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Fight for Equal Pay, Gender Parity Heats Up

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Despite the United States touting itself as the bastion of freedom and equality, women in this country — despite comprising 50.8 percent of the population — have always found themselves in the position of having to fight for salary and wages comparable to men.

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By Barrington M. Salmon, Special to The Informer via NNPA Newswire

Despite the United States touting itself as the bastion of freedom and equality, women in this country — despite comprising 50.8 percent of the population — have always found themselves in the position of having to fight for salary and wages comparable to men.

A range of studies show some progress, but stubborn racial and gender wage gaps persist in the United States. Often, researchers point to disparities in education, the fact that many African-American women and other women of color are clustered at the lower end of the pay scale and that the minimum wage hasn’t been increased since 2007 as factors contributing to the wage gap. But what’s often downplayed or ignored is the racism and sexism that’s also at play.

Black women sit at the nexus of race and gender and are buffeted by the twin spectres of these “isms”, and struggle upstream against a current of prejudice and bias which is compounded by gender and race. This intersectional discrimination exacerbates those gender and race gaps, stymies Black women’s ability to access educational opportunities, and has a pervasive and corrosive impact on their careers and career advancement, experts say.

The wage gap has real-world consequences.

Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever said that over their lifetimes, Black women stand to lose between $800,000 and $1 million because of these disparities.

“While the gender pay gap is an issue for all women, it is an especially wicked problem for black women,”said Dr. Jones-DeWeever, a women’s empowerment expert, international speaker and diversity consultant. “Black women are already economically disadvantaged and face double discrimination within the workforce. The additional burden of a 38 percent pay gap exacerbates the black wealth gap in America. It’s such an engrained problem. The typical Black woman will lose more than $800,000 over her lifetime, and in DC, the inequality means that Black women could lose more than $1 million.”

“A black woman has to earn a B.A. to earn what a white man with a GED would earn. It’s huge and really hardwired into the system,” continued Dr. Jones-DeWeever, who, among her many portfolios, mentors and instructs black women on how to navigate the shoals of business and achieve career and financial success. “It’s devastating because with Black college-educated women making as much as 30 percent less than their white male counterparts, that’s a huge disadvantage. That means not being able to put food on the table, buy clothes for your children, not being able to have a better quality of life or diverting money to wealth-building.”

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF), median wages for black women in the United States are $36,227 per year, compared to median wages of $57,925 annually for white, non-Hispanic men. This amounts to a difference of $21,698 each year. In that same report, NPWF also highlighted that if the wage gap were eliminated, on average, a black woman working full time, year-round would have enough money for:

  • Two and a half years of child care
  • Nearly 2.5 additional years of tuition and fees for a four-year public university, or the full cost of tuition and fees for a two-year community college
  • 159 more weeks of food for her family (three years’ worth)
  • More than 14 additional months of mortgage and utilities payments
  • 22 more months of rent.

The National Women’s Law Center reports that women of every race are paid less than men, at all education levels — and it only gets worse as women’s careers progress.

“Despite the fact that women have made enormous gains in educational attainment and labor force involvement in the last several decades, unequal pay remains pervasive in 97 percent of occupations, showing that no matter what their job, women are paid less than men doing the same job in nearly every sector of work,” an NWLC fact sheet noted.

Women who work full time, year-round in the United States are paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This gap, which amounts to a typical loss of $10,086 per year for a working woman — or $403,440 over a 40-year career — means that women have to work 15 months … to make what men did in the previous 12-month calendar year.”

Studies by gender specialists, academics and women’s activists have statistics showing that the occupations African-American women have does not explain away the Black women’s wage gap, the NWLC said.

  • For example, Black women working as physicians and surgeons—a traditionally male, high wage occupation—make 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as physicians and surgeons.
  • Black women working as customer service representatives—a mid-wage, female dominated occupation—make 75 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as customer service representatives.
  • Black women working as construction laborers—a traditionally male, mid-wage occupation—make 81 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as construction laborers.
  • Black women working as personal care aides—a heavily female, low wage occupation—make 87 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as personal care aides.

In addition, Black women experience a wage gap even in occupations where they are over-represented. More than two in five African-American women (44.8 percent) are employed in one of 10 occupations. In every one of those occupations, Black women are typically paid less than white, non-Hispanic men. Among the 10 most common occupations for Black women, two of those occupations — cashiers and retail salespeople and janitors, building cleaners, maids, and housekeepers — typically pay Black women a very low wage — less than $10 per hour — while they typically pay white, non-Hispanic men substantially more.

Some solutions, NWLC experts say, include strengthening America’s pay discrimination laws, pushing harder to get Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the Family Act and the Schedules That Work Act — all which would address the discrimination women face when they’re pregnant or caregiving and support those who need paid leave, predictable work schedules, and stability for themselves and their families.

Raising the federal minimum wage is yet another way to move towards parity. So far, six states and the District of Columbia have increased the minimum wage to $15 over the next few years.

Another solution is making the Earned Income Tax Credit more widely available to needy recipients. The EITC is a tax credit designed to offset payroll taxes and supplement wages for people working in low-wage jobs, providing the most benefits to low- to moderate-income families with children. The federal EITC lifted more than 1.2 million women 18 and older and nearly 3.5 million children out of poverty in 2017, and 28 states and the District of Columbia currently offer their own EITCs to provide an additional boost.

Dalana A. Brand, vice president of Global Total Rewards at Electronic Arts, Inc., contends that Black women can’t afford to wait, arguing in an opinion piece last year for Blavity, an Internet media company, that in the midst of the flurry of publicity, tweets, posts, hashtags and calls for change, one important element is missing.

“What often gets left out of that discussion is that the hallmark day in April does not apply to black women and other women of color,” she said. “… So, while white women caught up on April 10, black women must wait for over half the year to pass before our wages catch up to what men made a year ago.”

Brand, a highly-sought after salary strategist and career transformation coach, said black women are paid 38 percent less than white men and 21 percent less than white women but “the sad fact is that most people are either unaware or don’t care about the appalling disparity black women face with respect pay equity.”

She added that a study by LeanIn.Org, which partnered with Survey Monkey and the National Urban League, indicates that a third of Americans aren’t aware of the pay gap between black women and white men, and half of them don’t know about a similar gap between black and white women.

Much like the feminist movement, black women are being largely ignored by the equal pay movement,” she added.

Dr. Jones-DeWeever and Brand said that as career strategists and salary consultants, there are a number of things that Black women can and need to do to fight back against wage disparities. The first action is for Black women to embrace their power and value and translate that into dollars and benefits during salary negotiations.

“We don’t understand the basics of negotiating,” Dr. Jones-DeWeever said. “We have to understand our value and how to negotiate. When you’re first hired, that’s when you’re most powerful. I never accept the first offer. The first offer is only the beginning of negotiations. You’d be surprised how much money you can get. You have to negotiate for money, a package and vacation.

Black communities must also take other tacks to confront and topple this problem, they said.

“The reality of racism means that Black women will be offered less,” said Dr. Jones-DeWeever. “In terms of fixing it, we have to have conversations about financial literacy and we also have a responsibility to educate our children about their power, worth and value and empowering them.”

Brand concurred.

To date, she said, much of the equal pay movement has been focused on awareness building campaigns and encouraging women to effectively negotiate their salaries.

“While these are important steps, this is only scratching the surface,” Brand explained. “Getting to pay parity must also involve addressing the corporate systems and state and federal laws that need to change. As black women we must unify and use our collective voices to push pay equality and the racial wealth gap to the top our agenda. Black women have always been at the forefront of the push for equality in our country, whether it was civil rights or social justice, we have been critical forces for change. The equal pay movement should be no different.”

Brand and Dr. Jones-DeWeever are called in frequently to consult with Fortune 500 and other companies. They said Black women should also be actively engaged in tackling the equal pay issue within corporate America by participating in employee resource groups at work and collectively guaranteeing that the companies they work for are held accountable for addressing these issues.

African-American churches, sororities and fraternities and civil society and community organizations need to actively engage in the political process and pressure elected officials to advance additional laws designed to protect against gender discrimination and pay inequality, they said, and concerned people also need to organize efforts and/or sign petitions to demand to push the government to act.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer

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City Government

Mayor Breed Announces Privately Funded Rewards for Information Leading to Conviction of Auto Burglary Fencing Operators

New initiative will bolster the success of recent strategic deployments to high-traffic tourism, workplace, and retail destinations

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Car thief stealing a car./ iStock

Mayor London N. Breed announced a privately funded cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in organized criminal fencing operations known to fuel vehicle smash-and-grabs. 

Announced Tuesday, this initiative builds on Breed’s recent expansion of community-based ambassadors and police patrols to high-traffic businesses, tourist, and retail destinations, which has resulted in a 37% drop in citywide auto burglaries from the year’s July 4 highpoint to the most recent reporting period.

The new initiative is a keystone element in a comprehensive auto burglary strategy that aims to educate motorists and visitors; deter, investigate and arrest active auto burglars; and shut down the upstream criminal enterprises that traffic in stolen goods, fueling street-level auto burglaries. 

Investigators within the San Francisco Police Department and among regional law enforcement partner agencies in Northern California estimate that fewer than a dozen regular auto burglary crews are responsible for the large majority of auto burglaries that have plagued Bay Area cities in recent years.

“The frequent auto burglaries in San Francisco are not victimless crimes, they have real financial and emotional consequences for the victims and we’re continuing to work to hold people who commit these crimes accountable,” said Breed. “These break-ins hurt our residents, especially working families who do not have the time or money to deal with the effects, as well as visitors to our City whose experiences are too often tarnished after an otherwise positive experience.

“We’ve made good progress in recent months since announcing our Tourism Deployment Plan, but there’s still more work to do to ensure that everyone feels safe on our streets. I want to thank our partners in the private sector who understand the urgency of this issue, and we want to be very clear to the organized groups who are responsible for the vast majority of these crimes that we are committing the resources and the manpower to hold you accountable.”

The new cash reward system, which is being fully funded by private donors in the hospitality and tourism industry, will provide monetary incentives in exchange for information regarding high-level leaders of organized auto burglary fencing operations. 

Individuals that provide accurate and transparent information will be compensated up to $100,000 pending the arrest and conviction of individuals involved. In total, funds raised are in excess of $225,000 so far.

“Organized crime has been driving a lot of the theft in this city. The people at the top have been raking in huge sums of money by paying street-level criminals to do all their stealing for them, making working families miserable in the process. This initiative is going to help us take these rings apart,” said Sharky Laguana, president of the Small Business Commission.

Recent initiatives helping to reduce auto burglaries

In recent months, Breed has announced the strategic deployments of police and community-based ambassadors to support San Francisco’s reemergence from COVID-19 restrictions and deter property crimes likely to accompany renewed economic activity — including auto burglaries.

Breed’s Tourism Deployment Plan, announced in July, assigned 26 additional police officers on bicycle and foot patrols to an array of high-traffic and highly sought-after travel destinations citywide. 

Public safety deployments of police officers and community-based partners were also key elements of the Mayor’s Mid-Market Vibrancy and Safety Plan launched in May and the Organized Retail Crime Initiative, which Breed announced last month. 

The combined emphasis on high-visibility patrols in areas long targeted by auto burglars has been instrumental in reducing auto burglary rates — even as tourism and economic activity begin returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The San Francisco Police Department has also stepped up its “Park Smart” public awareness campaign in recent months. Park Smart is a collaboration among SFPD, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the Department of Emergency Management, SF SAFE, the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District, and local tourism and travel partners. 

Educating motorists and visitors on how to help prevent vehicle burglaries by taking common-sense precautions, Park Smart’s recommended strategies when parking vehicles in San Francisco include placing items in trunks; never leaving valuables in view; and parking in lots staffed with attendants whenever possible.

2021 CompStat numbers on auto burglaries in San Francisco

According to San Francisco Police Department CompStat data, the 2021 highpoint for auto burglaries came just two weeks after California began to emerge from its COVID-19 lockdown, with 566 auto burglaries reported citywide for the week ending July 4, 2021.

Deployments of police and community-based patrols launched the following week under Mayor Breed’s Tourism Deployment Plan have since led to a sustained drop in auto burglaries — even with Fleet Week, San Francisco Giants post-season games, the return of Golden State Warriors’ games to Chase Center and other attractions ushering in a comeback in visitors to the City.

SFPD CompStat data for the most recently reported period, for the week ending Oct. 17, 2021, show that a total of 358 auto break-ins were committed in San Francisco — a drop of 37 percent from the July 4 holiday.

Auto burglary incident counts by year have generally trended down since 2017, when San Francisco recorded 31,409 such incidents. Although 2021 has predictably trended higher than the COVID-19 lockdown year of 2020, it remains well below pre-pandemic rates that reached 25,886 reported auto burglaries for the 2019 calendar year.

“Today’s announcement adds a promising new tool to the coordinated efforts of public and private sector partners to fight auto burglaries in San Francisco,” said Chief of Police Bill Scott. “We know the profit motives of a few upstream fencing operations are fueling thousands of auto burglaries and other kinds of thefts. This generously funded cash reward enables us to flip the script on profit motives — creating an incentive that can help us bring these criminal enterprises to justice.

“On behalf of all of us in the San Francisco Police Department, we’re grateful to the funders of this generous partnership with our City. We thank Mayor Breed for her leadership, and we’re pleased to see strategic deployments of our officers and our community partners making progress to keep auto burglaries down. We’re very hopeful that this new initiative will help make San Francisco’s so-far successful efforts on auto burglaries even more successful moving forward.”

Staff reductions due to unvaccinated officers won’t affect patrol functions

Given the San Francisco Police Department’s emphasis on adequately staffing such core police functions as patrol and investigations, reductions in force owing to unvaccinated SFPD members will have no effect on existing high-visibility deployments. 

Most SFPD employees, including all sworn members, were required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 13, 2021, under the City’s COVID-19 vaccination policy and the San Francisco County Health Officer’s “Safer Return Together” health order. 

Following the October 13 deadline last Thursday, 76 SFPD officers — or 3.5% of the Department’s sworn members — remained unvaccinated and are ineligible to perform policing functions.

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Activism

Ask County Supervisors Not to Spend Millions in Tax Dollars on Oakland A’s Real Estate Deal

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

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A rendering of the proposed new A’s ballpark at the Howard Terminal site, surrounded by port cranes and warehouses. Image courtesy of MANICA Architecture.

The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) and other groups are asking local residents to attend and speak at next week’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose a proposal to spend county residents’ tax dollars to pay for the Oakland A’s massive multi-billion-dollar real estate deal at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. 

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

The Stadium Alliance urges community members to “let (the supervisors) know that Alameda County residents don’t want our tax dollars to pay for a private luxury development. This proposal does not include privately funded community benefits and would harm our region’s economic engine – the port- putting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs at risk.”

 

“The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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Business

Oakland Co-op Buys Historic Esther’s Orbit Room Space

The revitalization of Esther’s, and EB PREC’s mission, has a deep personal connection for Session, EB PREC’s executive director and a Black, third generation West Oaklander who has struggled to keep her childhood home.

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Noni Session, of The East Bay Permanent Real Estate Collective, stands outside the legendary Esther's Orbit Room on 7th Street in West Oakland, whose doors had been closed for about a decade. Photo by Zack Haber on October 12.

“It’s like life just stopped here,” said Noni Session, as we stood inside a large dusty room on Seventh street in the Lower Bottoms neighborhood of West Oakland on Indigenous People’s Day. The black, sparkly ceiling emitted a celestial vibe. Rows of liquor bottles sat partially full behind a 20-foot wooden bar while vinyl ’70s style stools rested in front. Gentle yellow light was omnipresent. A calendar opened to May 2010 hung in front of a mirror.

Words on a colorful but faded sign out front showed this place was once “Esther’s Orbit Room,” a vibrant cultural hub for Black Oaklanders that stayed open for about 50 years before it shuttered its doors shortly after its owner, Esther Mabry, died at age 90 in 2010. On September 30, the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (EB PREC) closed on purchasing this space. They plan to revitalize it as an extension of their overall mission to help Black, Indigenous and people of color remain and thrive in the East Bay.

The revitalization of Esther’s, and EB PREC’s mission, has a deep personal connection for Session, EB PREC’s executive director and a Black, third generation West Oaklander who has struggled to keep her childhood home. In the ’80s she and her father stopped at Esther’s regularly before they would go fishing at a nearby pier. At that time, it wasn’t just a bar and restaurant but also a shop where her father could buy bait and she could get a treat.

Memories of Esther’s Orbit Room are still alive in the neighborhood. As Session and I talked, we were fortuitously interrupted two separate times by Black, long-term residents who just happened to be passing by and noticed the open door. They both briefly shared fond recollections of the place, and excitedly asked about the reopening. One of these people was 60 year old Pamela Brown.

“[Esther’s] was a happy place,” Brown said. “There were not that many places Blacks could go and be comfortable, but that was one of those places.”

Brown remembers Esther’s always being packed in the ’70s and ’80s and that “the vibe was just awesome and friendly.” She loved the southern comfort food they served: greens, pork chops, black eyed peas and hamburgers. Brown’s uncle, Nathaniel Harrison, remembers it being a great place to socialize around that time and that people were always dancing to the jukebox. Although Brown and Harrison were too young to experience it, legendary musicians like BB King, T-Bone Walker and Ike & Tina Turner performed at Esther’s in the 60s.

As I asked Session about what EB PREC’s revitalization project could look like, she told me about dreams she’s been having lately that place her inside Esther’s and wake her in the night to visions of “old school, Black church mixed with afro-futuristic aesthetics.” While several specific design ideas interest her, like installing colorful stained glass window art and putting a mural up of Maasai people walking across planets, she is excited that there is still a lot of uncertainty about the space. That uncertainty exists because its re-creation will be a massive collaboration involving many people who aren’t even in the EB PREC collective yet.

How EB PREC Works

Session is just one cog in a wheel that keeps EB PREC spinning. Well over 400 people currently form the collective in a complex process of communal ownership. While Esther’s will be EB PREC’s first commercial business, it’s not their first project. In 2019, and 2020, they purchased two East Bay homes that currently house 13 resident collective members, almost all of whom are BIPOC.

These residents all pay less than $900 per month toward costs required to secure and maintain the homes. At the end of the year, residents can get paid back any surplus if their payments exceed these costs. It’s all part of EB PREC’s process of replacing landlords with communal ownership and permanently taking housing and land off the speculative market in order to keep it affordable.

“There’s no supply and demand issue when it comes to housing; the demand comes from the demand for investment assets,” said Ojan Mobedshahi, EB PREC’s Finance Director. “Our move is to de-commodify land and we never consider putting it back on the market to profit from it.”

One way EB PREC has raised the capital to make these affordable homes accessible and the Esther project possible is by also including community owners in the collective who live in the area and each pay $10 a week, a year, or a month, depending on what they can afford. The community owners offer feedback and guidance on EB PREC’s projects and also have a direct role in electing some of EB PREC’s board members.

Individual investors also play a crucial role in EB PREC by buying shares of the collective for $1,000 each. None of them will strike it rich. EB PREC offers these people a targeted 1.5% yearly return on shares, about what one would expect to secure from a savings account and much lower than what one would expect from a typical real estate investment.

The collective’s website stresses that a key boon in becoming a shareholder is the ability to “feel good about your money being invested in community.” But unlike community owners, investors don’t share an active role in decision making. EB PREC also gets loans from foundations that are aligned with their vision and offer low to no interest loans.

The work and/or money of EB PREC’s five-member staff, 13 owner residents, and hundreds of community owners and investors has made it possible to secure two Bay Area homes and start revitalizing Esther’s, a project they see costing around $5 million. To finish the Esther’s project though, EB PREC needs a new classification of people to join them called commercial co-owners. They see the large indoor spaces hosting a bar and café that they hope will have music performances as well as a healing arts center while the backyard will host a farmers’ market. They’re seeking BIPOC people with expertise in those areas to run and take communal ownership of those spaces with EB PREC.

“Even in my dreams many of the walls are just prepped for art instead of having art on them,” Session said, pointing around to the spaces in Esther’s. “It’s not like how can we cover all the walls with our ideas but how can we prepare a palette that holds our mission and also holds space for other people’s creativity and control?”

Session sees the symbol of the palette in her dreams as the space that commercial co-owners and the community can help to fill. She has many questions like: What kind of cafe will be in the place? What kind of plants can the backspace have? What kind of music will be played in the space? What kind of healing arts practitioners will come? What kind of food will be served?

“We know we can’t be totally clear on what this space will be until it has its humans,” Session said. “Right now, we’re sort of its steward humans.”

As EB PREC searches for BIPOC commercial co-owners, they’re again seeking more resident collective members as the Esther’s property also has residential units that can house at least six people. They hope to build a community of BIPOC business owners and residents to bring vibrant life to Esther’s once again.

Building from Seventh street’s vibrant Black past 

To look back at how the original Esther’s Orbit Room was founded in the early ’60s could likely read as a fairy tale to the modern reader as the economic conditions, particularly for Black people, were radically different at that time. Esther Mabry, a Black woman who came to West Oakland from Palestine, Texas at age 22, in 1942, worked as a waitress at Slim Jenkins Supper Club, a legendary Seventh Street jazz and blues club, and was able to save enough from tips to start her own restaurant in 1950.

She named it Esther’s Breakfast Room. By the early ’60s, just around the time Slim Jenkins Supper Club and other similar establishments were closing, Esther and her husband William, a worker at the now closed Alameda Naval Air Station, had enough capital to buy a new space and open Esther’s Orbit Room.

Esther’s and William’s ability to open their business was likely aided by World War II and its subsequent postwar economic boom of the ’40s and ’50s that brought decent paying jobs, disposable income and homeownership to much of West Oakland’s Black population. Seventh Street was lively at that time and full of Black-owned businesses, including dozens of Black-owned jazz and blues clubs.

“It was the place to be,” Mabry said in an interview from 2002. “They used to have music playing and the hot tamale man. They would have shows and dances and theaters. You could just go from one club right to another. But no one’s there anymore.”

Writer Jennifer Soliman briefly and poignantly shows much of the complex reasons for the demise of these economic and social conditions in her historical essay “The Rise and Fall of Seventh Street.” They included federal urban renewal projects and the creation of BART, both of which lead to the destruction of Black-owned homes and the displacement of much of the Black population. In the same 2002 interview, Mabry lamented that there were no longer Black business owners in that location and said, “I’m the only one that’s left.”

These days, starting a successful business on Seventh Street based solely on the capital two people earn who don’t have deep generational wealth may seem like a pipe dream. But in one instance, a cooperative model has worked. The BlPOC worker owned Mandala Grocery Cooperative, which sits across from West Oakland’s BART station, employs seven people and has been open over a decade.

Session hopes EB PREC’s new collective project will help bring some of the vibrant Black life Seventh street once had back to the area by creating an economic and artistic anchor point around Esther’s. For that to happen, Session said she realized more than just housing was needed for BIPOC people, but an economy that they co-create. She hopes the Esther’s project can contribute to that and serve as a model for others.

In the meantime, Pamela Brown eagerly awaits what’s to come from the rebirth of a place that brought her so much joy decades ago.

“This is such a good idea,” Brown said. “It’s a great place to be revitalized.”

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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