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Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Observed Throughout Oakland

Jan. 18, 2021, marks the 26th anniversary of the MLK Day of Service, held nationwide to observe and celebrate the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy. The iconic civil rights leader would have been 92 this year. King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, GA.




Jan. 18, 2021, marks the 26th anniversary of the MLK Day of Service, held nationwide to observe and celebrate the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy. The iconic civil rights leader would have been 92 this year. King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, GA.

After tremendous activist campaigning over a period of 32 years, King’s birthday was enacted by Congress and signed into law by Pres. Ronald Reagan as a federal holiday in1983. Establishing the MLK holiday was a hotly contested objective with many legislative sponsors often experiencing death threats and property damage.

After a vicious backlash over a three-year period, the lone Black elected official in Utah, state Sen. Terry L. Williams (my brother) was joined by Coretta Scott King, the great dame of the Civil Rights movement, in Utah’s ultimately successful struggle to ensure the state holiday law passed in 1986.

This paved the way for the state of Arizona, influenced by Utah’s action, to complete the 50-state membership of establishing the holiday honoring Dr. King’s legacy in 1993. Various nationwide amendments and name changes for the holiday were finally concluded in 2000.

The MLK Day of Service has been designated as “a day on, not a day off” to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. Because of the coronavirus, the city of Oakland extended the service to 40 days instead of one and instead of groups, to work as individuals or families.

Here in Oakland, Khariyyah Shabazz, deputy executive director of the Higher Ground Neighborhood Development Corporation (HGNDC), and Executive Director Amber Blackwell will mobilize dozens of volunteers to clean up areas in East Oakland.

“This will be the 10th year that we have mobilized teams of volunteers to work cleaning neighborhoods throughout Oakland,” said Blackwell. “Registration begins at 8:00 a.m. and our closing ceremonies will be at 1:00 p.m. Volunteers will be assigned to work in teams to perform specific tasks in the cleanup efforts.”

“Projects targeted for HGNDC this year will focus on areas around 10495 Edes Ave. in East Oakland. On this day, we plan to complete five service projects which will include: the Edes Avenue Beautification, Brookfield Elementary School cleanup, Greenway Maintenance, Tyrone Carney Park cleanup, and a food giveaway,” said Blackwell.

“We will also do senior cleaning where we will go into the backyards of seniors and eradiate debris from their property, removing items they have set out to be dumped. Each project will only last two hours depending on how much work there is to be done at each station. There will be a capacity of 10 people per group and we will enforce all CDC guidelines for the entire event.”

“Our plan will be to work in two groups with the first group arriving at 8:30 a.m. for signups. The second group will arrive at 11:00 a.m. for signups. We are asking that volunteers choose only one group to work with. A light snack and lunch will be provided for the volunteers.”

The mission of Higher Ground’s afterschool program is to provide a safe and nurturing space where students are given both the tools and access necessary to be successful in the academic arena, while exposing them and their families to varied cultural, artistic and fitness experiences that build resiliency and develop happy, well-rounded and successful people.

For more information on how you can help with activities during this year’s MLK Day of Service, call 510.230.5120 or visit Volunteers are asked to register via the website, or can show up on day of event and receive assignments.

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Bay Area

Most Californians Worry Schools Won’t Reopen Fully Next Fall, Poll Says

The majority say they approve of how Newsom handled schools this year.




More than 4 in 5 California adults, including public school parents, believe that the pandemic has caused children, especially low-income children and English learners, to fall behind academically.

  Six in 10 Californians are concerned that schools will not be open for full-time, in-person instruction in the fall, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released on April 28.

  The annual survey of Californians’ perspectives on education also found that a majority approved of the way Gov. Gavin Newsom has handled K-12 public schools, although opinions were split along partisan lines, with 22% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats supporting him on the issue.

  And perhaps in an indication of the erosion of support for public schools, 42% of parents say they would send their youngest child to a private school if cost and location were not at issue. This compares with 31% who would choose a traditional public school, 14% a charter school, and 13% a religious school. The preference for a private school increased from 35% last year and 31% two years ago.

  The survey of 1,602 adults over 18 was taken from April 1-14 and was offered in English or a choice of Spanish and three other languages. The margin of error was 3.4%, plus or minus, overall, and 7.4%, plus or minus, for the 295 respondents who are public school parents.

  Facing a recall election, Newsom can take solace in the poll’s finding that a majority of Californians (57% of adults, 64% of public-school parents) approve of how he has handled K-12 education.

  “Majorities of Californians approve of the way that Governor Newsom is handling the state’s K-12 public schools and school reopening, while they remain deeply divided along party lines,” said Mark Baldassare, president, and CEO of PPIC.

  However, a year ago, when the last survey was taken weeks after schools closed quickly in response to the first throes of the pandemic, his approval marks were higher, with 73% of adults and 78% of public school parents expressing approval.

  The poll, which focused on education, also found:

  Of those who said children were falling behind academically during the pandemic, 60% said that was happening by a lot and 22% by a little. The views were similar among ethnic and racial groups. Eight in 10 adults said they were concerned that low-income children were falling farther behind other children. More Blacks and Latinos were very concerned about this than whites;

  Amid continuing debates and lawsuits claiming that schools aren’t opening quickly enough, slightly more adults overall than public school parents said that schools should at least be partially open now (53% vs. 48%), while 28% of all adults and 27% of public school parents said that schools should be fully open now;

  Looking ahead to the fall, 61% of all adults said they were concerned that K-12 schools would not be open for full-time in-person instruction (24% very concerned, 37% somewhat concerned), and two-thirds of public school parents said they were concerned (25% very concerned, 41% somewhat concerned).

  When it comes to their own schools, two-thirds of adults said they approved of how their school district handled closures during the pandemic. Support was highest in the Los Angeles area (74%) and the Inland Empire (68%) and lowest in Orange County and San Diego (54%). Approval among public school parents was 72%.

  The clear majority of all adults said that teachers’ salaries in their communities are too low. About 1 in 3 said salaries are just about right while 7% said they are too high, and 3% said they didn’t know. Among racial and ethnic groups, 76% of Blacks said pay is too low, compared with 59% of whites, 61% of Asian Americans, and 62% of Latinos.

  Last month, the U.S. Department of Education ruled that California school districts could substitute local assessments for the state standardized test, the Smarter Balanced assessment, under some conditions. Many districts are expected to exercise that option.

  Asked whether they favor conducting year-end state testing this spring to measure the pandemic’s impact on student learning, 75% of all adults (and a similar proportion of public school parents) said they were in favor of continuing testing, with 23% opposed. Latinos were the most in favor (83%) and Blacks the least supportive (68%) with 70% of Asian Americans and whites in favor of continuing year-end testing.

  As for the perennial issue of school funding, 49% of all adults, 53% of likely voters, and 51% of public school parents said that the current level of state funding for their local public schools is not adequate — about the same level as a year ago.

  When it comes to school construction and renovation, 59% of all adults, 55% of likely voters, and 74% of public school parents said they would vote yes on a state bond measure to pay for school construction projects. Legislative leaders plan to place a bond on the state ballot in 2022.


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Big City Mayors Call On State To Allocate $20 Billion To Curb Homelessness

“We know how to fix this problem. Each of our jurisdictions has done detailed analyses and have regional plans in the Bay Area,” Schaaf said.




California’s Big City Mayors, a coalition of mayors from the 13 largest cities, are calling on the state to allocate half of its $40 billion surpluses to local governments to curb and end homelessness.

  The Big City Mayors coalition includes Mayors from Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, Santa Ana, and Stockton.

 The ask: $4 billion per year, five-year investment for a total of $20 billion in flexible funding as part of the state budget.

     “There’s no question it’s a big investment,” coalition chair and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said at a virtual news conference on April 29. “But spending half of a surplus on the biggest problem we faced in California, and making that commitment last for a half-decade, that’s money well spent.”

    With the combination of the state’s $26 billion in federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan and the record surplus, mayors see this as a unique opportunity to make drastic impacts for the state’s 161,000 unhoused residents.

  Mayors are calling the surplus a “generational opportunity,” because, economic challenges make it difficult to identify an ongoing revenue source.

    If approved, the funding would be roughly 10 times greater than any funding the cities have received in the past, Sacramento Mayor Darell Steinberg said.

      Steinberg said that even with a fraction of what they are asking for now, cities have been able to house hundreds of residents with state money from Project Roomkey, Project Home key, and other initiatives.

    In a letter to the state senate and assembly leaders, mayors wrote that through Project Home key, cities were able to create transitional housing at $148,000 per unit.

    “Based on the average cost of our Project Home key success, a four-year allocation of $16 billion that we’ve outlined could create more than 100,000 homes–or enough to permanently house nearly every Californian who entered a homeless shelter in 2020,” the letter reads.

      Steinberg also said that additional resources could support those dealing with rent struggles, prevent evictions and prevent people from losing their homes – essentially preventing homelessness.
      “Imagine a California with these kinds of investments,” he said.

      Mayors emphasized that the funding would need to be flexible because every city has unique ways in addressing and combatting the homeless.

           San Francisco used its state funding to create more than 9,000 permanent housing placements through initiatives like purchasing hotels, its Mayor London Breed said.

    Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also touted her city’s success by pointing to a couple of “unique initiatives” that have allowed the city to double the number of residents sheltered over the last year.

     Initiatives include creating safe RV parks, buying and transforming an old college dormitory into housing, and even purchasing single-family homes to create a haven for homeless seniors to live together.

      “We know how to fix this problem. Each of our jurisdictions have done detailed analyses and have regional plans in the Bay Area,” Schaaf said. “We just need the resources.”

    Schaaf pointed to the regional Bay Area action plan created by nonprofit All Home that seeks to shrink the region’s homeless population by 75% in three years by following the 1-2-4 framework.

    Essentially, this means for every single unit of interim housing built, there should be two units of permanent housing and four units of homeless prevention interventions to keep people housed.

    The last part of the framework, which could look like accelerated cash payments, income-targeted rental assistance, and other housing support, is the most important aspect she said.

      “What we’re seeing is we’re getting people out of homelessness, but new people are becoming homeless at a faster rate,” Schaaf said.

     She continued that a solution to homelessness is what residents wanted too.
 Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln echoed this sentiment as well.

    “Over 80% of Stockton residents view homelessness as a humanitarian crisis affecting the quality of life for all Stocktonians,” Lincoln said.

    In San Jose, the city utilized state funding to build three interim housing sites on neglected public land within months, Liccardo said.

    “Building apartments in the Bay Area typically costs about $700,000 per apartment unit and requires four or five years to build in a development cycle,” Liccardo said. “We’ve shown we can do this… in less than six months at a fifth of the cost.”

So how likely is it that the Big City Mayors get their request met?
Well, already State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Speaker Anthony Rendon have voiced their support, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

    The $4 billion yearly funding for housing and homelessness is also listed as budget priorities, released earlier this week, for both the state assembly and state senate.

      If passed, the funding would likely be split between cities and counties, with more funding going to entities with more homelessness, Liccardo said.

    “The allocation typically is based on a formula that combines both point in time, homeless counts and population and so we expect those kinds of formulas to continue,” Liccardo said. “And we’ll be certainly advocating to ensure that the hardest hit cities, after all, its large cities that have suffered most from homelessness, are in fact, front and center.”

    It won’t be an easy road, but the mayors said they are hopeful.
“We just have a sense of optimism here,” Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said. “We can begin to move the needle, we can begin to make a change.”



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Congressman Eric Swalwell, D.A. Diana Becton Featured at Annual Law Day

Law Day was made official in 1961 when Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1st as the official date for celebrating Law Day.




On May 7
, 2021, Congressman Eric Swalwell will address the community as keynote speaker at the 19th Annual East Bay Law Day event.  In addition, a mock trial featuring students from De Anza, Kennedy, and Richmond High Schools and Salesian Prep Academy will be judged by Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton.

    Due to Coivid-19, the event will be held virtually for the first timefrom 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

   Law Day is an annual commemoration first held in 1957 when American Bar Association President Charles Rhynesenvisioned a special national day to mark the nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

    The following year, Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Law Day Proclamation.

   Law Day was made official in 1961 when Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1st as the official date for celebrating Law Day.  

   This year’s Law Day theme is “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.”  The rule of law is the bedrock of American rights and liberties—in times of calm and unrest alike. The 2021 Law Day theme reminds all of us that we the people share the responsibility to promote the rule of law, defend liberty, and pursue justice” (ABA, 2021).

    Besides the speeches and the mock trial, there will also be a breakout session with attorneys and other law enforcement from across the county. The breakout session will focus on the presentday significance of the rule of law.

    To sign up, go to Facebook:     Zoom: Meeting ID 86225756381  Passcode 324970

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