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Former Native American CCC Professor, Lehman L. Brightman, Activist Dies

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Former Contra Costa College professor and well-known Native American activist Lehman L. Brightman died Sunday at age 87 at Kaiser Hospital in Walnut Creek, according to a detailed article about his life in the East Bay Times.
Brightman was a 6-foot-6-inch tall Sioux tribe member who was born on a reservation in South Dakota, played running back at the school now known as Oklahoma State University and served in the Marines during the Korean War, according to the Times.

He earned a master’s degree at UC Berkeley and taught at Contra Costa College from 1974 to 2006. He was also founder in 1968 of the United Native Americans Inc. (UNA), an organization “promoting progress and the general welfare of American Indians,” according to a UNA biography. Through the organization, he testified at U.S. Senate hearings on poor conditions at Indian boarding schools and at three hospitals.

At UC Berkeley, Brightman established the United States’ first Native American studies program. He was an editor of the first International newspaper, Warpath, and was involved in an occupation of Alcatraz (1969), the takeover of Wounded Knee (1973) and the occupation of Mt. Rushmore (1970), among other civil rights activities.

He was also known for not holding back as a CCC history professor.

“The professor brought to the classroom his own brand of history, a blender full of humble beginnings, activism and disdain for authority,” according to the East Bay Times.

Brightman’s death followed a string of tragedies for the family. Two of his three sons passed away in 2015. Lakota Brightman, 45, was fatally stabbed in Richmond, and his brother Lehman Leonard Brightman III was struck and killed by an Amtrak train in the city.

Brightman is survived by a third son, Quanah Brightman.

“The World Lost a True Hero and Patriot,” Quanah wrote on Facebook. “Rest in Eternal Peace My Father Dr. Lehman L. Brightman.”

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Activism

OPINION: Why Every Californian Should Support the Prescription Drug Pricing Bill

For 30 years CHCs have used those savings to provide free medications to patients experiencing homelessness, free transportation vouchers, free nutrition classes, and hire provider types (like community health workers) who are not billable within Medi-Cal. Today, there are over 1,300 health centers in California that provide care to 7.2 million people — that’s 1 in every 5 Californians and 1 in 3 Medi-Cal patients.

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Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.
Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.

By Dr. Oliver Brooks, Special to California Black Media

In 1992, the federal government enacted the 340B Drug Discount Program. It afforded community health centers (CHCs) the ability to provide pharmacy services to their patients, a service that many CHCs did not have the resources to provide otherwise.

The program protects safety-net providers, including CHCs, from escalating drug prices, allowing us to purchase drugs at a discounted rate from manufacturers and pass those discounts directly to the patient. This program is presently under threat.

That is why I support Dr. Richard Pan’s Senate Bill (SB) 939. This bill, currently being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Health, would prohibit discriminatory actions by drug manufacturers and administrators when providing 340B drugs to health centers and the patients they serve.

It provides important consumer protections that are necessary to protect 340B savings and ensure that the savings remain with health centers and their communities, creating greater access to health care and equity for all.

The 340B Program also allows safety-net providers the ability to accrue savings that must be reinvested directly into patient care and services. Thus, the program enables covered entities to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.

For 30 years CHCs have used those savings to provide free medications to patients experiencing homelessness, free transportation vouchers, free nutrition classes, and hire provider types (like community health workers) who are not billable within Medi-Cal.

Today, there are over 1,300 health centers in California that provide care to 7.2 million people — that’s 1 in every 5 Californians and 1 in 3 Medi-Cal patients.

Additionally, 68% of CHC patients are from BIPOC communities. CHCs are often the only source of primary and preventative care for California’s most diverse communities, including those experiencing homelessness, immigrants, and agricultural workers.

Anyone who walks into our health centers today can access a variety of services from primary care to dental to behavioral health care and a variety of wraparound services, regardless of whether they have health insurance, or an ability to pay for care. A large part of why we’re able to offer those services is thanks to savings we receive from the 340B program.

In recent years the 340B program has been under assault by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), drug manufacturers, and others within Big Pharma.

Through the expansion of the Affordable Care Act & Medi-Cal, more low-income patients can access healthcare in California, meaning more are also able to access medications, causing the 340B program to expand. Given this fact, manufacturers have put practices in place that limit patient access to 340B priced drugs while PBMs focus on trying to take 340B savings away from CHCs, and out of the local communities that need them, threatening patient access to critical medicines made available through the program.

Health centers were born out of the Civil Rights Movement to ensure that all communities, particularly communities of color, would have access to high-quality care that is provided in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner. This program has allowed covered entities, including CHCs, to contract with local pharmacies so that our patients can access low-cost medications in a convenient manner. The continual acts of greed by pharmaceutical companies and PBMs threatens equity and access that CHCs were designed to create.

Community health centers around the country are sounding the alarm over Rx drugs manufacturers’ attacks on the federal 340B program. Since 2019, 21 states have passed laws addressing PBM discrimination against 340B covered entities.

It’s time for California, the policy trendsetter, to become the next state to protect the 340B program so it can operate as intended.

That is why Dr. Richard Pan’s SB 939 is so important and why I so fervently speak in favor of this legislation.

Dr. Oliver Brooks is chief medical officer and past chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Watts Healthcare Corporation in Los Angeles.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Pay Attention — Roe v. Wade and the Far Right’s Extreme Plans

For the most part, the judges who are letting states eliminate access to abortion are the same judges letting states limit voters’ access to the ballot box. They’re the same judges who restrict the government’s ability to regulate harmful corporate behavior. Many of them are the same judges who tried to deny millions of Americans access to health care provided by the Affordable Care Act. 

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Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

By Ben Jealous

Things are about to get worse for millions of vulnerable people in our country.

It looks like the far right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is getting ready to reverse Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old ruling that recognized a pregnant person’s right to have an abortion. Abortion is legal today, but pretty soon that will no longer be the case in most of the country.

A leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling expected to be released in June indicates that the Court will rule that there is no constitutional protection for abortion. Bans will go into effect in many states immediately, and others will follow soon. That will leave millions of women and LGBTQ people — and their spouses and partners — less free and less in control of their own health, lives, and families.

Like many laws and policy decisions handed down from on high, the harm will fall hardest on those with the fewest resources and political power — people of color and low-income people. It is hard to take.

How did this happen?

In the long term, it happened because opponents on the right to choose spent decades building a movement to make it happen. They invested time and money to elect like-minded politicians. They pushed Republican presidents to fill federal courts with judges who were willing, if not eager, to restrict or ban legal access to abortion. They made it a top priority when deciding whether and how to vote.

In the short term, it happened because Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. To energize the Republican Party’s ideological base, Trump promised them judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. They took the deal Trump offered. They turned out to vote. And with help from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Trump gave them kind of judges they wanted.

And now that they have the power to impose their will, Americans’ freedom will shrink and American families will suffer.

In fact, many are already suffering. Anti-choice activists have harassed and sometimes killed abortion providers. Judges have been letting state legislators pile on more and more restrictions on abortion care. As a result, in some states, the right to abortion care may exist in theory, but in reality, it is virtually nonexistent, because clinics and providers have disappeared.

There are hard times and hard decisions ahead.

There are also lessons to be learned and acted on.

One important lesson is that the Supreme Court has a big impact on our lives, even though most of us don’t think about it in the day to day. We should all pay more attention.

We should pay attention when the far right tells us what they plan to do with their political power. They have been loud and clear about their intent to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But many Americans refused to believe that the threat to Roe v. Wade was real. They just could not imagine a 21st century America in which women and doctors are treated like criminals for seeking or providing abortion care.

We no longer need to imagine that kind of scenario. We’re about to live it.

And that’s why we also have to pay attention to the consequences of our voting behavior.

For the most part, the judges who are letting states eliminate access to abortion are the same judges letting states limit voters’ access to the ballot box. They’re the same judges who restrict the government’s ability to regulate harmful corporate behavior. Many of them are the same judges who tried to deny millions of Americans access to health care provided by the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court justices and other federal judges who are put in place by the president and U.S. Senate have jobs for life. That means we are stuck with Trump’s judges for many years to come. And that means we all need to think long and hard about who we vote for — and about ever passing up the opportunity to vote.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: The AAPI Heritage Month Connection

The 2020 Census reports 19.9 million people (6% of all respondents) identified as Asian alone in 2020, up from 14.7 million people (4.8%) in 2010. A big increase was in the Asian “in combination” figure. Approximately 4.1 million respondents identified as Asian in combination with another race group. Do you think there’s another H.E.R. amongst them? Or an Anderson .Paak? More than one?

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He does a talk show on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. His web talk show is on Facebook.com/emilguillermo.media; YouTube; and Twitter@emilamok. See recordings on www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

It’s Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage month.

Go hug your brothers and sisters. There’s a lot of them.

The singer H.E.R. from Vallejo. The Congressman Bobby Scott (D.-Va.). The other half of Silk Sonic, Anderson .Paak, actress Denyce Lawton (“House of Payne”). And let’s not forget The Rock, the East Bay’s own Dwayne Johnson, and of course, Tiger Woods.

They are no doubt celebrating May as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, because they’re all part Asian. It’s in their blood.

Understand that when people talk about Asian American, the group is a whole lot more diverse and inclusive than you think.

H.E.R. a/k/a Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, half-Black and half-Filipino, is a powerful reminder of our common humanity.

She won a Grammy in 2021 for Song of the Year for the George Floyd-inspired protest song, “I Can’t Breathe.”

When singers like H.E.R. sing passionately about their lives and ours, they embody an ideal vision of what can happen when we take a love interest in one another. It’s all in the heart and soul.

Of course, not all stories sound like fairy tales.

Rapper Anderson .Paak (and yes the .Paak is correct) knows the blues. He was born in Oxnard, Calif. to a bi-racial Korean woman born during the Korean American War. Anderson never met his father. He was abandoned at age 7 and raised in an orphanage until he was adopted by a Black family in Los Angeles.

He grew his musical chops as a teen, gained the attention of Dr. Dre, and made a breakthrough hit in 2018. But it wasn’t until 2021 that he reached true superstar status when he connected with Bruno Mars, another biracial Asian (Filipino, Jewish, Puerto Rican) artist to form the duo Silk Sonic. Their single, “Leave the Door Open,” won Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 64th Grammy Awards.

Those are the Asian/Black success stories right under our noses. Pop culture examples. It’s more of a thing than you think. Just know that when you cheer Hayward-born Dwayne Johnson or Tiger Woods, Asian Americans are seeing Johnson’s Samoan mom. Or Tiger’s Thai mother, Tida. Asian Americans are cheering alongside you.

Expect it to happen more and more compared to previous generations.

The 2020 Census reports 19.9 million people (6% of all respondents) identified as Asian alone in 2020, up from 14.7 million people (4.8%) in 2010.

A big increase was in the Asian “in combination” figure. Approximately 4.1 million respondents identified as Asian in combination with another race group. Do you think there’s another H.E.R. amongst them? Or an Anderson .Paak? More than one?

The growth today is reflective of an openness in our youth-oriented culture.

But the generation before were race mixers too.

They just had to overcome racist laws like Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 that made it illegal to intermarry. In the 1920s and 1930s, the anti-mixed-marriage, or anti-miscegenation laws, spread throughout the country. Even in California.

And it didn’t just ban Blacks from intermarrying. It was for Asians, too. Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos were all forbidden from marrying whites and expected to marry “their own kind.”

Only in 1967 did the Supreme Court decide that the anti-intermarriage laws violated he Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Loving case (involving the incarceration of the Black/white couple, Mildred and Richard Loving) was later used in the legal justification for same-sex marriage.

Hard to imagine we’d ever take away our rights to marry. But given the current climate with the religious right hellbent on reversing settled law like on abortion rights, we must stay vigilant.

A good way to start is by celebrating our diversity and remembering Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

NOTE: I’ll talk about this on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on www.amok.com.

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