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Coronavirus

Eastmont Mall Site of Mass COVID-19 Testing Event on Aug. 22-23 Led by Dr. Kim Rhoads

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Oakland residents are invited to Eastmont Mall August 22-23, 2020, to attend the largest COVID-19 testing event ever staged in the East Bay.

Umoja Health, a network of doctors in San Francisco, and Oakland Frontline Healers anticipate that more than 1,000 people per day will be tested via drive-thru or walk-up at 7200 Bancroft Ave.

From 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., testing will be available, and free lunch and free PPE will be distributed to participants. Previous COVID-19 events of this size were successfully staged in May and June in San Francisco’s Sunnydale and Bayview districts, led by Dr. Kim Rhoads.

Dr. Kim Rhodes, at a convening with California Surgeon General Dr. Burke Harris
Picture by UCSF staff

Rhoads, who is formally trained and board-certified in general surgery and colon and rectal surgery, is currently an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, focusing on cancer research regarding higher death rates among African Americans, even those cancers they are less prone to develop. 

After COVID-19 emerged, Rhoads observed similar disparities in coronavirus infection rates, noting that even though the Latinx population has a higher rate of infection than African Americans, more African Americans are dying.

The situation caused her to reflect on the philosophy of her mentor, Dr. Frank E. Staggers Sr.

Staggers, who transitioned in 2014, was the founding chair of the Community Advisory Board for UCSF’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Staggers had a strong belief in unlimited human wealth and potential. He promoted strong family values, including the belief that elders must provide a foundation for the next generation to reach its highest promise, and that “family” incorporates the entire community. 

Linking the health of an individual with the health of the community was what Staggers practiced, dedicating himself to identifying and developing strategies and solutions to eradicate healthcare disparities.

After practicing surgery on the faculty at Stanford University for nearly a decade, Rhoads decided she wasn’t going to practice anymore, deciding to commit full time to community engagement work.

“When I started medical school I said I wasn’t going to practice medicine.  My purpose was to learn all the secrets of the medical system and tell the people what those secrets are,” she said. 

With the arc of her life unfolding in this way and the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic,  Rhoads reflected on her mentor’s principles, asking herself, “What would Dr. Staggers do?”

Dr. Frank Staggers Sr.
Picture submitted by Friends of Dr. Frank Staggers Sr.

Rhoads rededicated herself to her life’s mission, leading the effort for the San Francisco COVID-19 testing events and revealing the secret that African Americans are dying at higher rates than any other demographic, and that major intervention is mandatory.

“My department chair at UCSF, Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo got a call from (Oakland’s) Fruitvale district from Chris Iglesias of the Unity Council and leaders at La Clinica De La Raza who said they had a really big COVID-19 positivity rate and needed our help,” Rhoads said.  “We know the rate in East Oakland is high, so we’ve come to where the need is greatest.”

Rhoads is operating under the umbrella of the United in Health initiatives, which are sponsored by UCSF, and the Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub, a collaboration between UCSF, Stanford and UC Berkeley.

The Biohub runs the COVID-19 testing for select community-based testing initiatives.  Their tests have a rapid turn-around of getting results within two to three days, a criticism that other massive testing efforts have faced.

“After the August 22nd event, we will continue taking care of people who test positive, providing PPE and resources including food delivery, cleaning supplies and instructions as to how to keep their homes safe, by supporting a Community Wellness Team here in East Oakland.”

“The key is, we’re not going to disappear after this event.  We will keep the community wellness teams together and evolve other support as needed.,” Rhoads said.  “If people don’t need food, we’ll provide COVID messaging and other COVID activities, but we’re basically trying to keep local groups together to continue serving the community. After COVID we’ll take care of cancer next.  It’s what Dr. Staggers would do.”

Rhoads said that health disparities in populations of color stem from health system inequities that have existed for decades and began when white Medicare-based hospitals, supported by the American Medical Association, received more funding than Black Medicaid-based hospitals.

Rhoads explained, “It is undeniable that hospitals, that are Medicaid based, vs. Medicare, take care of more and tougher cases of cancer, often because the disease is so advanced at the time of diagnosis.  Academic structures blame the victims for the high rates of death, stating poor health habits, but I have found that the problem stems from disparities in standards of care.”

Rhoads is also an affiliate of Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and associate director of Community Engagement for the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.  She is married to pediatric anesthesiologist Dr. Bill Rhoads, resides in Oakland, and has two teenaged children.

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Activism

OCCUR & the San Francisco Foundation FAITHS Program Present: A Model Built on Faith 2022 Leadership Series

Presenter, Karl Mill, Esq., is founder of Mill Law Center, a firm providing legal support to the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors. A long-time champion of underserved communities, Mill is dedicated to promoting justice under the law. “Our firm is in the nonprofit sector because we want to devote our lives to activities that relieve suffering and promote justice” says Mill.

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Workshop 3: Building Your Legal Guardrails

May 26, 2022

As organizations and communities emerge from years of changes and transformations due to the Covid pandemic, the broader landscapes in which they function have also changed. What current and possible new legal guardrails must be in place to move forward into the new normal? OCCUR and the San Francisco Foundation FAITHS program present Building Your Legal Guardrails. This capacity training will provide nonprofit and faith-based leaders with an overview of legal topics key to understanding and exploring the rapidly changing legal landscape.

Presenter, Karl Mill, Esq., is founder of Mill Law Center, a firm providing legal support to the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors. A long-time champion of underserved communities, Mill is dedicated to promoting justice under the law. “Our firm is in the nonprofit sector because we want to devote our lives to activities that relieve suffering and promote justice” says Mill. “We focus on priority areas such as racial justice, combatting economic and educational inequality, supporting immigrants’ rights, and dismantling mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline. Understanding key elements of the law is critical to advancing the work of all those who work in the nonprofit arena.”

Please join us for this informative workshop!

Date/Time:
May 26, 2022, 9 a.m.-11a.m.
Location: Zoom
How to Attend: Please RSVP on our website, amodelbuiltonfaith.org
Questions: Email info@occurnow.org, or call (510) 839-2440

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Activism

COMMENTARY: “COVID-19 and White Supremacy, Creating Our New Normal”

We must rescue and refine the best of Black ways. Look at our historical grandeur. We once imagined the great Step Pyramid before there was a pyramid. How did we do that? Black people lived through over four hundred years of rabid, hostile, savage, dehumanization yet never became rabid, hostile, savage dehumanizing people. Our way, our worldview, our narrative, our normativity is what allowed us to do this. This is what we need to revisit.

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Dr. Wade Nobles
Dr. Wade Nobles

Black Mental Health pt. 2

By Tanya Dennis

With the global COVID-19 pandemic, we knew the world would never be the same. For some, COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to correct a society filled with bias, inequality, and meanness.

For Dr. Wade Nobles, long-time scholar/activist, and co-founder of the Association of Black Psychologists, “This is our time of reckoning. It is a time to redo what we have always done, sometimes under the radar, always in opposition to white supremacy. This is the time for Black people to interlock, reconnect and heal our community without European influence.”

Dr. Nobles, the Bay Area Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists, and Oakland Frontline Healers are bringing together the best minds and calling on every sector to join them in the development of African American Wellness Hubs and an African American Healing Center in Oakland.

“Restoring wellness is to make the whole well. It is to connect everything and everyone in life affirming ways throughout the entire African world. Our way of being well and whole were well established in our past. In the past we gathered and found solutions collectively. Remember rent parties, Sunday church special offerings to send a child off to college or visiting the sick and shut in? These are our examples. In our way, personhood, familyhood, neighborhood, peoplehood, all the “hoods” are of equal importance. We can’t have a sick community and think our people will be well.”

Nobles and colleagues, after surveying and talking with Black people in Black communities across the nation, designed a detailed written plan for an African American Wellness Hub Complex. They envision a hub that is linked spiritually and psychologically, as a place where wellness and wholeness is real and ethnically authentic. Nobles said, “In many places our children are failing in school, many of our children are feeling they have no value, are being demeaned and assaulted. We need to take charge of these places. If teachers don’t love our children, they cannot ignite in them a desire to know and a passion for learning. If law enforcement doesn’t have high regard and deep respect for Black people, they will never understand that to ‘serve and protect’ means to be life affirming in what they do.”

“A big part of our new normal is to have in our thought, beliefs, and behavior the best of our wisdom, traditions and restorative practice available. This means to have in place living learning laboratories that are unapologetically devoted to our wellness, e.g., a wellness hub complex with healing centers. To have an exceptional and extraordinary place to bring people together and take them from hostile angry dis-at-ease producing places to places where we can work in harmony, create in dignity, and live to inspire life and ways of being that is affirming.”

Alameda County has stepped forward and is committed to establishing a Black Mental Health facility in partnership with the Association of Black Psychologists. The Association is grateful to Alameda County but notes four or five locations are necessary considering the amount of damage and illness that needs to be undone in the Black community.

Nobles says, “We must create a space, place and time that is guided by an African American wellness narrative that is awe-inspiring.” As an example of how important space is, he notes, “We tried to escape the blight and poverty of the inner city and move out to the suburbs, but all we did was go from inner city hostility to outer city hostility in the white enclave. At least in the inner city, our children didn’t lose their point of reference of belonging in the neighborhood or church. Healing spaces and places must be grounded in life affirming worldview and culture.”

“We must rescue and refine the best of Black ways. Look at our historical grandeur. We once imagined the great Step Pyramid before there was a pyramid. How did we do that? Black people lived through over four hundred years of rabid, hostile, savage, dehumanization yet never became rabid, hostile, savage dehumanizing people. Our way, our worldview, our narrative, our normativity is what allowed us to do this. This is what we need to revisit. We need a wellness place in our Black community where people can ‘imagine the better.’ A place where we can dismantle the ill and wrongfulness and recreate a vibrant affirming life spirit.”

Dr. Nobles says, “our new normal is the old African normal, where Black people inspired greatness just by living well and whole. Black people are a people of caring, sharing and daring. Our way was to care for our people, to share what we have, and to dare to be free. Our history records us having sacred places in nature where we would go to recreate our spirit of wellness. We need those places today and that’s why we need an African American Wellness Hub and healing centers.”

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Bay Area

Higher Black Unemployment in California Distorts Rosy Picture of Job Recovery

A sharp drop in the national unemployment rate for all Americans — down to 3.6% in February — brings the number of people without jobs across the United States to just one tenth of a point above the pre-pandemic level of 3.5% (February 2020), according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor

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Cecilia Rouse is chair of President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers. Commons Wikipedia.org photo.
Cecilia Rouse is chair of President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers. Commons Wikipedia.org photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

Officials in Sacramento and Washington frequently point to the low unemployment rate in the state and around the country as proof that the U.S. economy has recovered from the downturn experienced during the global COVID-19 crisis.

But the total unemployment rate for Black Californians seems stuck at almost three times higher than the national rate — despite steady increases in overall hiring of African Americans in the state.

A sharp drop in the national unemployment rate for all Americans — down to 3.6% in February — brings the number of people without jobs across the United States to just one tenth of a point above the pre-pandemic level of 3.5% (February 2020), according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor.

In February alone, the U.S. economy added a remarkable 431,000 jobs, bringing the number of jobs created since 2021 to 7.9 million.

Cecilia Rouse, chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, told California Black Media that the nation’s Black unemployment rate has drastically decreased since the pandemic related recession.

“At the height of this pandemic, the unemployment rate for Black people was 16.8% and from what we saw this month, it is down to 6.2%,” she said.

Overall, unemployment in California is also down from a pinnacle in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined 10.5 percentage points from April 2020 to February 2022, from 15.9% to 5.4%.

According to the California Employment Development Department (EDD), the state’s economy has added 2,405,900 non-farm jobs, “in effect, recovering 87.2% of the non-farm jobs it lost during the COVID-19 recession.”

Although Black unemployment in California has seen a decrease during the recovery period as well, it has not dropped to pre-pandemic levels, according to state officials.

Black unemployment was hovering at around 10% for the fourth quarter of 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. At that time, California’s overall unemployment rate was 7.5%, about two points higher than it was for February.

Although the unemployment rate for Black Californians is higher than the state rate, it continues to move downward.

From April 2020 to February 2022, California increased its number of Black workers by 59,000, going from 1,009,000 in April 2020 to 1,068,000 in February 2022.

Before the COVID-19 recession from February 2020 to April 2020, there were 1,133,000 employed Black workers in California, according to the EDD.

Over the course of the COVID-19 recession, the state lost 2,758,900 non-farm jobs and the unemployment rate rose from 4.1% in February 2020 to 15.9% only two months later. Over this time period, the unemployment rate for California’s Black workers rose 8.2 percentage points.

Across the country, the unemployment rate for African Americans is also decreasing, dropping from 9.5% in March 2021 to 6.2% in March 2022, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

“What we’ve seen is tremendous improvement in the labor market status for Black Americans, Black workers,” Rouse says, attributing the improving numbers to the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration’s pandemic recovery initiative.

“It provided the resources to help us get through this pandemic,” said Rouse. “The management of the pandemic is fundamental and so integral to this strong labor market recovery that we’re seeing.”

Since 2021, growth in employment for Black Californians has been significant in three industries: Transportation and utilities, services, and the leisure and hospitality industries.

According to the EDD, there has been an increase of over 50,000 Black employed workers in the transportation and utilities industry, over 14,100 in other services, and over 13,700 in the leisure and hospitality industry.

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