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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.”

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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.

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Congresswoman Barbara Lee Sworn in to U.S. House of Representatives

Congresswoman Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member 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.

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As a member of the Steering and Policy Committee, Congresswoman Lee is the highest-ranking Black woman appointed to House Leadership.
As a member of the Steering and Policy Committee, Congresswoman Lee is the highest-ranking Black woman appointed to House Leadership. 

Congresswoman Barbara Lee was officially sworn in as United States Representative for California’s 12th Congressional District, representing the people of the East Bay in the 118th Congress.

“I am honored that the people of the East Bay have entrusted me with the great responsibility of representing them in Congress, and deeply grateful to have such engaged and enlightened constituents. As a result of the 2020 Census and redistricting, our beautiful 13th district’s number is now 12.

“After four days, thousands of votes, 15 ballots, and the longest Speaker election since 1858, during the Buchannan presidency, we can finally begin legislating in the 118th Congress. I was honored to serve as one of two official Democratic tellers for the Speaker’s race and I’m looking forward to continuing the work of putting people over politics. I will continue fighting for safer communities; ending poverty; affordable housing; combatting homelessness; climate action; reproductive freedom; racial justice; global peace and security, an equitable health care system; an economy that works for all, and so much more. We have work ahead of us, but with our most diverse and committed House Democratic Caucus yet, we’ll resist the right-wing’s extremist agenda and improve the lives and livelihoods of our communities.”

Congresswoman Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member 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 Steering and Policy Committee, she is the highest-ranking Black woman appointed to House Leadership.

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Barbara Lee

Rep. Barbara Lee Inquiring About Barriers to Capital for Minority Cannabis Businesses 

“As momentum for marijuana decriminalization continues, FinCEN data could help shed light on the state of minority-owned and small cannabis businesses (which constitute businesses with revenues under $40 million) seeking financial services,” the lawmakers wrote. “Existing disparities in access to capital and financial services for individuals and businesses increase financial barriers and exacerbate the racial wealth gap, further harming those most harmed by the failed War on Drugs.

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Rep. Barbara Lee and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer. (Congress.gov photos)
Rep. Barbara Lee and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer. (Congress.gov photos)

By Sean Ryan

Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) sent a letter on Wednesday to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) requesting recent data on the financial services offered to minority cannabis businesses in an effort to better understand the barriers faced by minority cannabis businesses owners.

Minority cannabis entrepreneurs often cite a lack of access to capital and financial services as a major barrier to entering the legal cannabis industry. A 2021 Brookings Institution report revealed that Black-owned businesses faced more disparities in access to banking services and deposits, mortgage credit, and small business loans than their white counterparts.

These alarming findings were further substantiated by a 2021 Federal Reserve report that found that Black and Latino-owned businesses were less than half as likely as their white counterparts to be fully approved for loan applications.

“As momentum for marijuana decriminalization continues, FinCEN data could help shed light on the state of minority-owned and small cannabis businesses (which constitute businesses with revenues under $40 million) seeking financial services,” the lawmakers wrote. “Existing disparities in access to capital and financial services for individuals and businesses increase financial barriers and exacerbate the racial wealth gap, further harming those most harmed by the failed War on Drugs.

They continued, “Given the increasing momentum of cannabis legalization and much-needed clarity from the federal government, Congress must devise a federal solution to equitably end the cannabis prohibition and encourage industry growth.

As we work to invest in the communities disproportionately harmed in the failed War on Drugs, FinCEN data on access to financial services could help promote equitable access to financial services for small and minority-owned cannabis businesses.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with FinCEN to ensure Congress is equipped with the critical data needed to effectively address equity concerns when crafting solutions to end the federal cannabis prohibition.”

Representatives Lee and Blumenauer serve as the Democratic co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

Sean Ryan is the communications director in the media relations office of Rep. Barbara Lee.

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Barbara Lee

Rep. Barbara Lee Releases Statement on Nancy Pelosi’s Retirement from House Leadership

“As the first woman Speaker to lead Congress, Speaker Pelosi’s career was one of transformational leadership. From passing the Affordable Care Act and presiding over some of the most consequential legislation in modern history to leading the charge to protect our democracy after January 6th, Nancy Pelosi is truly the greatest speaker to ever serve.

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Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Lee pay tribute to the life, legacy, and leadership of Shirley Chisholm – the first African American women elected to Congress - at the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s Shirley Chisholm Forever stamp and discussed the House Democrats’ women’s economic agenda: “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” at Mills College in Oakland. / Nancy Pelosi/Flickr
Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Lee pay tribute to the life, legacy, and leadership of Shirley Chisholm – the first African American women elected to Congress - at the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s Shirley Chisholm Forever stamp and discussed the House Democrats’ women’s economic agenda: “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” at Mills College in Oakland. / Nancy Pelosi/Flickr

As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to shift to Republican leadership in the next session of Congress, longtime Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, announced on Thursday that she would step down from the leadership although she would continue to serve.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), Speaker Pelosi’s longtime friend and colleague, released the following statement on Thursday after learning of Pelosi’s decision to retire from House leadership:

“As the first woman Speaker to lead Congress, Speaker Pelosi’s career was one of transformational leadership. From passing the Affordable Care Act and presiding over some of the most consequential legislation in modern history to leading the charge to protect our democracy after January 6th, Nancy Pelosi is truly the greatest speaker to ever serve.

“I consider Speaker Pelosi a dear friend, a congressional neighbor, and a fierce leader. I congratulate her on an incredible career in House leadership and look forward to continuing to serve the Bay Area alongside her in Congress. I wish her beloved husband, Paul, a speedy and full recovery and wish Speaker Pelosi and her family the best of luck in this next chapter. Her legacy will live on forever.”

From Sean Ryan, communications director of Rep. Barbara Lee’s media relations office.

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