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Anchoring Organizations for Reparations Task Force Hold Public ‘Listening Sessions’

“This is one of two, free official-sponsored listening sessions that the task force has asked us to do,” said Chris Lodgson, an Elk Grove resident and CJEC member. “This will definitely help us get an accurate account (of the harms) done to Black people in this state.” CJEC is a state-wide coalition of organizations, associations, and community members united for reparations for the descendants of enslaved Black American men and women.

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Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, left, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley and Donald Tamaki, Esq., an attorney best known for his role in the reopening of the Supreme Court case Korematsu v. the United States, are both members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans (Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey).
Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, left, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley and Donald Tamaki, Esq., an attorney best known for his role in the reopening of the Supreme Court case Korematsu v. the United States, are both members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans (Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey).

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

The Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC), a reparations advocacy group, is inviting residents of Northern California to attend a “Listening Session” to discuss reparations.

The meeting will be held in Oakland on Saturday, May 28 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

With the support of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans and the state’s Department of Justice (DOJ), the event, open to the public, will be held at the California Ballroom, located at 1736 Franklin St.

“This is one of two, free official-sponsored listening sessions that the task force has asked us to do,” said Chris Lodgson, an Elk Grove resident and CJEC member. “This will definitely help us get an accurate account (of the harms) done to Black people in this state.”

CJEC is a state-wide coalition of organizations, associations, and community members united for reparations for the descendants of enslaved Black American men and women.

The Oakland meeting is one of a series of listening sessions that will be hosted by Reparations Task Force anchor organizations across the state. Seven “anchor organizations” have been selected to partner and host the gatherings in conjunction with the task force.

The listening sessions are designed to ensure certain communities in the state provide their thoughts and concerns about the work the task force is doing.

Each organization will help the task force evaluate California’s role in slavery and Jim Crow discrimination — and follow that work up with developing resolutions to compensate African Americans for past and ongoing race-based injustices.

Task force members expected to attend the Oakland session are Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley and vice-chair Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights leader and pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco whose journey to leadership started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s.

Lewis has just published the book, “Violent Utopia: Dispossession and Black Restoration in Tulsa.” Lewis, a Jamaican-born scholar, retells details of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre and paints a picture of its aftermath. His book traces the history of Black Oklahomans from the post-Reconstruction migration of formerly enslaved people to that state’s Indian Territory to contemporary efforts to rebuild Black prosperity.

The monograph focuses on how the massacre in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood, colloquially known as “Black Wall Street,” diminished the spirit of freedom and derailed progress African Americans had begun to make.

Scott told Los Angeles-based Politics in Black, a podcast hosted by reparations advocates Chad Brown and Friday Jones, that his purpose is to listen to the residents of Oakland and supply them with background information about the Task Force.

The Task Force will submit its first report to the California Legislature in June. The 13-chapter document will detail the committee’s findings thus far and include recommendations related to them.

“It’s important to know that these are preliminary recommendations. The actual work of coming up with reparations recommendations is what we’re going to be doing for all the issues (for the final report in 2023),” Scott told Brown and Jones. “I am really looking forward to having the conversations that we will have over the next several months around compensation. Reparations are compensation, and from day one, my position has been cash-based reparations.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 3121 into law in 2020. California Secretary of State Shirley Weber authored the legislation establishing the task force when she was a member of the State Legislature. The committee is charged with studying slavery and its lingering effects on African Americans with a “special consideration” for descendants of persons enslaved in the United States, the bill language instructs.

AB 3121 also requires members to recommend what compensation should be, who should receive it, and how it should be paid. A panel of economists contracted by the task force will provide their perspective on the financial aspects of compensation and its impacts.

Lodgson also urges members of the community to “share their experiences” with anchor organizations such as the Black Equity Collective, Afrikan Black Coalition, Black Power Network, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), and Othering and Belonging Institute.

Marcus Champion, a board member for the National Assembly of American Slavery Descendants Los Angeles (NAASDLA) and CJEC will also speak at the listening session in Oakland.

Kellie Farrish, a professional Bay Area genealogist and member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, will join Champion at the session. She has 20 years of experience working with African American families descended from slavery, piecing together their broken family histories.

“These listening sessions are important and probably the center, the core part, of the task force’s community engagement process,” Lodgson said. “This is one of the more important ways that the community can learn about reparations in California. This is the way to get the word out to the people from seven organizations.”

The Listening Session at the California Ballroom is free. For more information, visit TWITTER: @cjecofficial or inquire at CJECOfficial@gmail.com

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Activism

School Board Candidate is Mayor’s Staffer with Privatizer Connections

Mungia’s work on behalf of Mayor Schaaf’s education agenda is part of what troubles school advocates. Schaaf, a longtime supporter of charter schools, has spoken forcefully in the media in favor of closing as many as half of the city’s public schools.

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Kyra Mungia
Kyra Mungia

By Ken Epstein

The candidacy of Kyra Mungia, one of nine applicants who wish to fill the vacant District 6 seat on the Oakland Board of Education, has raised concerns from public school advocates about her connections to pro-charter school organizations and school privatizers.

The school board was faced with filling this vacancy when Board member Shanthi Gonzales recently resigned. The six remaining school board members are scheduled to vote before the end of June to fill the seat until January, when a new board member, elected in November, will take office.

According to Mungia’s resume, she has worked in Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Office from June 2016 to the present, currently serving as the mayor’s Deputy Director of Education.

However, a search of payroll records from 2016-2021 on Transparent California does not show Mungia as a payee by the City of Oakland for her job in the Mayor’s Office.

In a reply to questions from the Oakland Post, the Mayor’s spokesperson replied that Ms. Mungia’s salary is paid by a non-profit organization.

“Her employee position (and salary) is funded by The Oakland Public Education Fund. Ms. Mungia, like all Office of the Mayor staff — regardless of their salary’s funding source — [is] required to fill out public disclosure documents, including Form 700, and abide by all rules and regulations required of a city employee,” said the mayor’s spokesperson Justin Berton.

Form 700 lists Mungia as a Lee Public Policy Fellow. Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) is tied to a charter school advocacy group.

Mungia’s work on behalf of Mayor Schaaf’s education agenda is part of what troubles school advocates. Schaaf, a longtime supporter of charter schools, has spoken forcefully in the media in favor of closing as many as half of the city’s public schools.

Mungia has a considerable history with organizations that have a reputation for support for charter schools and from privatizers, including several that paid for a series of fellowships in the Mayor’s Office.

She began her career in Oakland as an elementary teacher for three years in East Oakland, working at least part of the time for Teach for America, which is tied to privatizers. Also, while working as a teacher, she served as a GO Public Schools Fellow.

GO is a charter-friendly organization that has spent $1,112,526 in Oakland school board elections since 2012, predominantly funded by out-of-town billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, Arthur Rock and Stacy Schusterman.

She was paid by the Oakland Public Education Fund (Ed Fund) in 2019-2020 for her work on Oakland Promise, the Mayor’s nonprofit, according to the Ed Fund’s IRS filings.

According to Ms. Mungia’s public LinkedIn resume, her career in the Mayor’s Office started in June 2016 with a three-month fellowship paid by Urban Leaders, an organization with a list of partners that includes KIPP (charter school chain), Educate78 (a charter expansion organization), GO Public Schools, and other pro-charter groups.

She continued in the mayor’s office with another fellowship through June 2017 paid by Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), an organization whose political arm gave $25,000 to the Power2Families PAC in 2000, which then bankrolled the candidacies of Austin Dannhaus for the OUSD District 1 seat, and Maiya Edgerly for the OUSD District 3 seat. Both candidates lost their races — despite record spending by Power2Families and other school privatizer organizations — to Sam Davis and VanCedric Williams.

In 2019, Mungia was a Surge Fellow in the Mayor’s office, a Black and Brown leadership development program, funded by wealthy backers of charter expansion, including the Walton Family Foundation and Michael Bloomberg.

Rochelle Jenkins, A District-6 parent, said she wanted the school board to pick a district representative who would speak for parents’ and families’ interests. “I hope the school board will choose a candidate who will represent our students and families first, and not Mayor Schaff and out-of-town billionaires.”

“In 2020, monied charter school interests tried to defeat a parent running in District 1 by spending big against him, but voters rejected that. It is incumbent on the school board to select a parent who will genuinely represent D6 families, and who won’t be given a leg-up because they intend to run in November,” said OUSD parent Rachel Latta.

In addition to seeking the temporary appointed position, Mungia is running for a four-year term in November as the District 6 representative.

Along with Mungia, the following eight candidates have applied for the vacant appointed position. They are:

Azlinah Tambu is a mother of two OUSD students at Parker Elementary. Since the announcement of intended school closures, she has been a leader in the fight to keep Parker open. She has lived in District 6 for eight years and in Oakland for 14 years.

David (Joel) Velasquez is an Oakland parent, an engineer and a business owner and has been involved with the district for 20 years. He has lived in District 6 for eight years.

David Correa, a former middle school teacher in OUSD for 10 years, currently manages the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco. He has two children in elementary school and has lived in Oakland for 12 years.

Janell Hampton has lived in Oakland for almost 40 years, including 10 years in District 6. She works for the California School Employees Association (CSEA), which represents food service workers, custodians, groundskeepers, para educators, bus drivers and security officers. She is a graduate of Skyline High School.

Julie Mendoza worked as an English teacher at Roosevelt Middle School in Oakland. She has lived nine years in Oakland, including four in District 6.

Kim Davis, a district 6 parent and long-time education advocate in Oakland, is a leader and founder of Parents United for Public Schools. She has lived in District 6 for 19 years.

Natalee Kēhaulani Bauer is professor and chair of the Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies department at Mills College She taught in OUSD schools from 1997 to 2005. She has lived in District 6 for 3 years and in Oakland for 27 years.

Tamecca Brewer (Anderson) was a math teacher in OUSD from 1995 to 1999. She now serves as an assistant manager for the Alameda County Library system.

She has been a District 6 resident for 22 years. As a student, she attended OUSD schools.

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Activism

Title IX: 37 Words That Changed Everything

Civil rights attorney and Alameda County District Attorney primary winner Pamela Price has long been recognized as a significant contributor for the enactment of the groundbreaking Title IX legislation because of her role as the lead Plaintiff in the first sexual harassment lawsuit, Alexander (Price) v. Yale. Her story as the Plaintiff and later as a leading civil rights attorney making new law under Title IX is featured in Sherry Boschert’s new book, 37 Words. Her fight for justice as a young woman is also featured in the ESPN documentary “37 Words” which will air on ESPN channels starting on June 21st.

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37 Words Author Sherry Boschert in front of poster with keynote speaker Pamela Price. (Photo courtesy of Price).
37 Words Author Sherry Boschert in front of poster with keynote speaker Pamela Price. (Photo courtesy of Price).

By Post Staff

Civil rights attorney and Alameda County District Attorney primary winner Pamela Price was a featured guest at the 50th Anniversary celebration of Title IX in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the National Women’s Law Center (NWCL).

Price participated in a casual conversation with NWLC President and CEO, Fatima Goss Graves and Sherry Boschert, author of 37 Words, about the importance of Title IX and continuing to defend gender rights.

Price said the invitation-only audience included 75 high level women’s policy advocates and leaders from student chapters fighting on behalf of Title IX rights from around the country, as well as some of the behind-the-scenes pioneers of Title IX.

Attorney Price has long been recognized as a significant contributor for the enactment of the groundbreaking Title IX legislation because of her role as the lead Plaintiff in the first sexual harassment lawsuit, Alexander (Price) v. Yale. Her story as the Plaintiff and later as a leading civil rights attorney making new law under Title IX is featured in Sherry Boschert’s new book, 37 Words. Her fight for justice as a young woman is also featured in the ESPN documentary “37 Words” which will air on ESPN channels starting on June 21st.

The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) is a non-profit organization that has been on the leading edge of every major legal and policy victory for women and girls for nearly 50 years.

NWLC launched a yearlong effort to mark its 50th anniversary as well as a refreshed strategic plan that will forge its efforts to ensure that women and girls — especially those of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community — can live, learn, and work with safety, dignity, and equality.

Earlier this month, in anticipation of Title IX’s 50th anniversary on June 23, 2022, the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) which includes 35 organizations advocating for gender justice in education including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released a report, “Title IX At 50”. The report takes a look at Title IX’s impact over the last half century, celebrating the significant progress to end sex discrimination in education, while recognizing the work that remains to be done.

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Activism

Tenants Protest Management Practices at New Oakland Veteran Housing

During visits this month, this reporter found the doors to common areas at Embark locked. When residents tried to open these doors, they were unsuccessful, with the exception of a second-floor balcony, which residents claim was recently reopened. That area was overgrown with weeds. Lyons stated the companies are now looking for a landscape vendor to clean up that area.

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Tenants Deidre Robinson (left) and Sergeant First Class Rodney B. Burton (right) sit on the second-floor balcony of Embark Apartments, a recently opened affordable housing complex for veterans. The area is overgrown with weeds. Photo by Zack Haber.
Tenants Deidre Robinson (left) and Sergeant First Class Rodney B. Burton (right) sit on the second-floor balcony of Embark Apartments, a recently opened affordable housing complex for veterans. The area is overgrown with weeds. Photo by Zack Haber.

By Zack Haber

Since March of last year, tenants at Embark, an affordable apartment complex for veterans in Downtown Oakland, have been demanding that the companies that oversee and own their buildings address safety and habitability issues and provide residents with respectful management that is free of harassment.

“It’s such a nice building,” said tenant Deidre Robinson. “But they’re actively destroying it, and I don’t understand why.”

Robinson, along with most of her neighbors living in the 63-unit Veterans Affairs (VA) subsidized apartment complex that opened in early 2020, is a Black veteran. While Embark is publicly funded, it is privately owned and operated.

The San Francisco-based John Stewart Company, which oversees 372 buildings in California, serves as property manager while the Berkeley based non-profit, Resources for Community Development (RCD), owns the building. In addition to Embark, RCD owns 59 other affordable Bay Area properties.

After a period of homelessness and struggling with severe depression, Robinson has used VA services to secure stable employment and what she calls her “forever home” at Embark. Her new apartment made her “super happy” at first, but she no longer feels safe there.

She says she regularly encounters people who don’t live at Embark but enter the complex without permission.

“I take mace when I go to the laundry room,” said Robinson, “because I find hostile people there who don’t want to let me wash my clothes when they’re sleeping there.”

According to Robinson, she often finds human feces and urine in halls and stairways and her packages often go missing. She suspects people who break in are responsible for these problems and says management won’t investigate to find who is responsible, even though the complex contains security cameras in all common areas.

In an email representing a collaborative response from John Stewart Company and RCD, Communications and Marketing Director Lauren Lyons wrote that the companies “are aware of some incidents of loitering, package theft and public urination,” but that their staff “confront non-residents, monitor our security systems to prevent theft as much as possible, and have frequent janitorial/cleaning schedules.”

She also wrote they “provide footage to the local police whenever they conduct an investigation.”

During a tour of Embark that a tenant named Sergeant First Class (SFC) Rodney B Burton hosted on a weekday afternoon of this month, this reporter encountered food scraps on sticky dusty hallway floors while what appeared to be human feces lay in a stairway. A person walked through Embark’s unlocked front door who apologized and immediately left when SFC Burton confirmed he wasn’t a resident.

During nighttime visits, this reporter found a side fire exit door unlocked at Embark, allowing easy entrance to the building from the street.

In late 2020 and early 2021, Embark tenants began to organize to collectively address problems. They’ve sent two letters to John Stewart Company and RCD to express their grievances and list demands. In the first letter, sent in March 2021, they announced the formation of the Embark Veterans Tenants Association and wrote that “though our building is new…profit is being put before us tenants.”

They demanded that “all outstanding rent be zeroed out” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and asked that management regularly give rent and utility receipts to tenants so they can better keep track of their finances and hold the companies accountable for any errors. The demands related to finances came, in part, due to residents receiving notices they felt constituted harassment and intimidation.

“I’ve been harassed by managers” said SFC Burton, “and they intimidated some other veterans that constructively evicted themselves, even though there’s a moratorium on evictions.”

This reporter obtained two Notice to Pay Rent or Quit letters that John Stewart Company had sent to residents in August and July of 2020 which stated, “If you fail to either pay the total amount of rent due in full or return possession of the premises…you may be evicted.”

According to SFC Burton, a few of his neighbors felt intimidated and left after receiving such notices demanding payment that they couldn’t pay. At that time though, as well as now, an Oakland based eviction moratorium would have prevented John Stewart Company or RCD from winning any eviction case at Embark against a tenant for nonpayment of rent.

In an email to this reporter, Lyons, the companies’ spokesperson, wrote that in 2020 “Property managers sent notices to all RCD residents who had an unpaid balance on their account,” and also stated such notices included information about rental assistance. None of the notices from 2020 this reporter saw contained such info, but one notice from summer of last year listed contact info for agencies that help with rental assistance.

According to Oliver Yan, who worked as Resident Services Coordinator at Embark from its opening till fall of last year, the companies weren’t helping tenants’ efforts to secure rent relief during his tenure.

“I would actually argue they were working against those efforts,” Yan said.

Yan claims that the bulk of his job had been trying to get Embark tenants rent relief funds, but the process was “extremely frustrating,” in large part due to John Stewart Company’s “bad accounting practices.” Yan needed accurate accounting information to help tenants secure rent relief but often couldn’t obtain it due to the management and ownership’s resistance.

“John Stewart Company was actively fighting me,” he said, “and RCD was not helping.”

According to Embark tenants, accounting problems persist. On March 31, 24 members of Embark’s tenant union sent another letter of demands to the companies. Residents asked for full rent and utility receipts from March 2020 till the present time, which they say they still haven’t received. California Code of Civil Procedure requires any property owner to provide receipts to tenants for rent payments.

Additionally, Embark tenants objected in their March 31 letter to “community spaces,” such as shared social rooms and balconies, being “inaccessible for residents for the last two years,” even though they’d seen management using them.

According to Lyons “common areas are not currently closed” but had been closed “during the height of the pandemic.”

During visits this month, this reporter found the doors to common areas at Embark locked. When residents tried to open these doors, they were unsuccessful, with the exception of a second-floor balcony, which residents claim was recently reopened. That area was overgrown with weeds. Lyons stated the companies are now looking for a landscape vendor to clean up that area.

Tenants at Embark had formed their union in early 202, affiliating with Bay Area Tenants and Neighborhood Councils, a tenant union with over 500 members, also known as Bay Area TANC.

TANC and Embark residents held BBQs to help spread the word about tenant organizing. According to SFC Burton, over 40 people are now meeting every month to organize about Embark tenant issues, and they’ve had success getting rent and utility relief for many Embark residents.

“It’s been really fun to work with TANC, and efficient,” said SFC Burton. “Without organizing, I don’t even want to think about what would have happened.”

Juleon Robinson, a TANC member who has been organizing at the complex, feels he’s learned a lot from Embark tenants.

“I’ve learned about patience,” he said. “[SFC Burton] knows everyone in that building, and he’s checking in with them all the time. Relationships are so important for organizing.”

Embark is not the only John Stewart Company/RCD building where tenants have been organizing. Tenants at Fox Courts, a nearby complex with 80 apartments for low-income tenants, which John Stewart Company manages, and RCD owns, have also unionized, affiliating last year with TANC and forming the Fox Courts Tenant Council.

Fox Courts tenant Annie Coffin was motivated to organize because, while she had been happy when she moved into the then new complex in 2009, she thinks conditions at Fox Courts have worsened.

“When I first moved in this place was nice,” said Coffin. “But now you have to argue with management to get the base minimum of upkeep.”

Some of Coffin’s complaints about Fox Courts echo those at Embark. She says people break in and defecate or vomit in common areas. Packages go missing, and she says management and ownership don’t do anything to stop it. She’s also complained that management harassed her neighbors and those who visit her. In November 2021, Fox Court Tenant Council wrote a letter, which 36 tenants signed, demanding “regular maintenance of common space, immediate habitability repairs” and “accountable available and respectful management.” In April of this year, the union made 15 specific demands in another letter.

Unlike at Embark, John Stewart Company and RCD did formally respond to the Fox Courts letters. Lyons says the company has also “recently met with 23 [Fox Courts] households who attended a resident meeting.” According to Fox Court tenants, the companies have corrected some, but not all, of their concerns.

Meanwhile, at Embark, Deidre Robinson hopes John Stewart Company and RCD address the problems there and treat the complex “like the blessing that it is.”

“We just want someone who cares who comes in and out of the building,” she said, “and why they can’t open up the community rooms is beyond me. It’s almost like John Stewart Company is unaware this is a complex full of veterans.”

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