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Mural of Oscar Grant Unveiled at Fruitvale BART Station

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A huge mural honoring the life and legacy of Oscar Grant was officially unveiled last weekend, 10 years after he was killed on the platform of Fruitvale BART.

A blazing wave of blue hits you as you walk up to the west side of Fruitvale Station — it was Oscar Grant’s favorite color — framed in gold and est African emblems of self-determination set against the Oakland skyline.

“It’s iconography of this agency coming to terms with the brutal murder of Oscar Grant and it’s a collaboration with his family and his community,” said BART director Lateefah Simon.

The Mural is the first long-term project under BART’s “Art in Transit” program. The agency  paid $38,000 to a local muralist to paint on an uneven exterior concrete wall.

It was a tough job.

“Not as tough as facing police terrorism,” according to the well-known Oakland artist known as Refa One, who put his heart and soul into the project. “I hope the mural opens up dialogue and action to end the challenges we face as the Black community struggles against police terrorism.”

Oscar Grant’s uncle, Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, credits the community for the mural coming into reality and calls on the community to continue the work.

“Because of the mantra, that cry of ‘I am Oscar Grant,’ we got for the first time in California state history an officer arrested, charged, convicted and sent to jail,” said Johnson.

“What has happened today is the result of this community that embraced us, stood with us, cried with us, went back and forth to court with us, prayed for us and prayed with us. But most importantly, you realized your First Amendment right to say, ‘I am Oscar Grant,’” he said.

Despite those gains, Johnson said, 1,200 people in California have been murdered by police since Grant’s murder. “So that’s telling us our work is not done,” he said.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee acknowledged the unveiling as well. “Today, 10 years after his death, a mural of Oscar Grant was unveiled at Fruitvale Bart Station” she said in a Facebook post.

“A street has also been renamed in his honor. As we celebrate Oscar’s life and enduring legacy, let us also recommit to reforming our criminal justice system and fighting for a world where Black lives truly matter.”

Refa One  said he also hopes the mural will bring a sense of joy and peace to the family, and hopes it helps transform the visual landscape of the community.

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D.C. Statehood is a Voting Rights Issue… and Racial Justice Issue

The disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents is fundamentally un-American and there is no good reason to allow it to continue.

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Washington, D.C. has a higher percentage of Black residents than any state in the country, and they have no voting representation in Congress. This is systemic racism in action. It is long past time to give Washington’s 712,000 residents the representation they deserve by making D.C. our 51st state.
It is shameful that people who live in the nation’s capital have no say in Congress. And it is unacceptable that local laws and budgets passed by D.C. elected officials can be overturned by members of Congress who decide to meddle in local decision-making. That explains why Washington, D.C.’s license plates include the slogan, “End taxation without representation,” a rallying cry by American colonists against the tyranny of British rule.
The disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents is fundamentally un-American and there is no good reason to allow it to continue. There are bogus reasons to oppose statehood, and some Republicans in Congress have been trotting them out now that legislation to admit Washington, D.C. as a statehood bill is moving forward in Congress.
Some claim that Washington, D.C. is too small to be a state. But D.C. has more residents than either Vermont or Wyoming. There are currently six states whose population is less than a million. D.C. pays more federal taxes than 21 states—and more federal taxes per person than any state.
Some make the false claim that it would require a constitutional amendment to make Washington, D.C. a state. Not true. The Constitution clearly gives Congress the authority to admit new states.
That’s how every one of the 37 states that were not initially part of the U.S. have joined the country. The original District of Columbia was created out of land from Maryland and Virginia. In 1846, a good chunk of D.C. was returned to Virginia. No constitutional amendment was required then, and none is required now to admit Washington, D.C. as a new state. Some objections are so idiotic, frankly, that they must be a cover for pure partisanship or worse.
In March, a Heritage Foundation legal fellow testifying before Congress said that D.C. residents shouldn’t get representation in Congress because they can already influence congressional debates by placing yard signs where members of Congress might see them on their way to work. One Republican congressman said (wrongly) that D.C. would be the only state without a car dealership. Another said that D.C. doesn’t have enough mining, agriculture, or manufacturing. Mitch McConnell said the plan to make D.C. a state was evidence of “full bore socialism on the march.”
At least some Republicans are honest about their real reason for opposing statehood:  they just don’t want to let D.C. voters elect Democratic officials who will support progressive policies supported by the majority of the American people.
But that is not a principled position. None of the objections to D.C. statehood hold water, especially when weighed against the basic injustice of disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people.
Washingtonians have fought in every U.S. war. About 30,000 D.C. residents are veterans. But D.C.’s mayor does not even have the ability that governors have to mobilize its own National Guard—a fact that proved to be deadly during the Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection.
The bottom line in this: how can we hold ourselves out as a model of democracy when we are the only democratic country in the world that denies representation and self-governance to the people who live in its capital? We can’t.
As the Biden administration recognized in announcing its support for D.C. statehood, it is long past time to correct this injustice. The House of Representatives voted on April 22, to admit Washington, D.C. as a state. Senate leaders must not allow filibuster rules or Republican resistance to prevent Congress from righting this wrong.

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MAYOR LONDON BREED NOMINATES CITY ATTORNEY DENNIS HERRERA TO LEAD THE SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION

As the new General Manager of the SFPUC, Herrera would bring decades of experience serving San Francisco residents and advancing the fight for significant environmental policies.

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San Francisco, CA — Today Mayor London N. Breed nominated City Attorney Dennis Herrera to serve as the next General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). Herrera was elected as City Attorney of San Francisco in 2001, and will bring decades of experience serving City residents and advancing environmental policies through his nationally-recognized office.
The SFPUC provides retail drinking water and wastewater services to the City of San Francisco, wholesale water to three Bay Area counties, green hydroelectric and solar power to Hetch Hetchy electricity customers, and power to the residents and businesses of San Francisco through the CleanPowerSF program.
“I am proud to nominate Dennis Herrera to serve as General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission,” said Mayor Breed. “Dennis has been a great champion in San Francisco across a wide range of issues from civil rights to protecting our environment, and most importantly he has been someone who always puts the people of this City first. By bringing his experience in office and his commitment to public service to this new position, I am confident the SFPUC will be able to deliver the high-quality services our residents deserve while continuing to advance nationally-recognized programs like CleanPowerSF and pursue ambitious efforts like public power. Dennis is the right leader for the hard-working employees of the SFPUC and this City.”
“I will always cherish the groundbreaking work we have done in the City Attorney’s Office over these nearly 20 years,” Herrera said. “We advanced equality for all, pushed affordable housing at every turn, gave our children better opportunities to grow and thrive, and took innovative steps to protect the environment. We never shied from the hard fights. Above all, our approach to government has had an unwavering focus on equity, ethics and integrity.”
“It is that focus that drives me to this new challenge,” Herrera said. “Public service is an honor. When you see a need, you step up to serve. The test of our age is how we respond to climate change. San Francisco’s public utility needs clean, innovative and decisive leadership to meet that challenge. I am ready to take the lead in ensuring that all San Franciscans have sustainable and affordable public power, clean and reliable water, and, overall, a public utility that once again makes them proud. I want to thank Mayor Breed for this unique opportunity to stand up for ratepayers and usher in a new era of clean leadership at the top of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.”
The next step for the nomination is for the five-member commission that oversees the SFPUC to interview City Attorney Herrera and forward him as a formal recommendation to the Mayor. After this, and once a contract is finalized, City Attorney Herrera would be officially appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Commission. This process will take a number of weeks.
For nearly two decades, Herrera has been at the forefront of pivotal water, power and sewer issues. He worked to save state ratepayers $1 billion during PG&E’s first bankruptcy in the early 2000s and has been a leading advocate for San Francisco to adopt full public power for years. In 2009, he reached a key legal agreement with Mirant to permanently close the Potrero Power Plant, San Francisco’s last fossil fuel power plant. The deal also included Mirant paying $1 million to help address pediatric asthma in nearby communities. In 2017, Herrera sued the top five investor-owned fossil fuel companies in the world, including ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, seeking billions of dollars for infrastructure to protect San Francisco against sea-level rise caused by their products, including large portions of the SFPUC’s combined sewer and stormwater system.
In 2018, Herrera defeated an attempt to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the crown jewel of the SFPUC system, which provides emissions-free hydroelectric power and clean drinking water to 2.7 million Bay Area residents. He is also leading efforts before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the courts to fight PG&E’s predatory tactics to grow its corporate monopoly by illegally overcharging public projects like schools, homeless shelters and affordable housing to connect to the energy grid.
Herrera was first elected City Attorney in December 2001, and went on to build what The American Lawyer magazine hailed as “one of the most aggressive and talented city law departments in the nation.”
Herrera’s office was involved in every phase of the legal war to achieve marriage equality, from early 2004 to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark rulings in June 2013. Herrera was also the first to challenge former President Trump’s attempts to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities. He repeatedly defeated the Trump administration in different cases as it sought to punish sanctuary cities, deny basic benefits like food stamps to legal immigrants, and discriminate in health care against women, the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable groups. He brought groundbreaking consumer protection cases against payday lenders, credit card arbitrators and others. He also brought pioneering legal cases to protect youth, including blocking an attempt to strip City College of San Francisco of its accreditation and getting e-cigarettes off San Francisco store shelves until they received required FDA approval.

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Leading Black Health Group that Sued FDA Responds to Agency Decision to Ban Menthol Cigarettes

For decades, the industry marketed menthols to our kids and communities with exploitative and discriminatory tactics.

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The African American Tobacco Leadership Council (AATCLC) released the following statement in response to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes, which follows the organization’s lawsuit filed against the agency last year: 

“[Thursday’s] decision by the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes is a long-overdue step toward ending years of racialized predation upon African Americans by the tobacco industry. 

    This decision follows the lawsuit we filed against the agency last year and it signals the beginning of the end. We are encouraged but there is still much work ahead.

     For decades, the industry marketed menthols to our kids and communities with exploitative and discriminatory tactics. As we work to confront racism and injustice in all forms, banning menthol cigarettes is one part of the push toward racial justice, health equity, and protecting Black lives. 

     While a ban on menthol cigarettes is progress, there is more work to be done to end tobacco use and protect the health of African Americans. The AATCLC will continue to fight for justice and health equity in our community. We will continue to work to educate the public about the harmful effects of tobacco on Black Americans and African immigrant communities to ensure we enjoy longer and healthier lives.”

      This statement was provided by Keisha N. Brown, president of Lagrant Communications.

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