Connect with us

Barbara Lee

IN MEMORIAM: Legendary Journalist Gail Berkley Dies at 74

East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee also remembered her longtime friend. “My prayers and condolences go to the family and loved ones of Gail Berkley-Armstrong. Gail was an institution in Bay Area journalism,” Lee said. “She wrote about and lifted up the Black community for decades, including as the editor of the Oakland Post and most recently at the Sun-Reporter.”

Published

on

Gail Berkley-Armstrong with husband Ray Armstrong
Gail Berkley-Armstrong with husband Ray Armstrong

She Worked for Black Press for Over 48 Years

By Evan Carlton Ward, San Francisco Sun-Reporter

Gail Cordelia Berkley-Armstrong, legendary awarding-winning Bay Area journalist and Sun-Reporter editor, has died after a lengthy illness. She was 74.

She was born Jan. 5, 1947, in Berkeley, California. She attended Berkeley public schools and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. She passed away peacefully in Oakland on Dec. 26, 2021, surrounded by family.

The veteran journalist was committed to the mission of the Black Press of America, whose motto is – “Too long have others spoken for us…we wish to plead our own cause.”

“I truly enjoy my work at the Sun-Reporter, helping to be sure the news and information important to the African American community is available to our readers each week,” she said. “It is critical that the voices, perspectives and opinions of our community, the leaders and citizens working for change have an outlet in the Bay Area. It is equally important to highlight the milestones and contributions of those too often left unrecognized in other media.”

Sun-Reporter Publisher and friend Amelia Ashley-Ward called Berkley-Armstrong a quiet genius, a loyal and faithful community servant and an exceptional writer. “Bringing Gail aboard as editor in 2005 was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. She was my rock and trusted sister friend. She was the best of Everything. I am totally lost without her. In grateful appreciation of her remarkable life and service, I will continue the struggle.”

Prior to joining the staff at the Sun-Reporter Publishing Company, Berkley-Armstrong was the longtime executive editor and assistant to the publisher of the Post Newspaper Group in Oakland. The Post Newspaper Group was founded by her late father, Attorney Thomas L. Berkley.

She was also committed to giving her time and talent to community organizations and served as president of the African Sister City Cultural Center, Inc. As president, she led the nonprofit organization in its mission to support the City of Oakland’s Sister City relationship with the twin cities Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana.

East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee also remembered her longtime friend.

“My prayers and condolences go to the family and loved ones of Gail Berkley-Armstrong. Gail was an institution in Bay Area journalism,” Lee said. “She wrote about and lifted up the Black community for decades, including as the editor of the Oakland Post and most recently at the Sun-Reporter.”

Congresswoman Lee added, “I spoke with her earlier this year on the centennial of the Tulsa massacre, and as always, her questions reflected her deep insight and her compassion for the subjects she covered. One of her many accomplishments was the sister city agreement between Oakland and Sekondi-Takoradi in Ghana, which helped to provide fresh water and sanitation to children there. My heart is with everyone who is mourning this loss. May she rest in peace and power.”

Berkley was also secretary of the Board of Directors of her church, Lakeside Temple of Practical Christianity in Oakland.

Berkley-Armstrong was co-founder of Cacao Branch Children’s Hospital, Oakland.

She served on several boards of directors of community-based organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Bay Area Urban League, Inc., Bay Area United Fund, Dimensions Dance Theater, Inc. and Black Adoption Placement and Research Center.

She was a founding member of New California Media (now New America Media). She also was a member of the Patrons of the Arts and Humanities of the Bay Area, The African American Museum and Library Coalition, and the Oakland Museum Cultural and Ethnic Affairs Guild’s Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Committee.

The community servant also served as a public relations and marketing consultant and editor for private clients.

Berkley-Armstrong has received many awards for her community work over the years. She received the Pioneer Award from New America Media, and recognition for community service by: State of California Legislature, City and County of San Francisco, Alameda County, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Allen Temple Baptist Church, East Bay Women’s Political Action Committee, Ebony Museum of California, Today’s Women, Inc., College Bounders Committee and the East Bay Area Club of the National Council of Negro Women.

After hearing of Berkley-Armstrong’s passing, former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. said “In the more than five decades of being written about in the press, nobody covered me more actively and objectively. Gail will be greatly missed.”

She loved traveling and meeting people of other cultures and nations. She toured Europe, Ghana, South America, Mexico, Jamaica, Cuba and other Caribbean nations. The journalist also visited the Ivory Coast, Malaysia, the Fiji Islands and Morocco.

As a child, she was exposed to the diversity of cultures within the Bay Area and beyond by her mother – the late Etta Jordan Hill, an educator and artist.

‘Both of my parents were trailblazers and courageous individuals who did not take ‘no’ for an answer. They were both role models for me. They taught by example how to meet challenges, and my mother made sure that my two sisters and I knew the importance of belief and faith in God,” Berkley-Armstrong stated.

She is survived by her husband, Ray Armstrong, sisters Theon C. King, Miriam Rhea Berkley, a host of other relatives, her Sun-Reporter Family and a grateful community.

A memorial service is pending.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activism

OP-ED: On Anniversary of Jan. 6 Insurrection, Rep. Lee Calls on Senate to Pass Voting Rights Legislation 

Across the nation, over 400 bills have been introduced suppressing the right to vote — from reducing polling hours and locations to allowing lawmakers to overturn a legitimate election result. And we know that voter suppression laws are not felt universally: these restrictions are particularly harmful to people of color, young people, the low-income, the disabled, those in rural areas, and other marginalized communities. 

Published

on

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13)
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13)

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) released the following statement on the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection:

This time last year, I was hurrying down flights of stairs in the Capitol, thinking about how fortunate it was that I wore my tennis shoes, and praying that the angry mob of armed white supremacists didn’t know where we were going.

It was a traumatic day for the country. Trump’s egregiously false claims about election fraud culminated in a shocking attempt to overthrow our democracy.

Although the rioters ultimately failed to do so, the siege on our institutions is nowhere close to being over. By refusing to accept facts and spreading corrosive lies about election sabotage, Republicans are stoking the flames of dictatorship and authoritarian rule.

Across the nation, over 400 bills have been introduced suppressing the right to vote — from reducing polling hours and locations to allowing lawmakers to overturn a legitimate election result.

And we know that voter suppression laws are not felt universally: these restrictions are particularly harmful to people of color, young people, the low-income, the disabled, those in rural areas, and other marginalized communities.

By restricting their access to the ballot, their voices and calls for change are silenced.

Make no mistake: there is a crisis in our democracy.

The Senate must move quickly to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect free and fair elections in this country — even if it means abolishing the filibuster.

To quote the late Congressman Lewis, ‘the right to vote is precious, almost sacred.’ It is our constitutional and moral duty as elected officials to protect it.

This announcement is courtesy of Barbara Lee’s press office.

Continue Reading

Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Tests Positive for COVID-19

The announcement comes just two days after Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker tested positive for the virus. Both Warren and Booker were also fully vaccinated and boosted, and both reported their symptoms were also mild. They both called upon the public to get vaccinated.

Published

on

Congresswoman Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chair of the subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations.
Congresswoman Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chair of the subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations.

By Post Staff

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) has tested positive for COVID-19 this week. The Congresswoman has been fully vaccinated and boosted, and said in a tweet on Tuesday, “Fortunately, I have only mild cold-like symptoms, but I know it could have been much worse had I not been vaccinated and boosted.”

She lauded the vaccines, encouraging people to get both vaccinated and boosted, and to follow health protocols to keep families and communities safe this holiday season. “Please stay masked and follow all of the CDC’s health guidelines as you gather with loved ones this holiday. I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.”

The announcement comes just two days after Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker tested positive for the virus. Both Warren and Booker were also fully vaccinated and boosted, and both reported their symptoms were also mild. They both called upon the public to get vaccinated.

All three senators’ experiences seem to back President Biden’s argument Tuesday that vaccination and booster shots provide sufficient protection from severe illness to allow for the continuation of holiday gatherings.

The president detailed plans to distribute free at-home COVID-19 tests, expand testing sites across the country, and bolster resources for strained hospitals as the Omicron variant brings in new waves of infected patients.

Congresswoman Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chair of the subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. She serves as Co-Chair of the Steering & Policy Committee, former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chair Emeritus of the Progressive Caucus, Co-Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Health Task Force, and Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus. She also serves as Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity. As a member of the House Democratic Leadership, she is the highestranking Black woman in the U.S. Congress.

Continue Reading

Activism

Leaders Push Pardons, Payouts for “Port Chicago 50” Black Sailors U.S. Navy ‘Unjustly’ Punished

According to a 2009 California Senate Joint Resolution (SJR-21), authored by former state Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), on the night of July 17, 1944, two transport vessels loading ammunition bound for the war in the Pacific at the Port Chicago naval base on the Sacramento River in California were suddenly engulfed in a gigantic explosion.

Published

on

African American sailors of an ordnance battalion preparing 5-inch shells for packing at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in 1943. The explosion occurred a year later. U.S. Navy photo.
African American sailors of an ordnance battalion preparing 5-inch shells for packing at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in 1943. The explosion occurred a year later. U.S. Navy photo.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ | California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

A growing chorus of Black leaders and activists in California is calling on the federal government to pardon 50 Black sailors they allege the U.S. Navy wrongfully punished nearly 80 years ago.

Advocates are pushing for payments to the families of sailors who died in the 1944 explosion in Port Chicago that was the underlying cause for the Navy taking action against the servicemen.

They say the sailors’ families deserve more than an apology or posthumous pardon. They should get monetary compensation as well.

“The 50 African American sailors at Port Chicago who took a stand against discrimination should be remembered as heroes,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13).

In July of 1944, Port Chicago Naval Magazine, a few miles from the city of Martinez, was the scene of the largest explosion on the mainland of the United States. The blast shook the San Francisco Bay Area and the disturbance was felt as far away as Nevada.

About 320 sailors were killed instantly in the explosion. More than 200 of the midshipmen and commissioned officers were young African Americans.

Another 390 military and civilian personnel were injured, including 226 African American enlisted men. Only Black sailors were assigned the dangerous job of loading ammunition with no prior training in weapons handling.

“The Port Chicago tragedy is another painful reminder of how our nation must confront its history of systemic racism,” Lee said.

The people killed or injured in the disaster were loading highly explosive bombs, anti-submarine weapons, torpedoes, shells, and naval mines totaling 4,606 tons of ammunition onto the merchant ships SS Quinault Victory and SS E.A. Bryant.

According to a 2009 California Senate Joint Resolution (SJR-21), authored by former state Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), on the night of July 17, 1944, two transport vessels loading ammunition bound for the war in the Pacific at the Port Chicago naval base on the Sacramento River in California were suddenly engulfed in a gigantic explosion.

“What I am pushing for is that everything of public record where Black folks were wronged needs to be righted,” Rev. Amos Brown, vice-chair of California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, told California Black Media (CBM). Brown is the pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and president of the city’s NAACP branch.

“We must do our due diligence and get all the facts on this explosion. It’s definitely a case where Black folks had been wronged and injured. There was a culture of negligence here and was prevalent when it came to Black folks,” Brown added.

The exact cause of the Port Chicago explosion is still unknown.

People familiar with the explosion say incidents leading up to the disaster unfolded in a culture rife with negligence and racism.

A string of injustices followed it, as well. After the explosion, the Black sailors working at Port Chicago were ordered to continue loading ships under the supervision of an all-white crew of officers. Many of the surviving Black sailors felt that their commanders had not addressed the safety problems that triggered the blast but still asked them to continue loading ammunition.

Soon, the Black sailors, who had been trained for U.S Navy combat, decided to stage a protest. Afraid their lives were at risk, they stopped working. In September 1944, the Navy charged 50 of the Port Chicago sailors with disobeying orders and initiating a mutiny.

A court-martial was convened to try the men who staged what was called “the largest mutiny in the history of the Navy.” It was held for several weeks on Treasure Island outside of San Francisco.

The Black sailors were found guilty and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in prison. Forty-seven of the 50 sailors were released in January 1946 while the remaining three served additional months in incarceration.

Only one member of the Port Chicago 50, Freddie Meeks, received a Presidential pardon from Bill Clinton in December 1999. Meeks, who was discharged in 1946, passed away in 2003 in Los Angeles.

“I knew we had a good president and I figured he would do the right thing, and he did the right thing with this pardon,” Meeks, 80, said in an Associated Press article published Dec. 24, 1999. “I’m not bitter because it’s something happened so long ago, you just outlive it, that’s all.”

Brown, 80, says the Port Chicago disaster was the result of carelessness, disregard for humans’ safety, and racism.

“All of the evidence is there,” Brown told CBM, speaking via phone from his San Francisco home.

People’s World, a publication that provides news and analysis of labor and democratic movements, reported that discrimination even played out in the compensation awarded to the families of those killed.

The Navy paid out $5,000 to white families but only $3,000 to Black families, the 2009 article reported.

Brown made the statement about the Port Chicago incident after learning that a group of Democratic lawmakers is attempting to revive an effort to pay the families of Black service members who fought on behalf of the nation during World War II for benefits they were denied or barred from receiving.

The federal legislative effort would compensate surviving spouses and all living descendants of Black WWII veterans whose families were denied the opportunity to build wealth with housing and educational benefits through the Government Issue (GI) Bill.

The site of the disaster is now called the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, dedicated in 1994 to recognize the sailors who perished in the deadly blast. The memorial, managed by the National Park Service, is located at the Concord Naval Weapons Station near Concord.

Last summer, in honor of the 77th anniversary of the Port Chicago Disaster, U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) and Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11-Walnut Creek) introduced a House Resolution, recognizing the victims of the explosion.

The resolution called for the exoneration of the 50 African American sailors they say were unjustly court-martialed by the Navy.

“By calling for the exoneration of the Port Chicago 50, our resolution would bring justice to these sailors and recognize their courage as well as honor the service and sacrifice of the victims of this disaster,” DeSaulnier said.

Continue Reading

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending