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Mfume, Cummings Testify For JHU Police

THE AFRO — Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Chair of the House Oversight Committee, delivered powerful personal “surprise” testimony before the Maryland House of Delegates.

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By J. K. Schmid

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Chair of the House Oversight Committee, delivered powerful personal “surprise” testimony before the Maryland House of Delegates, March 12..

“I am not telling you do to it,” Cummings told the legislative panel led by Del. Cheryl D. Glenn. “That’s none of my business. But…I have come here begging you to do something.”

Cummings plea is that the Maryland general assembly do something about violence on Baltimore City streets. He recounted a time when he himself was robbed at gunpoint and the shooting death of his 20-year-old nephew.

“I literally saw his brains splattered on the wall,” Cummings testified. “Why am I telling you this? This is one of those situations where I believe we have to do something.”

While recommending no particular policy, Cummings’s remarks came during the debate over Johns Hopkins University’s (JHU) request for a 100-officer private police force to secure its campus. Generally, such forces are forbidden by Maryland statute JHU is looking for an exception to be made similar to Coppin State University, Morgan State University and University of Baltimore.

JHU currently relies on a police force of off-duty officers of the Baltimore Sheriff’s Department and Baltimore Police Department (BPD) that the JHU administration has characterized as unreliable.

Cummings 7th District predecessor, Kweisi Mfume, the Chair of Morgan State’s Board of Regents, and JHU graduate, has unequivocally come out for, Senate Bill 793 and House Bill 1094.

“We face a challenge that demands a new level of cooperation and investment from all of us who call Baltimore home,” Mfume wrote in a letter to committee members. “Violent crime in our city has risen to staggering heights. Too many citizens know the tragedy of losing a loved one to violence, or the daily worry of being out at night. This situation demands new solutions like the comprehensive approach proposed.“

JHU officials have described Morgan State’s police force as a model for what students and community members can expect when it comes to how JHU will be policing.

“I know firsthand the painful history of abuse of power by law enforcement that has overwhelmingly impacted people of color,” Mfume wrote.”Yet it is precisely that raw and real history that gives me hope about the draft legislation you are considering.”

JHU touts the endorsement of former Baltimore Mayor and University of Baltimore President, Kurt Schmoke. The new force will be accountable to Baltimore Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcements Civilian Review Board as well as further accountable to boards on JHU and the administration itself.

“I don’t see this as exceptional,” JHU President Ronald J. Daniels told the AFRO. “I see this as very much on par with what the other institutions in Baltimore currently enjoy. I think the percentage is 70 percent of universities in the United States, both public and private, that have an excess of 2,500 students, have sworn police forces,” Daniels added. “So, again what we’re talking about here, is not the exception, but in fact what seems to be the best practices standard for how one ensures the safety and security of a university community.”

Daniels referred to page 35 of it’s Interim Study Report, and recommendation from the committee last year, when similar bills failed to pass. Daniels and the administration infer that JHU’s rising crime rate across three campuses is best explained by the absence of a police force similar to campuses like Morgan, Coppin and University of Maryland.

However, the figures don’t seem to explain why crime is stable or in decline on other Baltimore campuses when they have the exact same force JHU has envisioned.

Daniels referred the AFRO to a study of police force at the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia. As further evidence of how JHU’s police force could and should work.

However, this study indicates that there is no longitudinal data to determine the long term impact of focused policing by committing more officers to restricted locations. The study could not determine if crime was eliminated to simply pushed outside the force’s area of operation and could not determine whether crime would resurge in the new established order.

“We cannot police our way out of poverty, economic stratification or any of the other ills that fuel violent crime in our city or our country,” Mfume’s letter reads.

“a lively, dynamic street life is the best way that one can deter violent crime,” Daniels told the AFRO. “In that respect, we have first and foremost, spent considerable time, effort and money over the last decade that I’ve been at Johns Hopkins, investing in and around our two major university campuses in Baltimore.”

JHU is a lead investor in the $2 billion East Baltimore Development Initiative (EBDI). EBDI characterizes itself as a rejuvenation project, the project overlaps with JHU campuses. JHU’s reports its endowment at $4.3 billion.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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Community

Building Bridges Beyond Bias in Marin

Registration is required. Sign-ups are available on the MCFL website. For more information and to register to this event, go to marinlibrary.org/blogs/post/building-bridges-beyond-bias/

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From left: Tahirah Dean, Jason Lau, Ph.D., Laura Eberly, Alejandro Lara

The Marin County Free Library (MCFL) and Age Forward Marin is presenting a four-part, on-line series “Building Bridges Beyond Bias” which is designed for Marin County residents from all backgrounds to gain understanding and foster awareness about each other through conversation and connection, and to confront and explore beyond our biases.

Tahirah Dean will be speaking on Wednesday, October 20, and Jason Lau, Ph.D. will be speaking on Wednesday, November 3, for the two remaining programs. The programs will be online via Zoom from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Dean is an Afro-Latina Muslim woman and a staff attorney at Legal Aid of Marin, pursuing her passion for housing justice, and has worked as an immigration attorney assisting asylum seekers and those seeking work visas. She holds a B.A. in English and Political Science from the University of North Texas, and a J.D. from Boston College Law School.

Lau traveled to the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1997 to further his education. Today, he is the interim associate dean and senior business officer for the School of Extended and International Education for Sonoma State University and chairs the Marin County Child Care Commission and the Marin YMCA Volunteer Board of Managers.

The speakers for two previous programs in the series were Laura Eberly, who spoke on September 22 and Alejandro Lara, who spoke on October 6.

Eberly is the founding director of Mountaintop Coaching & Consulting, which provides diversity, equity, and inclusion services. She holds a B.A. and M.S.W. from the University of Chicago and is ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church. She is a proud alum of Catalyst Project’s Anne Braden Anti-Racist Organizing Training Program.

Lara is a first-generation Latino college graduate from UC Davis, and currently works as the communications coordinator for the Canal Alliance in San Rafael.

MCFL has supported equity measures in the county, offered enlightening educational programming, and has enthusiastically endorsed the Marin County Board of Supervisors’ prioritization of social equity and the creation of the County’s Office of Equity. County departments are working to dismantle inequities and transform systems inherited through centuries of racial, social, and political injustices.

The Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spearheaded the Age Forward Marin. It is a collective effort between County departments and local government, community leaders, and residents including in Marin’s unincorporated areas.

Gloria Dunn-Violin, a resident of Novato, approached HHS Director Benita McLarin with a concept that evolved into the special speaker series. Dunn-Violin teamed with the Corte Madera Library and the Age Forward initiative to design the Beyond Bias program’s purpose and format, to assist in finding speakers, and to share the event with community partners focused on diversity and inclusion.

Registration is required. Sign-ups are available on the MCFL website. For more information and to register to this event, go to marinlibrary.org/blogs/post/building-bridges-beyond-bias/

The Marin Post’s coverage of local news in Marin County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California

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City Government

Policy Pathways Honors Former Mayor Elihu Harris and Six Youth Leaders

The recipients of the 2021 Youth Public Service Award are students from Virginia high schools.

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Policy Pathways Logo courtesy of Organization's Facebook

Policy Pathways has announced former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris as its 2021 Policy Leadership Award recipient, along with six youth who will receive 2021 Youth Public Service Awards.

The award winners will be recognized Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, at the Policy Pathways Third Annual Fall Celebration from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. The event will take place online and is open to the public.

Elihu Harris

Kayla Patrick

The keynote speaker will be Kayla Patrick, senior data  and policy analyst at the Education Trust. She has conducted several major reports on policy and data analysis on the education of girls, particularly those of color. She has been featured in The New York Times, MSNBC, and 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s education platform.

She will be receiving the Excellence in Public Policy and Administration Award.

Elihu Harris’s career in public service has spanned five decades. He is a former California assemblyman, executive director of the National Bar Association, mayor of Oakland, and chancellor of Peralta Community College District. Today, he is a private attorney and owner of the Harris Funeral Home in Berkeley.

Dr. Lenneal Henderson, visiting instructor at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, and board member and fellow of numerous humanitarian and cultural institutions, will introduce Harris.

The recipients of the 2021 Youth Public Service Award are students from Virginia high schools.

University students being honored include Virginia students who have proven themselves to be leaders in public service in academics, community involvement and vision of the future.

“During our Third Annual Fall Celebration, we celebrate the accomplishments of policy leaders and public servants who have inspired us through their work, courage, dedication, and sheer will to overcome the barriers they faced that could have easily derailed their dreams,” said Policy Pathways President and CEO, Dr. D. Pulane Lucas.

The Fall Celebration supports the operations and programs of Policy Pathways. To purchase tickets and sponsorships, go to https://policypathways.org/event/fall-celebration/. Contributions are tax-deductible. For more information about the event, contact info@policypathways.org or call (866)-465-6671.

Policy Pathways, Inc. is a nonprofit organization based in Richmond, Va., providing education, training, and leadership development to high school students, recent high school graduates, and community college and undergraduates students who desire to become leaders in the fields of public policy, public administration, and public service.

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Community

Former High School Administrator Files Federal “Whistleblower” Lawsuit Against OUSD

Cleveland McKinney alleges he lost his job for complaining about “unsafe and discriminatory conditions” at McClymonds High

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Cleveland McKinney

Cleveland McKinney, a former assistant principal at McClymonds High School in West Oakland, has filed a lawsuit against the Oakland Unified School District, alleging that he was demoted and terminated for exercising his freedom of speech to complain about “unsafe and discriminatory school conditions, including tainted water, disproportionate suspensions of Black children, staff assaulting students, misappropriation of funds (and) sexual harassment of female students.”

“I’m a whistleblower,” said McKinney in an interview with the Oakland Post. “They forced me out once I began to speak up about a lot of the injustices that were going on and how they mistreated the Black community (in West Oakland) in the same way.” 

Reached by the Post, the district said it does not comment on pending litigation. 

During the time he was facing threats of demotion and loss of his position, several hundred members of the McClymonds community attended a school board meeting to protest the retaliation against him.

McKinney’s complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in December 2020 by Sonya Z. Mehta of Oakland civil rights law firm Siegel, Yee, Brunner and Mehta. The lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount of money including damages for lost wages, emotional distress and pain and suffering. 

Depositions began in the past few weeks for the case, which is scheduled to go to trial in August 2022. In addition to the district, the complaint names McKinney’s former bosses, OUSD Executive Director of High School Instruction Vanessa Sifuentes and former McClymonds Principal Jarod Scott as defendants.

Prior to facing retaliation and being terminated by OUSD, McKinney had a spotless record as a teacher and school administrator since about 1996, according to the lawsuit.

McKinney was originally hired by OUSD in 2014 to help implement a 2012 Office of Civil Rights complaint against the district for “discriminatory discipline, including unwarranted suspensions, against African American students.”

State statistics indicate that in 2020-2021 McClymonds had 357 students, of whom 78% were Black. 

In his position at OUSD, McKinney worked with the Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Education to help create new discipline policies and train teachers how to discipline students. 

“McClymonds appointed McKinney the on-site administrator with school-wide responsibility for discipline as per the requirements of the 2012 agreement,” according to the lawsuit. 

The relationship between McKinney and his bosses began to deteriorate by Aug. 22, 2016, when he reported that water in McClymonds locker room looked “dirty and orange.”

“(He) requested the water be tested because of his reasonable belief that the water was dangerous and injurious to students,” the lawsuit said.

McKinney and others, including former McClymonds basketball coach Ben Tapscott, pushed for the district to conduct testing of all parts of the school, while students and teachers still used the water.

Officials told school staff there was nothing wrong with the water. “They advised letting the water run for five minutes, even for the cooking water in the kitchen,” though the water was still dirty after letting it run, the complaint said. 

An official stated she would not spend $100,000 to fix corroded pipes and that filters would be sufficient, the complaint said.

McKinney also met regularly with his bosses about disproportionate discipline in violation of the 2012 Office of Civil Rights agreement.

“He complained about teachers who were suspending Black students for not having pencils, asking to use the bathroom, talking, or chewing gum – and teachers who needlessly berated Black students.”

He also complained about a staff member who hit students, including punching “a girl in the throat in a meeting with many witnesses.” The administration said there was no merit to the complaint. 

McKinney also complained about mismanagement of a $50,000 donation for student activities that was redirected to administrator salaries, a Spanish teacher who knew no Spanish, an extreme mice infestation and an afterschool program that falsely claimed it was providing services to students. 

He pushed administrators to refurbish the locker room. The school’s entire football team, which was African American, “had to strip down and change on the football field and leave their equipment on the field due to the abysmal condition of the locker room. Students were forced to strip in front of adults,” the complaint said. 

In February 2018, Executive Director Sifuentes told McKinney, “Why are you so concerned about helping these people and everyone? Why don’t you just go along with what we are doing? What do you gain from this?”

In July 2018, McKinney’s bosses at the school moved his office to a space in the basement that was “moldy with a stale stench, (and) the carpet was filthy,” the complaint said.

In that room, he immediately began coughing and wheezing from allergies and asthma. 

McKinney met with OUSD Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell in September 2018 and December 2018 about his complaints, but she took no action, according to the lawsuit.

In August 2019, McKinney was demoted, removing him from his certificated position as an assistant principal and reclassified to a classified position as a program manager. On March 17, 2020, he was told that he did not have a job for the coming year and that he was terminated due to budget cuts. 

“I didn’t have any due process,” McKinney said. “When you speak up for the students and the community, it puts a target on your back, and they come after you.”

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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