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Councilmember Loren Taylor Supports Rezoning ‘Portion’ of Mills College for Development

The Huntington News, the Northeastern University independent newspaper, quoted Meena Ramakrishnan, a 2013 Northeastern graduate who obtained a master’s degree from Mills in 2022. “It is part and parcel of Mills’ DNA that marginalized folks are given an education. It’s part of the educational curriculum, the staff, and the faculty they hire are people of color or disabled folk or gender non-conforming people. It’s been like that for a long time, and so there is a lot of disappointment on campus that Northeastern does not share that kind of ethos and those values, and that they’re going to come in and attempt to change the fabric of Mills

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District 6 Councilmember Loren Taylor.
District 6 Councilmember Loren Taylor. (Photo: Amir Aziz)

By Ken Epstein

District 6 Councilmember and candidate for mayor Loren Taylor says he is in favor of office buildings, retail, and residential development on a “portion” of the 135-acre campus of Mills College at Northeastern, which is in his council district.

The proposed zoning change came to light two weeks in ago in a report to City Council. Buried in a draft plan for future housing in Oakland, submitted to City Council by Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Administration, is a map of zoning changes that would allow for higher density real estate development, including condominiums and retail.

While city staff did not say who had submitted the proposed zoning change, and Schaaf did not reply to questions from the Post, Taylor did discuss his position in a text to the Post.

“I am not opposed to rezoning a portion of the site – not all of it. (I) need to better explore the plan of the current zoning to have a definitive response,” he told the Post in a text.

“There have been several proposals submitted to my understanding, from affordable housing to small footprint corporate offices to much-needed East Oakland retail,” he continued. He added, “I haven’t seen/review(ed) them, though. As I understand it, every proposal retains the vast majority of the campus for higher education through Mills/Northeastern. (However,) I don’t know what has transpired since Northeastern took over.”

Taylor also said he did not know who requested the rezoning of Mills at Northeastern nor did he know what Schaaf’s position is on the rezoning proposal.

Mills College officially merged with Northeastern University on June 30, 2022, despite considerable opposition from students, faculty, alumnae and supporters in the community.

The map shows the entire Mills campus in East Oakland as changed from zoning designation “RM-4 Mixed Housing Type Residential – 4 Zone.”

According to the City’s definition, “The intent of the RM-4 Zone is to create, maintain, and enhance residential areas typically located on or near the City’s major arterials and characterized by a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, small multi-unit buildings at somewhat higher densities than RM-3, and neighborhood businesses where appropriate.”

City Council staff indicate that the RM-4 Zone would permit the development of the entire site with condominiums, townhouses, and retail businesses.

The current zoning of the Mills property, RM-3 Zone, has been in place for at least the past 20 years, according to a staff member in the City’s zoning division. Dramatic changes are now in the works after Northeastern University in Boston took over Mills, with pledges of a merger of many of the best aspects of both institutions.

Taylor has been outspoken in support of the takeover of Mills by Northeastern, as has Schaaf, with whom he has been closely allied.

According to an article in the Northeastern University (NU) newsletter, Taylor has been deeply involved in the merger discussions between the university and Mills.

“Taylor says he was involved in talks with the college and university as the merger evolved from idea to reality. ‘When I’ve had conversations with leadership at Mills and Northeastern,’ Taylor says, ‘I’ve always come away reassured. I hear, feel, and sense that there’s a true commitment to ensuring the legacy of what Mills had. I look forward to seeing that happen,’” the NU newsletter said.

Though the proposal is to rezone the entire 135 acres of the campus, City staff told the Post that only part of the campus was being considered for development.

Press conference on July 19, 2022, at Oakland City Hall supports fight to save Mills College and calls for an independent state investigation of the merger with Northeastern University. “This merger was sudden, confusing, and done with very little transparency," said Councilmember Sheng Thao, a Mills graduate.  Photo courtesy of the Office of Sheng Thao.

Press conference on July 19, 2022, at Oakland City Hall supports fight to save Mills College and calls for an independent state investigation of the merger with Northeastern University. “This merger was sudden, confusing, and done with very little transparency,” said Councilmember Sheng Thao, a Mills graduate.  Photo courtesy of the Office of Sheng Thao.

“The undeveloped western edge of the Mills College campus adjacent to MacArthur Blvd. was identified as a potential location for the addition of infill housing. Any rezoning of that portion of the campus would only occur if the community and decisionmakers support such a change and only for the purpose of facilitating the addition of housing along this undeveloped campus edge,” according to the City’s zoning staff.

The Housing Element, including zoning changes, is scheduled – following discussion and modification – for a final decision in January.

A lawsuit against the merger between the two institutions has been filed, and the coalition of groups and individuals working to Save Mills is still pushing for a state or federal investigation of the merger.

A June 6, 2022, a headline in the Huntington News, the Northeastern University independent newspaper, stated, “Some Mills College Students, Alumni, Upset by Northeastern merger.”

The newspaper quoted Meena Ramakrishnan, a 2013 Northeastern graduate who obtained a master’s degree from Mills in 2022.

“It is part and parcel of Mills’ DNA that marginalized folks are given an education. It’s part of the educational curriculum, the staff, and the faculty they hire are people of color or disabled folk or gender non-conforming people. It’s been like that for a long time, and so there is a lot of disappointment on campus that Northeastern does not share that kind of ethos and those values, and that they’re going to come in and attempt to change the fabric of Mills.”

While Mills has been a liberal arts college for generations, “Northeastern has a reputation for science and business oriented studies, (and) it was considered a predominantly white institution until 2014, and white students still overwhelm other groups at Northeastern,” according to the news article.

The article continues: “Racist incidents at Northeastern are a cause for concern for the students of color who call Mills their home. As recently as 2019, the #HereAtNU and #NUExperience student movement saw dozens of students of color sharing their experiences with racism and discrimination at the university, with #BlackAtNU forming for students to demand improvement.”

“There were incidents where the campus police were targeting students of color, mainly Black males. So, my question is — are you bringing that foolishness here?” asked Tasha Poullard, a Mills graduate quoted in the Northeastern newspaper.

“Mills College — in my personal opinion — is one of the calmest, most serene and safe campuses I’ve ever been on,” Poullard said.

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Activism

Tiny Homes Offer Hope for Holidays and Beyond

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes. 

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As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.
As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

By Dr. Maritony A. Yamot and Rev. Ken Lackey

The holidays are the season when we stop and begin to think, “How can I give back this year and what are some different ways to help out?”

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help out during the holidays that don’t cost a thing. The Tiny Homes Project — with Rev. Ken Lackey of the Center for the Perfect Marriage Church at 6101 International Blvd. — needs to increase its capacity and we wanted to remind our community that everybody matters to God.

As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

We want to launch an intensive month-long generosity campaign to help the increasing homeless issues in our neighborhoods by adding to the number of tiny homes that we have already built at various private locations in Oakland.

We invite you to join us as we partner with some of Oakland’s fabulous nonprofit organizations to meet critical needs in our communities.

Whether through donation or action, there are plenty of opportunities to give.

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes.

We are also looking for vehicle donations of trailers or any truck for hauling material and picking up volunteers and homeless people that are helping to build Tiny Homes. We build our homes with primarily donated and surplus materials, allowing us to cut costs and provide a pleasant home for under $40,000.

Each and every person who wants to help out and eradicate the homeless problem in the City of Oakland can donate funds for us to build a Tiny Home. If donors want to give money to the ministry, we will build a tiny home and name it after them. Know that your donations will be able to take a whole family off the street during this cold season.

In addition, we are open to getting a sponsor or sponsors for an entire Tiny Homes Community Park and we have a separate location that will be designated for homeless veterans, the elderly, single mothers or single fathers, and any individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, such as those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, places not meant for habitation, or sleeping on our streets.

Please spread the word and contact us about any way you can help our Tiny Homes Community Project with Rev. Ken Lackey.

There are three ways to contact us

  1. By Phone/toll-free number: 1-833-233-8900 ext. 1
  2. By Email: TinyHomesC@gmail.com
  3. By Appointment/Donation Drop off location at the All About Grits Restaurant at 6101 International Blvd., Oakland, CA

Or you can attend our next two major events:

  1. Tiny Homes Fundraising Event on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. Place to be announced.
  2. Tiny Homes Community Building Workshop with the help of our community and local partners in the Bay Area. Date and place to be announced.

Contact us for more details of these two events or any ways you can help in this season.

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Activism

Faith Baptist Church Becomes Oakland’s First Official Resiliency Hub

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project. With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

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As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.
As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.

By Curtis O. Robinson, Sr., M.A., Harvard University fellow, ’19, Senior Pastor, Faith Baptist Church

So, when I say that Faith Baptist is Oakland’s first Resiliency Hub, the first question that many people ask is, “what is a resiliency hub?”

In an article from the Christian Science Monitor entitled “Resilience hubs: A new approach to crisis response,” the author writes, “Things that shock a community have to do with climate, but more urgently they have to do with systemic inequities.”

He was referring to police shootings, civic unrest, the growth of homeless encampments and more. The resiliency hub approach to these inequities uses a respected local organization, such as a church or community center, and bolsters it to help neighborhoods prepare for crises — hurricanes, heat waves, pandemics or unrest — and to respond and recover from them.

When Faith was approached with the idea of solar panels for its rooftop as a source of heat, the decision was relatively a no-brainer.

As a House of Worship, there is a collective emphasis on the workings of God in the universe. The first job that God gave humanity was to tend the Garden. When it comes to environmental justice, our goal then is to take care of this place called planet Earth.

The world is now in an environmental tailspin. However, with technology that teaches us how to create sustainable outcomes, sprinkled with common sense, we can achieve an environmental balance that can create safe spaces environmentally for our children and for our future.

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project.

With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

With the help of California Interfaith Power and Light and energy experts from the U.S. Green Building Council, we held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 14.

Joining us, among others, were Susan Stephenson, executive director of California Interfaith Power and Light, Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb of District 1, Shayna Hirschfield- Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager and members of Faith Baptist and the Pentecostal community that shares our space and Green Building volunteers.

We bask in the glory of energy independence, because we now tap into clean energy from above and not dirty energy from below.

Publisher’s note: Rev Curtis Robinson also is a columnist for the God on Wall Street column for the Post News Group.

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Activism

March Against Fear: When ‘Black Power’ Became Mainstream

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

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James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)
James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)

By Tamara Shiloh

It was June 5, 1966.

James Howard Meredith (born 1933), on a mission to encourage Black voter registration and defy entrenched racism in the South, set out on a solitary walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.

On the second day of his journey, Aubrey Norvell, a white gunman, waited on a roadside a few miles south of Hernando, Mississippi. He ambushed Meredith, shooting him in the neck, head, and back.

Within 24 hours, the nation’s three principal civil rights organizations vowed to continue the march: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Success of the event could not be predicted. Leaders were aware that last-minute planning of a march could be dangerous, and the route chosen was not without uncertainty. The three-week march led to death threats, arrests, and the use of tear gas. Internal tensions surrounding leadership swelled and use of the slogan “Black Power” became a revolutionary phrase urging self-determination and Black pride.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice, a group of Black veterans from World War II who believed in armed self-defense, provided protection for participants. Founded in Jonesboro, La., in 1964, The Deacons for Defense had already protected civil rights activists from the Ku Klux Klan. About 20 chapters were created throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The march ended on June 22, 1966. Meredith, sufficiently recovered, had been able to rejoin the event. Participants supporting Meredith along the way joined in, making the total number of marchers arriving in Jackson about 15,000. The March Against Fear was one of the largest marches in history for that geographical area. It was during the post-march rally that Stokely Carmichael first used the phrase “we want Black Power” during a public speech.

Carmichael sought to define the quest for Black Power in constructive terms, explaining to supporters in Detroit that “Black votes created Black Power…That doesn’t mean that we are anti-white. We are just developing Black pride.”

Meredith had become well known when he successfully challenged the Kennedy administration to protect his civil rights. His application for admission to the University of Mississippi, dubbed Ole Miss, had been twice denied. With backing from the NAACP, he filed suit for racial discrimination.

After heavy negotiations with U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Meredith was permitted to enroll at Ole Miss but only under escort of federal troops. He graduated in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

Understand the complex issues of fear, injustice, and the challenges of change in Anne Bausum’s “The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power.”

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