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Community Challenges Courtney Ruby’s Audit

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Heather Ehmke

By Ken A. Epstein

Community members and local leaders spoke out out this week at the first City Council meeting since Auditor Courtney Ruby released a report targeting Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid for interfering with city staff.
While the main issues on the agenda concerned the city’s new budget, over 91 speakers had signed up for the Open Forum part of the meeting. Many of those who spoke challenged the methods and conclusions reached by Ruby in her March 21 audit.
“The auditor’s report, as far as we are concerned, was false. (There weren’t) any facts in that report,” said Len Turner, president of Turner Group Construction.
The audit charged that Reid and Brooks in 2011 interfered with city staff, attempting to steer a contract worth at least $2 million to Turner Group, a local minority-owned construction company.
“The auditor never gave us an opportunity to speak to those false accusations,” Turner said. The report talks about favoritism, he said, but “Turner Group… has only received two contracts from the city in the last five years, each equally less than $50,000.”
At the time the contract was being negotiated, he said, “We met with about everyone on the council about the Army Base project,” including Councilmember Pat Kernighan, who is currently council president.
“Hopefully, you have received our rebuttal from our attorney,” he said.
“I think we are getting the message about your feelings about the auditor’s report, said Kernighan in response  to Turner.
Derek Barrett, president of the National Association of Minority Contactors, Northern California chapter, said the audit was unfair.
“I’m awfully discouraged with that rush to judgment concerning one of our local minority contactors,” said Barrett, who is a painting contractor in Oakland.
“Turner Group Construction has been a solid contractor. We feel that there has been unfair treatment due to the fact that you didn’t even get their side of the story.”
“Councilmember Reid and Councilmember Brooks, we thank you for caring that there is fair participation with the local (small businesses),” he said.
City labor leader Dwight McElroy, who attended the council meeting with hundreds of members to demand raises, also defended the two council members.
Speaking of “Brother Reid and Sister Brooks, there’s a smell that’s emanating from the accusations that (are being made), and the smell is not coming from either one of them,” said McElroy, a city public works employee and Oakland chapter president of SEIU 1021.
“The city’s auditors report falls far short of the truth,” said Tom Chasm of Urban Recycling Solutions, alleging that issues of interference originated from Phil Tagami, master developer of the Army Base development project.

Derek Barrett

According to Chasm, his company was working to bring recycled dirt for Army Base cleanup at no cost to the city, and the staff was encouraging him.
“We were told in August (2012) that things changed,” he said, “that the developer had other plans to import fill, barging 2,800,000 tons of soil at a cost of $40 to $50 million.”
“You ought to investigate why the developer is not creating jobs and saving this town $50 million,” said Chasm.
Heather Ehmke challenged Kernighan for statements attributed to her in the media that the City Council should develop a process for censuring council members.
“The audit report was reckless and unsupported by evidence. If there was a crime council members should know before this is released to the media. No evidence was quoted or cited in the report,” said Ehmke.
“There was no crime for anyone to be censured (about).”
“There was no crime for anyone to be censured (about),” said Ehmke.

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Coronavirus

SEN. TIM SCOTT SOLVES ASIAN AMERICANS’ MODEL MINORITY PROBLEM

In the official GOP response to President Joe Biden’s Joint Speech to Congress last week, Scott offered up his childhood growing up with a single mother in a one-room apartment, and then looked America in the eye and said, unequivocally, “America is not a racist country.”

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Asian Americans have long been  hampered at times by the “Model Minority” stereotype. What’s that about? You know, how Asian Americans’ success has been used against them in that “look how good they are” way. It’s an excuse to ignore them.  Here’s the thinking: as model minorities, we can all  ignore them. They don’t need any government help, affirmative action, or any such handouts. They are model minorities, ergo, the subtext–Why can’t you all be like them! 

But not this year! 

Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) has made a gift to all Asian Americans.

We aren’t the model minority anymore.

He is.

In the official GOP response to President Joe Biden’s Joint Speech to Congress last week, Scott offered up his childhood growing up with a single mother in a one-room apartment, and then looked America in the eye and said, unequivocally, “America is not a racist country.”

He was taking away our crown of “model minority” and placing it on his own head. And tying it on with his own bootstraps. 

Got to hand it to Scott. He likes to brag: “I get called Uncle Tom and the N-word by progressives, liberals.” But honestly, to say America is not a racist country is possibly a bigger lie than “Trump won last November.”

A Biden margin of victory of nearly 7 million voters debunks that lie.

It would take just one chapter  of Asian American history—just the Filipino part– to refute Scott.

In an historical context, taking away Asian Americans’  “model minority” burden is quite significant. 

Dropping the stereotype is important as America, after the Atlanta mass murders , finally begins to understand that we Asian Americans are beyond stereotypes. All together, Asian Americans are  23 million strong and diverse, from more than 20 countries. And we’re growing, destined to overtake the Hispanic population as the No.1 ethnic minority by 2060, according to the Pew analysis of Census data.

It’s especially important as the government looks to engage with all of its people in a new inclusive way.

It is the New America many of us in the ethnic media have been talking about for the last 20 years.

And that’s what Scott and the GOP are trying to negate that positive uplifting message of President Biden’s national address to a new America. 

We’re getting a lot of history in the first hundred days of Joe Biden. In that speech, we got the precious first image of a U.S. president speaking to a joint session of Congress, flanked by a female speaker of the house, and a female vice president—a multi-racial woman of Black and Asian descent.

It’s the good history of an evolving democracy.

When Biden talked about “real opportunities in the lives of Americans,” he didn’t any of us leave us out.

“Black, white, Latino, Asian American, Native American,” Biden said, then he segued into a thank you. “Look, I also want to thank the United States Senate for voting 94-1 to pass the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act to protect Asian American Pacific Islanders.”

Seven seconds of applause. And then to top it off, he transitioned to a mention of the Equality Act to protect transgender youth.

These were the specific and necessary moments when many of us could see ourselves. They were signs that government hasn’t forgotten who it’s governing—all Americans, of all stripes, collars, and colors. Biden’s all-encompassing economic plan covering infrastructure and families would cost anywhere up to $4 trillion.

Worth it? It is if we still want to be an America that’s of the people, by the people and for the people.

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Art

Student Work – Nayzeth Vargas

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

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This piece was created by Nayzeth Vargas, a senior at Oakland Technical High School. The Zentangle Method is a therapeutic technique which uses combinations of contrasting patterns and values to create an image. Students were introduced to the Zentangle Method to offset the mental stress they were experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation.  

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

Nayzeth is enrolled in the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project, an integrated arts program that supports youth in developing thoughtful, educated voices for their communities. Though art, youth practice mindfulness and boundless creativity. Enrollment for the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project is open to youth ages 13-18 through AHC, for more information visit ahc-oakland.org/legacy.

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Community

Edna Lewis: Humanizing the Black Chef

In 1948, female chefs were few and far between; black female chefs were almost nonexistent. But that didn’t stop Lewis from partnering with John Nicholson, an “antique dealer and bohemian with a taste for high society,” to open her own restaurant. It was called Café Nicholson. Located on East 57th Street in Manhattan, the café quickly became legendary.

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For decades, chefs, food critics, and writers neglected Southern cooking. Stereotypes dehumanizing chefs remain an echo in black culture today, from Aunt Jemima, the so-called happy servant on the syrup bottle to the promise of black servitude flooding TV commercials targeted at white American travelers to the fictional character Uncle Ben, created to sell rice to those in black communities. But Edna Lewis (1916–2006) was real and a giant in the culinary world.
Lewis was born on her grandfather’s farm in the rural community of Freetown, Va., a town founded in the late 19th century by three formerly enslaved people. One was Lewis’ grandfather. He also started the first school in Freetown, holding classes in his living room.
Despite not having modern conveniences, Lewis learned to cook early on. Most of her cooking lessons were taught by her aunt, Jenny. The two would prepare food using a wood-fire stove. Without fancy spoons or scales, they used coins and measured seasonings the old-fashioned Southern way: piling baking powder on pennies, salt on dimes, and baking soda on nickels. It has been said that Lewis could tell when a cake was done “just by listening to the sound it was making.”
Lewis left home after the death of her father; she was 16 at the time. She first relocated to Washington, D.C. and later to New York City. There she took on jobs as a presser in a Laundromat and at the Daily Worker, a local newspaper. She took part in political demonstrations and campaigned for Franklin D. Roosevelt. But what Lewis didn’t know was that her cooking was about to make her a local legend in The Big Apple.
In 1948, female chefs were few and far between; black female chefs were almost nonexistent. But that didn’t stop Lewis from partnering with John Nicholson, an “antique dealer and bohemian with a taste for high society,” to open her own restaurant. It was called Café Nicholson. Located on East 57th Street in Manhattan, the café quickly became legendary.
Lewis did all the cooking. Her simple Southern dishes, the ones she learned to prepare on a wood-fire stove, attracted a crowd of famous faces: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Gloria Vanderbilt, Marlene Dietrich, and Diana Vreeland. Business was great and Lewis was making a name in the culinary world.
Lewis stayed with the restaurant until 1954. Café Nicholson was sold years later to Chef Patrick Woodside.
In the late sixties, Lewis broke her leg and took a hiatus from cooking professionally. It was then that she began to compile some of her recipes. The result: the Edna Lewis Cookbook. In 1976 she wrote The Taste of Country Cooking, which became was one of the first cookbooks penned by an African-American woman to reach a nationwide audience.
Lewis’ teaching and cookbooks have influenced and inspired countless young chefs. She retired as a chef in 1992.

Source: https://www.thespruceeats.com/edna-lewis-1664995
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edna_Lewis
https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/edna-lewis
Image: https://www.eater.com/2017/1/7/14200170/edna-lewis-cookbook-bestseller-top-chef

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