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Janice Mirikitani

A memorial fund in Mirikitani’s name has been established to support women’s and children’s programs so near and dear to her heart

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Janice Mirikitani, photo courtesy Wikipedia Janice Mirikitani, 80

Janice Mirikitani was born on February 4, 1941, in Stockton and died suddenly on July 29, 2021.  Her cause of death is unknown.  

She was an activist, poet, writer and author who received a number of honors, including the Japanese Foreign Ministry Commendation Award for her community work in 2019.

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney tweeted: “[w]e lost a legend today, the First Lady of the Tenderloin, a poet, someone who loved people, all people, and had endless compassion, grace, and vision.”

Mirikitani was born to Shigemi and Ted Mirikitani and they were all interned from her infancy for three years during World War II at a War Relocation Center in Arkansas.  After their internment the family moved to Chicago.  

Her parents divorced and she and her mother relocated to a chicken farm in Petaluma in the North Bay near other family.

Mirikitani earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.  She then taught in the Contra Costa School District before joining Glide Memorial Church as an administrative assistant.

In 1969, Mirikitani became the program director at Glide.  In 1982, she married Cecil Williams, who was then the pastor. She was also the president of the Glide Foundation and was responsible for fundraising and budget oversight.

She co-founded and edited Aion, the first Asian American literary magazine. She was named the second poet laureate for the city of San Francisco in 2000, and she served in that role for two years, according to Wikipedia.

“Janice was a breathtaking personification of God’s grace.  Her life was spent loving and holding up brothers and sisters that the world had given up on.  Janice’s time on earth teaches us that a life solely focused on serving the people is a blessed lifeLateefah Simon, a director of the BART Board, told The Post.

Karen Hanrahan, CEO and president of Glide told the Post: “[l]ike thousands of others, I am grieving the loss of this city’s greatest treasure.  Janice was a fearless voice for truth and justice.  Her love for those struggling the most was a powerful force for healing that transformed thousands of lives. At GLIDE we will build on Jan’s legacy, including her boundless capacity for unconditional love, to ensure no one is left behind.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee said in a statement on July 29: “I am sending my prayers and deepest condolences to Janice Mirikitani’s husband, Rev. Cecil Williams, and her family.  I am heartbroken to hear of Janice’s passing and I am grieving alongside the Glide community today.  Janice was a beautiful force of nature, a warrior for justice, and a talented poet whose spirit soared.  She inspired us all.  I will miss her tremendously.”

In Japantown’s Peace Plaza, where one of her poems is etched into a stone obelisk, shocked members of the National Japanese American Historical Society thoughtfully lay a colorful string of traditional origami around the monument.

A memorial fund in Mirikitani’s name has been established to support women’s and children’s programs so near and dear to her heart. She was executive director of the Janice Mirikitani Glide Family Youth and Child Care Center.

Mirikitani is survived by her husband, Cecil Williams, and her child from her first marriage, Tianne Miller.

Wikipedia, The San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, KTVU- Fox 2 and The Houston Chronicle were sources for this story.

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Bay Area

Opinion: A Strange Tale of Two Political Fights: Sheng Thao and Donald Trump

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao must be wondering how can a convicted felon with 34 guilty verdicts be riding high, while she, an uncharged elected official, fights for her political life? That’s how strange politics is in America today.

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Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and Presidential Candidate Donald Trump.
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and Presidential Candidate Donald Trump.

By Emil Guillermo

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao must be wondering how can a convicted felon with 34 guilty verdicts be riding high, while she, an uncharged elected official, fights for her political life?

That’s how strange politics is in America today.

On the national stage, President Joe Biden made an historic ask of Americans this week. It’s summer, and everyone is a “low information” voter now. But for the sake of the country, and the future of democracy, it’s time to pay attention. Get nerdy now.

Biden is essentially tied with Trump, a newly convicted felon, which tells you how cockeyed political values are in America.

Instead of policy, Trump is all bluster talking about a pre-debate drug test because he’s sure Biden is going to be “jacked up” on some kind of performance enhancing drug.

That kind of thing gets attention. Not whether you’re going to things to improve people’s lives.

But rest assured, if Donald Trump is elected for a second time, the blueprint is already out. The Heritage Foundation’s plan calls for a “Department of Life,” and a theocratic-based world view where abortion is illegal, and minorities of all stripes are disempowered.

A vote for Trump represents a radical reformatting of democracy.

POLITICS IN OAKLAND

In the meantime, local Oakland politics is slightly different, but no less confounding.

Sheng Thao, 18 months into her tenure as the first Hmong American to be mayor of a major U.S. city, is recovering from the worst week in her life.

First, a group of Oakland citizens qualified enough signatures to hold a recall election of Thao. Then, on Wednesday, 15 people were shot at an unauthorized Juneteenth celebration in the city’s Lake Merritt area. The topper came Thursday, when the FBI executed a pre-dawn raid of a number of houses including Thao’s, all connected to a case reportedly involving improper campaign donations from Andy Duong, a Vietnamese American businessman whose company, CalWaste, won the contract to run the city’s recycling program. No arrests were made, just boxes and computers hauled from the various homes. Not a good look.

 

THAO: “I AM INNOCENT”

For five days, Thao was silent, but on Monday, she came out firing her best shot.

“I have done nothing wrong,” Thao said at a news conference. “I can tell you with confidence that this investigation is not about me. I have not been charged with a crime and I am confident that I will not be charged because I am innocent.”

Thao said she was seeking answers from the U.S. attorney as to why she wasn’t “offered the opportunity to cooperate voluntarily.”

Good question. Unless they thought she was hiding something.

Thao addressed the shootings last week first with care, then said she won’t be distracted from the real issues of Oakland. Like safety or the selling of the Oakland Coliseum to a Black-owned group.

But she went back to questioning the timing of last week.

“I want to know more about the handful of billionaires from San Francisco and Piedmont who are hell bent on running me out of office,” she said, questioning how the recall announcement and the raid seemed orchestrated with the media “to fan the flames and bend the facts to shape a narrative.”

Trump, the convicted felon, overcomes reality and is propelled by “friends” who see him as a winner. Thao was voted in through RCV, rank-choice-voting. She was the most people’s No. 2, not No. 1.

Maybe that’s why few allies are standing up behind her now. The Oakland NAACP, and even one Asian group is calling for her to resign.

For Thao, this will be the test if her story can overcome it all, again.

About the Author

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com

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Business

Opinion: California Needs to Do More to Boost Employment for Black Americans

California must act now to confront today’s Black job crisis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics last year reported that 90% of the nation’s unemployed U.S. citizens are Black Americans. And despite being less than 10% of Los Angeles’ population, Black people comprise more than a third of its unhoused residents. Senate Bill (SB) 1340 renews hope in confronting this Black job crisis, as $180 billion in federal funds are coming to California to support the state’s green infrastructure projects over the next decade.

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Taylor Jackson, regional organizer, Southern California Black Worker Hub. Courtesy photo.
Taylor Jackson, regional organizer, Southern California Black Worker Hub. Courtesy photo.

By Taylor Jackson
Special to California Black Media Partners
 

California must act now to confront today’s Black job crisis.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics last year reported that 90% of the nation’s unemployed U.S. citizens are Black Americans. And despite being less than 10% of Los Angeles’ population, Black people comprise more than a third of its unhoused residents.

Senate Bill (SB) 1340 renews hope in confronting this Black job crisis, as $180 billion in federal funds are coming to California to support the state’s green infrastructure projects over the next decade.

The bill – authored by longtime worker rights and racial equity advocate Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) – would establish local “disadvantaged worker” demographics across California and require state-funded contractors to prioritize hiring these workers, who are primarily from underserved communities of color.

One Black construction worker who has benefited from an equitable hiring program is Patricia Allen. In 2014, Allen was an unemployed single mother living in the Crenshaw area who was hired to work on LA Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX rail line as part of their Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that prioritized the hiring of local disadvantaged individuals.

“It really felt good to see other faces like mine on the project,” said Allen, who now works as a safety supervisor for a construction company after earning her safety training certificate.

SB 1340 would also require state-funded contractors to regularly track and report disadvantaged workers hired on their projects to hold them accountable to meeting equitable hiring goals established by the state.

The Biden Administration has intended for states to utilize these federal grant dollars to boost equitable hiring programs and other community benefits. To remain competitive in securing future federal funding, California must demonstrate that it is successfully executing equitable hiring programs. Tracking and reporting are the most effective ways to ensure that California is keeping receipts on workers hired on development projects and ensuring that the communities they come from have benefited.

California awarded one of its first contracts from these federal dollars to a Texas-based company. Without SB 1340, Black community members are concerned about the implications: firms like this out-of-state contractor are not currently required to hire local workers from vulnerable communities, including Black men and women.

As critical as SB 1340 is in helping to solve the state’s Black job crisis, the bill has fallen on deaf ears in the Governor’s Office. SB 1340 is yet to be funded, despite being passed by the State Senate and Assembly Labor Committee as well as strongly recommended by a sizable coalition of statewide community partners. While Gov. Newsom makes promises to support legislation that aim to make a more equitable California, Black workers need him to act now on those promises. 

Although California is facing budget constraints, SB 1340 will be a low-cost bill to implement. It’s a small investment that will pay big dividends given that it will create jobs that would take thousands of people out of poverty, ultimately saving the state money with their tax-paying jobs reinvested back into the state.

Because of California’s long history of institutionalized racist policies, Black communities were excluded from building the state’s infrastructure during the 20th century. SB 1340 would give Black workers an opportunity to play an important role as California transitions into a new green economy.

“This bill is not just about building roads and bridges. It’s about building communities where all people can have environmental and economic justice,” said Dawn Modkins, director of the Southern California Black Worker Hub.

To voice your support for SB 1340, please call or email your state legislator’s office or call the Office of the Governor at (916) 445-2841.

About the Author 

Taylor Jackson is the regional organizer at the Southern California Black Worker Hub.

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City Government

Opinion: We Can Protect Public Employee Pensions and the Environment

Before being elected to the State Assembly, I spent nearly three decades of my career as a public employee, serving the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. For almost 30 years, I faithfully contributed a portion of my hard-earned salary to the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) knowing that someday my investments would be there for me. Today, I am a CalPERS retiree and rely upon my retirement benefits – just like millions of CalPERS and California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) retirees. CalPERS and CalSTRS know that their fiduciary responsibility is to their members, beneficiaries and survivors.

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Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Los Angeles)
Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Los Angeles)

By Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, Special to California Black Media Partners  

Before being elected to the State Assembly, I spent nearly three decades of my career as a public employee, serving the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. For almost 30 years, I faithfully contributed a portion of my hard-earned salary to the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) knowing that someday my investments would be there for me. Today, I am a CalPERS retiree and rely upon my retirement benefits – just like millions of CalPERS and California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) retirees. CalPERS and CalSTRS know that their fiduciary responsibility is to their members, beneficiaries and survivors.

I trust CalSTRS and CalPERS to make sound investment decisions that prioritize stable, dignified retirement benefits for California teachers and public employees. I also believe that the climate crisis is a real, existential threat to our state, nation and world. California can and must act to reverse this crisis and preserve our fragile environment for generations to come. That is why California has led our nation by phasing out the sale of new internal combustion vehicles by 2035 and becoming carbon net-zero by 2045.

As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, I am committed to protecting the retirement funds of teachers and other public employees. My record is clear. I also represent a coastal district, home to some of California’s most famous beaches along with majority Black and Brown communities that are working to achieve the environmental justice that they and all communities deserve. My record is clear here too: I have, and will continue, to be a champion for protecting the environment.

Last year, SB 252, by Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), came before my committee, which would require CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest from its fossil fuel investments by 2031. At the time, I expressed concern that teachers and other public employees were largely absent from the conversation – after all, it is their money – and asked that the Author and the bill’s supporters work with public sector labor unions to take a position on this legislation.

A year later, although a few public sector labor unions expressed their support for SB 252, many others did not. In fact, a number of police, fire, and other public employee unions oppose the bill. As a compromise, I offered the Author amendments that would align CalPERS and CalSTRS divestment from fossil fuels with California’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045. It was a real path to divestment that still allowed CalPERS and CalSTRS to take early divestment action if they decided to do so. The Author declined to accept the amendments, which was followed by her decision to cancel the bill being heard in my committee. Unfortunately, this was a missed opportunity to protect public employee pensions and show global leadership by divesting from fossil fuel companies once and for all.

To be clear, if CalPERS and CalSTRS wanted to divest from fossil fuel companies they could – today. Together, CalPERS and CalSTRS have committed over $100 billion in investments to sustainable energy and using the power of their investment portfolios to hold fossil fuel companies accountable. More can and must be done to not just green our economy, but green our public pension systems.

I encourage the author and the supporters of SB 252 to reintroduce the measure next legislative session with my proposed amendments and work closely with our public sector labor partners to find greater consensus with the environmental community on this issue. We do not have to choose between protecting public employee pensions and protecting the environment – we can do both. But we cannot risk the solvency of current and future public employee retirement benefits without consensus from our public workers.

It is their money after all.

About the Author 

Assemblymember Tina McKinnor serves as Chair of the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee and represents the cities and communities of El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lenox, Los Angeles, Marina del Rey, Venice, West Athens, Westchester and Westmont in Los Angeles County.

Connect with Assemblymember McKinnor on social media: @AsmTinaMcKinnor

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