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Kia Croom Advocates for Her Community

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By Ashley Chambers

Kia Croom

Writer Kia Croom has always been an advocate for those in need. As program director at the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP), she has helped provide services to homeless individuals and families, including emergency shelter and transitional housing, a resource center and serving meals 365 days a year. Holding a bachelors degree in journalism, a Masters of Science in Urban Studies and Masters of Public Administration (MPA) in Regional Planning and Community Development, she has also helped manage homeless services in Atlanta, Georgia establishing the first supportive housing program in the city for transgender people living with HIV/AIDS. She says she has learned that she needs a community of support, resources and funding to bring projects such as these to fruition. “It takes a regional collaboration on multiple levels-municipalities, state and federal government. There’s so many stakeholders involved,” she said. “It’s just about working with these different stakeholders to create a solution to social problems, to respond to low educational attainment in communities like Richmond.” While the need for response to social issues such as unemployment, homelessness, and re-entry is vast, funding to provide services is scarce. Sympathetic to the plight of communities in need of these services and a seasoned grant writer for the past 10 years, Croom has helped agencies raise money and educated others with her grant writing workshops. “Grant writing entails making a very succinct and compelling request for funding to support a project or service to benefit a nonprofit,” she said. “(It requires) well-thought out project-getting measureable outcomes, tangible goals and objectives, and a request that can demonstrate some degree of impact. Its more than just putting words on paper, there’s a story to be told,” Croom said. In Croom’s upcoming spring series, “Show Me the Money Grant Writing Workshop,” nonprofits and individuals seeking more information can learn how to effectively raise money to support their projects, she says. “I see the saddest possible cases you could imagine every single day,” Croom said. “If it weren’t for the GRIP’s of society, there would be a lot of people in even more turmoil because they would have nowhere to turn for help. That keeps me going.” A grant-writing workshop will take place Friday, April 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Homewood Suites Hilton hotel at 1103 Embarcadero in Oakland. For more information or to register, contact (510) 698-2728 or info@getmygrants.com

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Arts and Culture

Rise East Project: Part 3

Between 1990 and 2020, Oakland lost nearly half of its Black population due to economic and social forces. East Oakland, once a middle-class community, is now home to mostly Black families living in poverty.

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CEO of Black Culture Zone Carolyn Johnson, a native from Deep East Oakland is making the change she wishes to see in her community and in her people. Black Culture Zone has created a power base of Black folks making a difference in Deep East Oakland. Photo by Kumi Rauf.
CEO of Black Culture Zone Carolyn Johnson, a native from Deep East Oakland is making the change she wishes to see in her community and in her people. Black Culture Zone has created a power base of Black folks making a difference in Deep East Oakland. Photo by Kumi Rauf.

The Black Cultural Zone’s Pivotal Role in Rebuilding Oakland’s Black Community

By Tanya Dennis

 

Between 1990 and 2020, Oakland lost nearly half of its Black population due to economic and social forces.  East Oakland, once a middle-class community, is now home to mostly Black families living in poverty.

 

In 2021, 314 Oakland residents died from COVID-19.  More than 100 of them, or about 33.8%, were Black, a high rate of death as Blacks constitute only 22.8% of Oakland’s population.

 

This troubling fact did not go unnoticed by City and County agencies, and the public-at-large, ultimately leading to the development of several community organizations determined to combat what many deemed an existential threat to Oakland’s African American residents.

 

Eastside Arts Alliance had already proposed that a Black Cultural Zone be established in Deep East Oakland in 2010, but 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic galvanized the community.

 

Demanding Black legacy preservation, the Black Cultural Zone (BCZ) called for East Oakland to be made an “unapologetically Black” business, commercial, economic development community.

 

Established initially as a welcoming space for Black art and culture, BCZ emerged into a a community development collective, and acquired the Eastmont police substation in Eastmont Town Center from the City of Oakland in 2020.

 

Once there, BCZ immediately began combating the COVID-19 pandemic with drive-thru PPE distribution and food giveaways. BCZ’s Akoma Market program allowed businesses to sell their products and wares safely in a COVID-compliant space during the COVID-19 shutdown.

 

Currently, Akoma Market is operated twice a month at 73rd and Foothill Boulevard and Akoma vendors ‘pop up’ throughout the state at festivals and community-centered events like health fairs.

 

“Before BCZ existed, East Oakland was a very depressing place to live,” said Ari Curry, BCZ’s chief experience officer and a resident of East Oakland. “There was a sense of hopelessness and not being seen. BCZ allows us to be seen by bringing in the best of our culture and positive change into some of our most depressed areas.”

 

The culture zone innovates, incubates, informs, and elevates the Black community and centers it in arts and culture, Curry went on.

 

“With the mission to center ourselves unapologetically in arts, culture, and economics, BCZ allows us to design, resource, and build on collective power within our community for transformation,” Curry concluded.

 

As a part of Oakland Thrives, another community collective, BCZ began working to secure $100 million to develop a ‘40 by 40’ block area that runs from Seminary Avenue to the Oakland-San Leandro border and from MacArthur Boulevard to the Bay.

The project would come to be known as Rise East.

 

Carolyn Johnson, CEO of BCZ says, “Our mission is to build a vibrant legacy where we thrive economically, anchored in Black art and commerce. The power to do this is being realized with the Rise East Project.

 

“With collective power, we are pushing for good health and self-determination, which is true freedom,” Johnson says. “BCZ’s purpose is to innovate, to change something already established; to incubate, optimizing growth and development, and boost businesses’ economic growth with our programs; we inform as we serve as a trusted source of information for resources to help people; and most important, we elevate, promoting and boosting Black folks up higher with the services we deliver with excellence.

 

“Rise East powers our work in economics, Black health, education, and power building. Rise East is the way to get people to focus on what BCZ has been doing. The funding for the 40 by 40 Rise East project is funding the Black Culture Zone,” Johnson said.

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Alameda County

Help Protect D.A. Pamela Price’s Victory

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price is asking supporters of the justice reform agenda that led her to victory last November to come to a Town Hall on public safety at Montclair Presbyterian Church on July 27.

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D.A. Pamela Price
D.A. Pamela Price

By Post Staff

 

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price is asking supporters of the justice reform agenda that led her to victory last November to come to a Town Hall on public safety at Montclair Presbyterian Church on July 27.

Price is facing a possible recall election just six months into her term by civic and business interests, some of whom will be at the in-person meeting from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at 5701 Thornhill Dr. in Oakland.

“We know that opponents of criminal justice reform plan to attend this meeting and use it as a forum against the policies that Alameda County voters mandated DA Price to deliver. We cannot let them succeed,” her campaign team’s email appeal said.

“That’s why I’m asking you to join us at the town hall,” the email continued.  “We need to show up in force and make sure that our voices are heard.”

Price’s campaign is also seeking donations to fight the effort to have her recalled.

Her history-making election as the first African American woman to hold the office had been a surprise to insiders who had expected that Terry Wiley, who served as assistant district attorney under outgoing D.A. Nancy O’Malley, would win.

Price campaigned as a progressive, making it clear to voters that she wanted to curb both pretrial detention and life-without-parole sentences among other things. She won, taking 53% of the vote.

Almost immediately, Price was challenged by some media outlets as well as business and civic groups who alleged, as she began to fulfill those campaign promises, that she was soft on crime.

On July 11, the recall committee called Save Alameda for Everyone (S.A.F.E.) filed paperwork with the county elections office to begin raising money for the next step toward Price’s ouster: gathering signatures of at least 10% of the electorate.

S.A.F.E. has its work cut out for them, but Price needs to be prepared to fight them to keep her office.

In a separate sponsored letter to voters, Price supporters wrote:

“We know that you supported DA Price because you believe in her vision for a more just and equitable Alameda County. We hope you share our belief that our criminal justice system has to be fair to everyone, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status.

“The Republican-endorsed effort is a blatant attempt to overturn the will of the voters and a waste of time and money. It is an attempt to silence the voices of those who want real justice. We cannot let these election deniers succeed.

Will you make a donation today to help us protect the win?

“Please watch this video and share it with your friends and family. We need to stand up to the sore losers and protect the win. Together, we can continue to make Alameda County a more just, safe and equitable place for everyone.”

For more information, go to the website: pamelaprice4da.com
or send an e-mail to info@pamelaprice4da.com

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Bay Area

Oakland Teachers Walk Out

After negotiating late into the night and months of fruitless bargaining with the Oakland Unified School District, Oakland teachers went out on strike Thursday morning. “Our (50-member) bargaining team has been working for seven months working, making meaningful proposals that will strengthen our schools for our students,” said Oakland Education Association (OEA) Interim President Ismael “Ish” Armendariz, speaking at press conference Monday afternoon.

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Gearing up for this week's strike, Oakland parents, students, educators and families at United for Success Academy held a press conference April 28 to explain why they are standing together for a safer building and stable and racially justified schools. Photo courtesy of Oakland Education Association.
Gearing up for this week's strike, Oakland parents, students, educators and families at United for Success Academy held a press conference April 28 to explain why they are standing together for a safer building and stable and racially justified schools. Photo courtesy of Oakland Education Association.

OEA calls unfair labor practices strike after 7 months of negotiations.

By Ken Epstein

After negotiating late into the night and months of fruitless bargaining with the Oakland Unified School District, Oakland teachers went out on strike Thursday morning.

“Our (50-member) bargaining team has been working for seven months working, making meaningful proposals that will strengthen our schools for our students,” said Oakland Education Association (OEA) Interim President Ismael “Ish” Armendariz, speaking at press conference Monday afternoon.

“OUSD has repeatedly canceled bargaining sessions, has failed to offer meaningful proposals or counterproposals at a majority of the bargaining sessions and has repeatedly failed to discuss certain items,” Armendariz said.

“The days (of bargaining) have been long, and after hours of waiting, the superintendent finally showed up on Sunday night at 11:00 p.m.to meet with our team (for the first time),” he said. “(But) the district continues to come to the table unprepared, and this is unacceptable.”

“This is illegal, and OEA has filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). Under California law, OEA has a right to strike over unfair labor practices,” he said.

OEA represents 3,000 teachers, counselors, psychologists, speech pathologists, early childhood educators, nurses, adult education instructors and substitute teachers, serving 35,000 Oakland public school students. Other labor groups representing school employees include SEIU 1021 and construction unions.

In a press statement released on Tuesday, OUSD said it has been trying to avert a strike.

“The district will remain ready to meet with the teachers’ union at any time and looks forward to continuing our efforts to reach an agreement with OEA … We will continue to do everything possible to avoid a work stoppage.”

“Our children’s education does not need to be interrupted by negotiations with our union, especially given the major offer the District made on Monday,” other district press statements said. “We are committed to continuing to work with our labor leaders to discuss their salaries and support services for our students without the need for a strike.

OUSD’s latest salary proposal, released this week, includes a 10% raise retroactive to Nov. 1, 2022, and a $5,000, one-time payment to all members.

OEA’s recent salary proposal asked for a 10% retroactive raise to all members, a one-time $10,000 payment to members who return for the 2023-2024 school year, and increases from $7,500 to $10,000 to salaries, based on years of experience.

In addition to pay demands, OEA is making “common good” proposals that serve families and the community, including protecting and enhancing special education programs, putting the brakes on closing schools in flatland neighborhoods, shared school leadership, safety, and support for students.

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Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price held a press conference Wednesday morning at Everett & Jones to discuss the recall election and her path forward now that a date is scheduled for November. Photo by Magaly Muñoz.
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