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Community Mobilizes to Halt State Bill Requiring Oakland to Close Public Schools and Sell Public Property

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Local residents have joined with Assemblymember Rob Bonta to oppose a state bill that would have required the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to permanently close schools and sell or lease public school properties in the midst of the pandemic

Assemblymember Bonta and the other speakers at a press conference Tuesday announced that there was a tentative agreement with state officials that would entirely reverse the original language and place a moratorium on school closures, mergers and colocations for one year or until the end of the pandemic.

In her remarks at Tuesday’s press conference, Saru Jayaraman of Oakland Not for Sale spoke of working with top health experts on a White Paper arguing that this is not the time to close schools since communities need all school facilities to provide for social distancing during the pandemic.  This is in accord with Governor Newsom’s directives on school reopening.

The Ad Hoc Committee of Educators and Parents has collected over a thousand signatures on a petition to State Senator Nancy Skinners and Assemblymember Wicks asking them, as representatives of Oakland, to support Bonta’s language and Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) has presented Skinner and Wicks with a letter asking their support for the moratorium on permanent closures.

But the fight is not over.  Every day new reports emanate from Sacramento on support and opposition to the bill, which is scheduled for approval by June 15 or earlier.

At issue is wording that impacts OUSD is one section of the 83-page “2020 Governor’s Budget Education Omnibus Trailer Bill,” which covers a wide range of issues. The OUSD section amends a previous law, AB 1840, which currently says the district “may” sell public property to achieve financial stability but is not required to do so.

The bill would add wording into the CA Education Code requiring that state aid — up to $16 million next year —   for OUSD would be “contingent” on “new conditions” as follows: “affirmative board action to continue planning for, and timely implementation of a school and facility closure and consolidation plan that supports the sale or lease of surplus property,” according to a March 2 letter from the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT).

This latest maneuver to force Oakland to close schools is backed by FCMAT, a non-elected, private body located in Bakersfield. FCMAT has had veto power over the Oakland school district budget since 2003 when the state originally took over the district.  Although the district theoretically had local control returned, in fact the state has maintained budgetary control.  FCMAT has been working on forcing the closure of Oakland schools since their first contact with the district, which has resulted in closing 18 flatlands schools, serving overwhelmingly Black and Latino students.

Speaking at this week’s press conference, Bonta said his new wording asks that Oakland work to achieve a “fiscally sound school” district in a variety of different ways but not by permanently closing schools, at least for the next year during the COVID-19 public health crisis.  However, he emphasized that the deal on this language is not finalized.

“We’re on the verge of it, but I don’t want to say it’s final until it’s final.  The budget is not the budget until it’s voted on the and the language is final and we haven’t seen that. But we have made progress, incredible progress.”

Bonta told community members that the district’s financial decisions need to be “made locally and collaboratively in partnership with you, our teachers, our students, all of our leaders and our classified workers.”

“You’ve been fighting for this (for a long time),” he said. “I appreciate the opportunity to listen to you, to learn from you, to partner with you, to co-create solutions with you, to think through alternative possibilities with you.”

Other Oaklanders added pressure to halt the school closure bill. A resolution opposing the bill was passed by the Representative Council of the teachers’ union, the Oakland Education Association (OEA), and OEA President Keith Brown sent a letter to State Supt. of Instruction Tony Thurmond and Gov. Newsom opposing closing schools at a time when schools need the maximum amount of space in order to reopen with social distancing.

 

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Nation’s First Bill to Extend Victim Services to Survivors of Police Brutality

This would ensure that survivors of police violence and loved ones of those killed by police are no longer dependent on either a police report documenting the victimization, which is often elusive, or the opinion of involved police when assessing a victim’s responsibility. 

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The California Senate’s Committee on Public Safety this week unanimously passed SB 299. Authored by Senator Connie Leyva (SD-20), which would extend services to victims of police violence and expand eligibility for survivors of homicide victims.

“It is unacceptable that in order to receive assistance through the Victim Compensation program, police reports and the opinion of police would carry such heavy weight in the application for compensation when the injuries were sustained as a result of police actions,” Senator Leyva said.

 “SB 299 will improve access to vital resources for victims of police violence as they recover from the physical and emotional injuries caused due to the actions of police or—in the cases of individuals killed by police—be able to bury their loved ones with dignity and respect,” he said. 

“Just as the state’s Victims Compensation program can use evidence beyond police reports for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking, so too do victims of police violence deserve similar recognition of their circumstances so that they can get fair access to the help they need.”

Police reports and opinion can also prevent families of homicide victims from obtaining compensation, without any recourse or due process. Families in shock at a violent loss then struggle to bury their loved ones. SB 299 would, for the first time, expand eligibility to make sure survivors of homicide victims are not denied based on the contents of inaccurate, unfair or biased police reports.

“We cannot continue to let the police decide who is a ‘deserving’ victim,” says Youth ALIVE! Director of Programs, Kyndra Simmons. “This has prevented many survivors and victims, including victims of police violence, from accessing the resources and support meant to help them heal.”

“Qualifying for victim compensation was life-changing for me after my son Jordan was killed,” says Tonya Lancaster, trauma survivor and Youth ALIVE! client. “I want to see that support for everybody who needs it.”

Under existing law, victims of limited types of crimes are eligible to receive compensation from the California Victim Compensation Board’s Restitution Fund. That compensation can cover a range of needs spanning medical expenses, burial expenses, wage and income loss and much more. 

SB 299 would extend this eligibility to include incidents in which an individual sustains serious bodily injury or death as a result of a law enforcement officer’s use of force, regardless of whether the law enforcement officer is arrested for, charged with, or convicted of committing a crime. 

This would ensure that survivors of police violence and loved ones of those killed by police are no longer dependent on either a police report documenting the victimization, which is often elusive, or the opinion of involved police when assessing a victim’s responsibility. 

“We cannot tolerate treating victims of police violence with any less care and compassion than we extend to other crime victims,” said Controller Betty Yee, California’s chief fiscal officer. “We must work toward a just, fair, and peaceful society, and this expansion of victim compensation is one small step in that work.”

“”Advocacy for victims must include all victims and survivors, regardless of who caused the harm. That’s why my office started a first-in-the-state program in 2020 to ensure that our Victim Services Division compensates victims of police violence like any other victim,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.  

“Unlike victims of other crimes, victims of police brutality are commonly denied access to victims compensation funds to cover burial costs, medical expenses, lost income, therapy and more,” said Prosecutors Alliance Executive Director Cristine Soto DeBerry. “No one should have to start a GoFundMe page to cover the costs of burying a loved one lost to violence.”

SB299 is co-sponsored by California Controller Betty Yee, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, Californians for Safety and Justice, the Prosecutors Alliance of California, and Youth ALIVE! It will be heard next by the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

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Oakland Mural- Zero Hunger

Six murals, curated by SAM, are aimed at raising awareness and mobilizing support to combat rising U.S. and global food insecurity, especially in the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic.

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Tallest Mural of Oakland spotlights the U.S. and global food insecurity and injustice in support of the United Nations World Food Programme’s mission to end global hunger. Photo credit: @StreetArtMankind #ZeroHungerMurals About Street Art for Mankind.
Oakland, CA (April 5, 2021) – World Food Program USA, in support of the mission of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, is teaming up with Street Art for Mankind (SAM) and Kellogg Company to create a series of murals around the United States dedicated to “Zero Hunger,” the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2). Six murals, curated by SAM, are aimed at raising awareness and mobilizing support to combat rising U.S. and global food insecurity, especially in the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic. The first large mural was created by artists Axel Void and Reginald O’Neal in New Orleans, Louisiana, in February. The second mural, created in downtown Houston by artist Dragon76 on the Hampton Inn by Hilton In March, is now the biggest mural of the city with its 13,000 square feet. The third one will be completed by Thursday, April 15th in Oakland on the Marriott City Center 21-story wall by the International artist Victor Ash. When finished, it will be the tallest mural in Oakland. More murals will be created in Washington, DC, Detroit, and Battle Creek, Mich. “At this critical time in the COVID-19 pandemic, we are thankful to our partners for helping to raise the visibility of food insecurity both globally and domestically as well as activate citizens to mobilize around this important issue. While our programs feed people living on less than $2 a day in the most impoverished countries, we understand the severity of the American hunger crisis and support the efforts of both non-profits and corporate partners to feed those in need” said Barron Segar, president, and CEO, World Food Program USA. We are facing the greatest hunger crisis of our time. Hunger is on the rise, with more than a quarter of a billion people marching toward starvation. In fact, famine is looming in four countries: Yemen, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, and northeast Nigeria. It is only the U.N. World Food Programme intervention supporting national governments and partners that has so far prevented famine. The U.N. World Food Programme has launched the biggest operation in its nearly 60-year history, with plans to feed up to 138 million people this year.
The United States has been hit with an unprecedented hunger crisis as well, as the pandemic’s fallout triggers unemployment, income loss, and widespread food insecurity. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture1 , African-Americans are twice as likely to face hunger as non-Hispanic, Caucasian households. To give back to local minority communities, Kellogg Company is donating cash to support local food justice programs in each of the six cities. “To raise further awareness about the importance of food justice, Kellogg is making a $10,000 donation to organizations in each of the six communities that are working to provide sustainable and equitable access to food,” said Stephanie Slingerland, Kellogg’s Senior Director of Philanthropy & Social Impact. Kellogg has long been committed to addressing food insecurity in North America – and across the globe — through its Better Days purpose platform, through which we’ve donated 2.4 billion servings of food worldwide.” The mural series is a continuity of the “Zero Hunger” mural created in New York for the United Nation’s 75th anniversary. Visitors to the murals can use Street Art for Mankind’s free “Behind the Wall” app to scan or photograph the mural, instantly accessing more details about the mural, the hunger crisis, and how to take action globally and locally. 1 USDA, Economic Research Service, Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement, Jernigan et al. (2017) “We are honored to expand our Zero Hunger series around the United States with the World Food Program USA and Kellogg. We hope our gigantic murals, created by an incredibly diverse group of talented street artists, will inspire the public to reflect on the current situation and do their share to support the fight against hunger within their communities and beyond.
Together we can see bigger and create a hunger-free world,” said Audrey and Thibault Decker, Co-founders of Street Art for Mankind. Mural Pictures https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pg8kus6la6e2bgz/AAA3VCk-s5wFhQS9ZDXE6-9ma?dl=0 The link is updated every day with new pictures. Photo credit: @StreetArtMankind #ZeroHungerMurals About Street Art for Mankind (SAM) SAM is a 501c(3), non-profit organization working with prominent street artists from all around the world to raise awareness on SDG’s and child trafficking through the power of art. SAM has collaborated with the United Nations since 2017. This new “Zero Hunger” series is a continuity of the “Zero Hunger” mural created for the 75th anniversary of the UN at the UN General Assembly in New York. For more information about SAM Mural in Oakland contact us at:
 Email – Audrey Decker: adecker@streetartmankind.org
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter #ZeroHungerMurals About World Food Program USA , The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability, and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change. World Food Program USA, a 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, DC, proudly supports the mission of the United Nations World Food Programme by mobilizing American policymakers, businesses and individuals to advance the global movement to end hunger. Our leadership and support help to bolster an enduring American legacy of feeding families in need around the world. To learn more about World Food Program USA’s mission, please visit wfpusa.org/about-us. About Kellogg Company: At Kellogg Company, we strive to enrich and delight the world through foods and brands that matter. Our beloved brands include Pringles®, Cheez-It®, Special K®, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes®, Pop-Tarts®, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes®, Rice Krispies®, Eggo®, Mini-Wheats®, Kashi®, RXBAR®, MorningStar Farms® and more. Kellogg brands are beloved in markets around the world. We are also a company with Heart & Soul, committed to creating Better Days for 3 billion people by the end of 2030 through our Kellogg’s® Better Days global purpose platform.
About Kellogg Company: At Kellogg Company, we strive to enrich and delight the world through foods and brands that matter. Our beloved brands include Pringles®, Cheez-It®, Special K®, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes®, Pop-Tarts®, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes®, Rice Krispies®, Eggo®, Mini-Wheats®, Kashi®, RXBAR®, MorningStar Farms® and more. Kellogg brands are beloved in markets around the world. We are also a company with Heart & Soul, committed to creating Better Days for 3 billion people by the end of 2030 through our Kellogg’s® Better Days global purpose platform. Visit www.KelloggCompany.com or www.OpenforBreakfast.com

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Biden’s Promise to Diversify the Courts

Biden has pledged to nominate the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. These nominees are a good sign that he intends to keep that promise, too. 

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People who care about equal justice under the law should be very happy about President Joe Biden’s first set of judicial nominees.
I am especially excited about the three outstanding Black women that President Biden nominated to the circuit courts—the appeals court level just below the U.S. Supreme Court.
You will soon be hearing more about all these highly credentialed and accomplished women: Ketanji Brown Jackson, Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, and Tiffany Cunningham.
Biden is fulfilling his promise to bring professional diversity to courts that are dominated by former prosecutors and corporate lawyers. Ketanji Brown Jackson and Candace Jackson-Akiwumi both have experience as public defenders. Jackson is now a federal district judge who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2013.
Biden has pledged to nominate the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. These nominees are a good sign that he intends to keep that promise, too.
It is shameful that the Seventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over diverse cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis, currently has only white judges. The confirmation of Jackson-Akiwumi will change that. The confirmation of Tiffany Cunningham will make her the first Black judge ever to serve on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.
These brilliant women will also bring other perspectives that are sorely lacking on the courts.
Judge Jackson was vice chair and commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, where she advocated for ending the brutally unjust and anti-Black discrepancy between sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine.
As a public defender, Candace Jackson-Akiwumi represented more than 400 people who could not afford a lawyer.
Tiffany Cunningham has been nominated to the specialized federal circuit, which needs judges familiar with science and technology issues. Cunningham not only has a law degree from Harvard, but a degree in chemical engineering from MIT. She has been repeatedly named to legal publications’ lists of the country’s best lawyers. She is impressive.
This is history in the making, not just for these judges but for all the people who will be influenced by their decisions.
Legendary civil rights advocate Mary Frances Berry recently wrote, “When the American people voted in November, we chose a new Congress and administration that we believed would deliver change. That means passing legislation that actually helps everyday people, not just the rich and powerful. It also means having the right people in key positions to bring that ‘real people’ focus to policymaking and to upholding the law.” As Berry pointed out, the success of these trailblazing women will also create new opportunities for the women and girls who follow them.
Former President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees were overwhelmingly white—around four percent of his judges are Black —and mostly picked for their loyalty to a right-wing judicial ideology that sacrifices individual rights and the common good to states’ rights and the power of corporations. Trump appointed no Black women to the circuit courts.
Confirming Biden’s judicial nominees will begin the process of repairing the damage done to our courts during the Trump administration and restoring faith in our courts.
Unfortunately, we have seen that being extremely well qualified does not prevent women of color from being unfairly attacked. Right-wing groups have spent millions of dollars to smear women of color nominated to Biden’s cabinet and to high-level positions at the U.S. Justice Department.
People For the American Way has launched the Her Fight Our Fight campaign to support the women of color who are ready to help lead the way to a more just, more inclusive, multiethnic and multiracial democratic society.

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