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Community Rallies to Stop State Bill That Would Require School Closures

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     Local residents are scrambling to oppose a state bill that they recently found out about that would require the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to sell, lease or consolidate public school properties in order to receive temporary special funds to mitigate the impact of state-required budget reductions.

     The 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 and is scheduled for approval by June 15 or earlier.  

     The OUSD section amends a previous law, AB 1840,  backed by Senator Nancy Skinner and Assembly members Buffy Wicks and Rob Bonta, which currently says the district “may” sell public property to achieve financial stability but is not required to do so. 

      The amendment  says state aid 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), a state-funded agency that oversees OUSD for the state along with the Alameda County Office of Education and has a long history of pushing the district to close schools. 

    A resolution opposing the amendment was recently passed by the  Representative Council of the teachers’ union, the Oakland Education Association (OEA).

     In a June 4 letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, OEA President Keith Brown wrote,  “The current (bill) adds requirements for OUSD to close and consolidate public schools in order to quality for AB 1840 funding …(though) AB 1840 was never intended to force school closures.” 

    Forcing the district to close schools is a terrible idea made even worse at the present moment, Brown said.

     “Closing school facilities now will exacerbate the ongoing public health crisis, cause negative social-emotional and educational outcomes and negatively impact OUSD’s financial stability,” said Brown. “To preserve necessary resources during this ongoing pandemic, we should modify the Trailer Bill to prevent any permanent school closures or consolidations for OUSD until the COVID-19 crisis ends.” 

    Brown also emphasized the impact of school closures on Black and Latino students. “Permanent school closures and consolidations disproportionately impact student and communities of color – our most vulnerable students and families, and the same communities suffering the worst outcomes from COVID-19.”

     Brown endorsed amendments to AB 1840 proposed by Assembly member Rob Bonta that would ensure that OUSD preserves all available public school facilities for the duration of the COVID-19 public health crisis, which are necessary to facilitate social distancing when children return to school.

   In an interview with the Oakland Post, Bonta said the Trailer Bill amendment  “could be interpreted, would likely be interpreted, to require school closures and consolidations.” 

    “I’m seeking to have the bill changed,” he said. During the present pandemic, he said, “We need more outdoor and indoor space… which should be used to keep students safe.”

   Bonta said that from what he is hearing, FCMAT and OUSD are the ones backing the Trailer Bill amendment. He said the people who introduced the amendment did nothing to inform him, Wicks or Skinner, who were the authors of the original bill, AB 1840. “I don’t want to be a part of any budget language that suggests or explicitly states that they should close or consolidate schools,” he said.

   Some education activists view the proposed amendment as an attempt to make it more difficult for a new anti-closure school board, if one is elected in November, to reverse the decisions of the current board. 

    “Seems like folks behind this trailer bill amendment to AB 1840 are more fearful that a new four-seat Oakland school board majority might derail their plan to close Oakland public schools and sell/lease public school property before the AB 1840 fast-track real estate sale provisions run out, than they are fearful of the coronavirus,” said Jim Mordecai, education activist and retired teacher.

In an interview with the Oakland Post, FCMAT CEO Michael Fine denied the amendment requires the school district to sell property in order to get state relief funding, contradicting what others see when they read the bill. 

“All we are calling for them to do is proceed with their planning,” he said. “We don’t dictate what their plan is. It is their local plan.” 

“Closing schools or reconfiguring schools is one of the many things they need to consider,” he said. “If they decide that is not workable, there’s no problem – the state is not dictating how they stabilize themselves. But if they decide on a plan and don’t move forward on it, that’s a problem.

“The district is making great progress,” Fine said. “They’ve done an outstanding job in the past year.”

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Urban One Honors 2021: “Women Leading the Change”

“These women aren’t the Real Housewives of you name the city. These women are working on improving the lives of Black folk,” media mogul and entrepreneur Cathy Hughes said in a recent interview. Please encourage your young women to watch this show. We don’t know who the next Kamala Harris will be, a Black woman who became the nation’s first woman vice president or someone who changes the voting structure like Stacey Abrams.”

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And while many might consider those individuals able to spend more than seven decades with their mother as fortunate, Hughes said such longevity also created a startling realization. “The longer God blesses you with having your mother in your life, the more difficult it is to adjust to life without her,” she said.

And while many might consider those individuals able to spend more than seven decades with their mother as fortunate, Hughes said such longevity also created a startling realization. “The longer God blesses you with having your mother in your life, the more difficult it is to adjust to life without her,” she said.

By Keith L. Alexander for the NNPA

For media mogul and entrepreneur Cathy Hughes, this year’s Mother’s Day was going to be difficult.

Last July, Hughes’s mother, Helen Jones Woods, 96, died from complications of Covid-19. For the 74-year-old Hughes, multi-millionaire and founder and chairperson of Urban One Inc., this year marks Hughes’s first Mother’s Day without her mother present.

And while many might consider those individuals able to spend more than seven decades with their mother as fortunate, Hughes said such longevity also created a startling realization. “The longer God blesses you with having your mother in your life, the more difficult it is to adjust to life without her,” she said.

It was during Hughes’s mourning, that she birthed an idea to not only celebrate her mother’s life with a national TV program, but to also celebrate and honor the lives of other African American women who -specifically during the pandemic – worked at protecting and spotlighting Black Americans.

On Sunday, May 16, 2012 at 9 p.m. (EST) Hughes’s cable TV networks, TV One and its sister network CLEO-TV, will air the network’s annual “Urban One Honors” celebration. The two-hour program this year will be a first; all honorees are African American women. The show is themed “Women Leading the Change.”

Hughes said the women honored left an indelible mark on the country last year, one of this nation’s darkest and most challenging periods in American history due to the deadly pandemic.

The show is co-hosted by Grammy-award winning singer and syndicated gospel radio show host Erica Campbell and award-wining journalist and news commentator Roland Martin. The recorded, virtual awards show will feature live performances by R&B saangers, Avery Sunshine and Jazmine Sullivan, gospel powerhouse Le’Andria Johnson and legendary rapper, Da Brat.

The program will honor six Black female leaders in business, politics, journalism and humanitarian efforts including Atlanta’s political powerhouse and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Stacey Abrams and Rosaline “Roz” Brewer, chief executive officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance and the nation’s third Fortune 500 company ever led by a Black female executive. The program will also honor the four African American, Greek sororities; Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc. and Zeta Phi Beta, Inc.

The show will also pay tribute to Hughes’s mother, who before becoming a wife and mother, was a famed trombone player who played with an all-girl, integrated swing music band called the International Sweethearts of Rhythm in the 1930s and 1940’s. Hughes called her mother’s group, “the original Freedom Fighters” who traveled by bus through the South playing for audiences and even played clubs overseas. At one point, white and Hispanic band members had to wear dark makeup to look like their Black bandmates to avoid being stopped by police for promoting integration, Hughes recalled. The segment will be introduced by a longtime fan of the group, political activist, author and college professor Angela Davis.

Hughes’s excitement about the upcoming evening is electric. An hour before “Urban One Honors” airs, TV One will broadcast an exclusive, hour-long interview with legendary rapper DMX. The interview was recorded for the network’s weekly show “Uncensored” about three weeks before DMX’s sudden death April 9 at age 50. The show’s producers said DMX spoke, at times through tears, about his life, his music and his legacy. The producers said hearing DMX’s commentary just weeks before his death, is more sobering and haunting today.

After the celebration of one of the kings of rap music with “Uncensored,” the TV network will then celebrate its queens with the “Urban One Honors.”

“I think it’s going to be the biggest night in TV One’s history,” Hughes exclaimed.

Hughes, along with a group of Urban One executives chose the honorees because they wanted viewers, especially young girls, to see Black women who were not celebrated singers, dancers or actresses, but instead who were ideological firebrands, making differences in their communities and around the nation.

“These women aren’t the Real Housewives of you name the city. These women are working on improving the lives of Black folk,” Hughes said in a recent interview. Please encourage your young women to watch this show. We don’t know who the next Kamala Harris will be, a Black woman who became the nation’s first woman vice president or someone who changes the voting structure like Stacey Abrams.”

Hughes described Abrams as “voting rights champion” who not only changed the political landscape of Atlanta, but also helped ensure all voters were recognized on behalf of two U.S. Senate Democratic candidates and helped flip Georgia from majority Republican to majority Democrat.

When Walgreen’s selected Spelman College graduate Roz Brewer as its newest CEO in January, Brewer became the nation’s second Black female executive to ever lead a Fortune 500 company. Before being tapped by Walgreen’s, Brewer served as chief operating officer for Starbucks. Prior to that, she served as CEO of Sam’s Club which is owned by Walmart. In 2009, Ursula Burns, became the nation’s first Black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company when Xerox Holdings selected her as its CEO. Burns retired in 2017. The third Black woman CEO to lead a Fortune 500 company, Thasunda Brown Duckett, was named president and CEO of the retirement and investment managing company TIAA in February, a month after Brewer.

The TV One program is also honoring Ala Stanford, a Philadelphia-based physician and surgeon who last year founded the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium and used her own funds to ensure Black residents of the city – a group that was quickly becoming Philadelphia’s hardest hit by the pandemic – were able to be tested for the coronavirus.

Urban One, is based in Silver Spring, Md. about 30 minutes from downtown Washington, D.C. Last year, Hughes and other Urban One executives watched as Kim Ford, president and chief executive of Martha’s Table, provided healthy meals and fresh produce to needy residents in the nation’s capital during the pandemic.

For more than 40 years, Martha’s Table has ensured the neediest of Washington residents had healthy meals and clothing. Martha’s Table was named after the Biblical figure Martha who offered food to Jesus when he visited the home she shared with her sister Mary.

As a youth growing up in Washington, Ford volunteered serving and handing out meals with the non-profit organization. Then in 2019, she was chosen as the company’s president and chief executive. Prior to being named Martha’s Table chief executive, Ford served as deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education where she oversaw management of more than $2 billion in career and technical education, adult education, correctional and re-entry education and community college initiatives for more than 25 million students a year. Ford previously served as a member of President Obama’s Recovery Implementation Office, which was responsible for implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Last year, Martha’s Table reported a 400 percent increase in need from users, as thousands of residents sought assistance for themselves and their families enabling the program to feed as many as 2,200 residents a day, Martha’s Table reported recently.

Another honoree, Robin Rue Simmons, is an alderman in Evanston’s fifth ward in Louisiana. A champion of Black residents in the city, Simmons was elected alderman in 2017. Simmons then led Evanston to becoming the first U.S. city to approve a reparations program. Since taking office, Simmons led the passing of the nation’s first reparations program, which will be funded by the first $10 million of Adult Use Cannabis sales tax revenue. Simmons is also the director of the city’s innovation and outreach at Sunshine Enterprises, which has supported more than 1000 neighborhood entrepreneurs – 98 percent of whom are African American and 74 percent of whom are women – in starting or growing their own business ventures.

Also being honored is New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. Hannah-Jones covered racial injustice for the Times’s magazine before convincing the paper’s top editors to create an entire investigative series tied to the U.S. slave trade. The enterprise was called the 1619 Project which was published by the magazine in 2019. Last year the project won Jones the coveted Pulitzer Prize. The series is now the subject of a documentary produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Lionsgate and is scheduled to air on Hulu.

“We wanted to spotlight Sisters who were getting the change accentuated and making sure the change occurs,” Hughes said.

The show will also feature several noted Black men honoring the sisters. Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson makes his debut appearance on TV One. Also providing commentary on the honorees include Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Urban One CEO and Hughes’s son Alfred C. Liggins III and former Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond.

As co-host of the evening’s program, Campell said she hoped families with young daughters and young sons watch the program together and discuss the awardees and their work.

“I can have a conversation with my daughters to show them there is more to do than just look cute and wear nice makeup,” Campbell said. “They can literally shake up the world. Far too many of our girls look up to one dimensional type of celebrities or influencers. There is so much more than what we can be or what we can do. Offer this wide range of women who are changing the world.”

That was the impotence of the show, says Hughes. “Young people are so focused on celebrities. I wanted to focus this awards’ show on actions. The entertainment industry was shut down for the year. But these individuals we are honoring continued to work during the year,” Hughes said. “During the pandemic, these women were actively engaged.”

And while this year was for the ladies, what about the men? “Who knows maybe next year it will be brothers only,” Hughes said.

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TownConnect Initiative Wish Program Downpayment Assistance

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Oakland Program Distributes $500 to Families of Color

The assistance, which targets low-income families of color in the 426,000-population city, will last 18 months. Mayor Schaaf detailed that the money comes with “no-strings attached,” and recipients can use it as they please. “We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally,” Mayor Schaaf told the local ABC News station.

In the middle of a worldwide awakening to the centuries-old racism and oppression suffered by Black people, some African Americans finally see tangible assistance – even if the help isn’t characterized as reparations.
Oakland, Calif., Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that the city would begin a guaranteed income project that would provide $500 per month to Black and Indigenous families.
The assistance, which targets low-income families of color in the 426,000-population city, will last 18 months.
Mayor Schaaf detailed that the money comes with “no-strings attached,” and recipients can use it as they please.
“We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally,” Mayor Schaaf told the local ABC News station.
The station reported that, for the project, the Oakland Resilient Families program has so far raised $6.75 million from private donors, including Blue Meridian Partners, a national philanthropy group.
The programs require residents have at least one child under 18 and income at or below 50 percent of the area median income – about $59,000 per year for a family of three.
Half the spots are reserved for people who earn below 138 percent of the federal poverty level or about $30,000 per year for a family of three, ABC reported. Participants are randomly selected from a pool of applicants who meet the eligibility requirements.
The report noted that Oakland’s project is significant because it is one of the most outstanding efforts in the U.S. so far, targeting up to 600 families. And it is the first program to limit participation strictly to Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities.
Oakland, where 24 percent of the residents are Black, is among a growing list of municipalities providing financial payments to people of color – or reparations.
Evanston, Illinois, a city where 18 percent of its more than 74,500 residents are Black, approved the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program, which provides up to $25,000 for housing down payments or home repairs to African Americans.
The bill, authored by California Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, establishes a nine-person task force that will study the impact of the slave trade on Black people.
It does not commit to any specific payment, but the task force will make recommendations to legislators about what kind of compensation should be provided, who should receive it, and what form it would take.
“After watching [the presidential] debate, this signing can’t come too soon,” Newsom declared during a videoconference with lawmakers and other stakeholders, including the rapper Ice Cube, who championed the bill.
“As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions,” the governor stated.
“Hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that fills the cup we drink from today,” said Councilman Keith Young, one of two African American members of the City Council that voted 7-0 in favor of reparations.
“It is simply not enough to remove statutes. Black people in this country are dealing with systemic issues,” Young declared.
Asheville’s resolution doesn’t include monetary payments to African Americans but promises investments in areas where Black people face disparities.
Earlier this year, Congress debated H.R. 40, a bill that doesn’t place a specific monetary value on reparations but focuses on investigating and presenting the facts and truth about the unprecedented centuries of brutal enslavement of African people, racial healing, and transformation.
The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and society.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee, who sits on numerous House committees, including the Judiciary, Budget, and Homeland Security, has made the reparations legislation her top priority during the 117th Congress.
“I think if people begin to associate this legislation with what happened to the descendants of enslaved Africans as a human rights violation, the sordid past that violated the human rights of all of us who are descendants of enslaved Africans, I think that we can find common ground to pass this legislation,” Congresswoman Jackson Lee pronounced.
“Can anyone imagine that we’ve never gotten a simple, effective, deeply-embedded, and well-respected apology?”
The project in Oakland targets groups with the city’s most significant wealth disparities.
According to CNN and per the Oakland Equality Index, the median income for White households in Oakland to be nearly three times that of Black homes.
“The poverty we all witness today is not a personal failure. It is a systems failure,” Schaaf remarked. “Guaranteed income is one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity, and economic mobility we’ve seen in decades.”
Two years ago, 100 residents in Stockton, California, began receiving unconditional $500 payments, CNN reported. Other initiatives in Newark, New Jersey, and Atlanta, Georgia, were launched as recently as 2020.
Former Stockton Mayor, Michael Tubbs, is the founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of advocating mayors founded in 2020.
Oakland Mayor Schaaf is also a founding member of the network.
“One of my hopes in testing out a guaranteed income is that other cities would follow suit, and I’m thrilled that Oakland is among the first,” Tubbs told CNN.
“By focusing on BIPOC residents, the Oakland Resilient Families program will provide critical financial support to those hardest hit by systemic inequities, including the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on communities of color.”

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