking to people and telling them to get vax works. It’s how we’re going to get back to normal. It’s going to take a “Vax Americana” effort.

The Recall

Of course, whatever happens with this gubernatorial recall will determine how quickly the state gets to the 70%-80% rate that gives us an effective herd immunity. 

My deadline is before any official recall results. And even then, mail-in ballots with a September 16 postmark will take time to be counted. 

The talk of voter fraud is greatly exaggerated. There’s more rhetorical fraud than anything else. 

With more than 8 million ballots in already, unless there’s a strange crossover vote, the Democrats should continue in power. 

But let’s say the recall succeeds and a person with the most votes among 46 also-rans becomes the new governor, it would not bode well for the state.

The Black conservative Larry Elder was leading among those who want to replace Governor Gavin Newsom.

Elder is an anti-vaxxer and has espoused views indicating that – under his leadership– California would look a lot more like Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Florida on the COVID map. 

That would be the real monumental tragedy for California and for Vax Americana. 

Let’s face it, the political virus unleashed by the Republicans on our democracy is worse than COVID. 

The recall effort needs to die a natural death this week.

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Commentary

No Further Delays on Launching MACRO!

City Administration must implement Civilian Crisis Responders Program and keep planned community advisory board 

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Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan

COMMENTARY 

At this week’s Public Safety Committee, councilmembers received an update on the status of launching Oakland’s emergency civilian responder program, Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO).

I, along with my Council colleagues, call on the City Administration for the speedy implementation of this important public safety service as an in-house program and to include meaningful community input and involvement, as was previously directed by the Council to include a community oversight board.

The implementation of this program is highly awaited and urgently needed, as the goal is to provide services to those experiencing non-violent crises. A Community Intervention Specialist, Emergency Medical Technician, and a Case Manager would respond to non-violent crisis calls, rather than a police officer.

This would simultaneously free police to respond to violent crimes.

In 2019, the idea of this program was presented as part of my budget proposal, with strong grassroots community backing and an informational memo brought by Councilmember Noel Gallo. 

That same year, I successfully allocated the funding for the feasibility study of creating this civilian mobile response program in my budget amendments.

The City Council then approved $1.85 million in the FY 2020-21 Mid-Cycle Budget Amendments (88174 CMS) to implement the proposed program. On Dec. 15, 2020, my resolution to pursue the option for in-house hiring process for MACRO was adopted (88433 CMS).

In 2020, the City Council, along with strong community support, pushed to fund the launching of the pilot. With the goal of improving coordination, response, and creating job opportunities for the communities in which MACRO will be launched, Council, along with community grass-roots organizations,  called on the program to be launched as an internal city program.

Earlier this year, Noel Gallo and President Pro Tem Sheng Thao advocated to have the program in-house within the Oakland Fire Department (OFD). Bas and Councilmember Dan Kalb introduced the resolution that was unanimously adopted by Council directing the establishment of MACRO within OFD and creating an Advisory Board, which would consist of crisis health service experts, individuals impacted by the criminal legal system, unsheltered individuals, domestic violence survivors, youth, and/or survivors of state violence, to serve as advisory partners to the Oakland Fire Department in further developing MACRO.  

The state has shown support of MACRO by responding to my advocacy letter, asking for funding; Senator Skinner included $10 million for the launch of MACRO in the state budget. 

Meanwhile, other cities have successfully launched similar programs including Olympia, Wash., Portland, Ore., and Albuquerque, N.M. 

Thanks to strong grassroots advocacy working together with Council members, we were able to pass the proposal to launch civilian responders for Oakland, and to win funding in both the city budget and state budget to support this vital public need.

We know that this type of program can save dollars and save lives.  We call on the administration to launch it timely and effectively, and include vital community input, to ensure success.

“It’s urgent that the Administration implement MACRO, Oakland’s mobile crisis response program in the Fire Department. Oaklanders agree that we need medical professionals and crisis responders to address mental health and other non-violent issues, allowing police to focus on violent crime,” said Bas.

Gallo said, “I am thankful for my colleagues on the council who supported launching MACRO in-house in the fire department. Working together we can provide effective civilian responders to provide community needs and handle low-level calls that do not require a police officer.”

Added Thao, “The City Council committed to its goals to reimagine public safety with the funding of the MACRO program, and I join my colleagues and the community in urging the City Administration to implement this important emergency response program. Oakland cannot wait for this common sense and holistic approach to public safety any longer.”

 

Watch the September 14  Public Safety Committee Zoom Meeting at: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87171430933

“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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