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News from the East Bay Regional Park District: GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT

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Birding enthusiasts worldwide will join in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count, scheduled for Friday through Monday, Feb. 15 through 18.

It’s an annual project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society in partnership with Bird Studies Canada.

The idea is to count the birds you see for 15 minutes on one or more days of the project, then enter your checklists at the web site, birdcount.org. More information is available at the web site.

Two East Bay Regional Parks will participate. At Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley, naturalist Cat Taylor will lead a count from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17. All levels of bird expertise are welcome. Bring binoculars if you have them; the park has some available to loan. Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Oakley’s Main Street. Call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.

And at Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area in Pleasanton, naturalist Ashley Adams will coordinate a bird count from 9 to 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17. Shadow Cliffs is on Stanley Boulevard just east of Valley Avenue. For information, call Sunol Wilderness at 510-544-3249.

 

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Birds, ancient volcanoes, newts, and labyrinths are all part of a program from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17 at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in the Oakland Hills.

Naturalist Michael Charnofsky will lead a moderate, 2½-mile hike to find the hidden labyrinths in historic quarries, scan the sky for eagles, and search the ponds for newts.

Meet Michael at the park entrance on Skyline Boulevard just south of the intersection with Grizzly Peak Boulevard. For information, call 510-544-3187.

Sibley Preserve also will be the venue for a Wednesday Walk, starting at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 20, led by naturalist Susan Ramos.

Wednesday Walkers are an informal group of hikers of all ages and abilities, who explore a different regional park each time.

For the Sibley walk, meet at the park’s Old Tunnel Road staging area on the east side of the Caldecott Tunnel off Highway 24. For information and directions, call 510-544-3187.

 

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Down at Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda, a survey of a different sort is planned from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16 with naturalist Morgan Dill.

Visitors can don hip boots provided by the park, wade into the Bay, and use a seine net to catch and release some of the fish that live there.

The program is for ages 10 and older. Crab Cove is at the end of McKay Avenue off Alameda’s Central Avenue. For information, call 510-544-3187.

 

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Photographers will enjoy “Nature in Black and White,” a program from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17, which repeats at the same time on Feb. 24, in the Environmental Education Center at Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley.

Naturalist Anthony Fisher will show the group some classic black and white images, then lead a walk into the park to make new ones.

The focus is on texture, form and pattern in absence of color, using phone or camera.

The center is at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive. Call 510-544-2233.

 

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A native knowledge nature walk is the plan from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16 at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont.

Naturalist Kristina Parkison will share plant use and animal lore known by generations of Ohlones.

The program is for ages seven and older and parent participation is required. Meet at the park visitor center at the end of Patterson Ranch Road off Paseo Padre Parkway. Call 510-544-3220.

 

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There’s always something enjoyable to see and do in the regional parks. For a full schedule, visit the web site, www.ebparks.org.

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Bay Area

Grassroots Group Unites to Help Community Breathe During Wildfire Season

The attendance at each build event has, accordingly, increased each week (there were over 60 volunteers at the previous event) with over 800 high-quality purifiers assembled so far. 

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CHC Air Purifier Build

Wildfire season is hitting California hard this year. Fires fueled by climate change are burning across the state in record sizes and numbers, devastating communities and turning the skies red with smoke.

During these times, it is easy to feel helpless, especially when the underlying causes of these crises are so monumental. What can ordinary people possibly do to address each other’s health and survival?

The Common Humanity Collective (CHC) might have the beginnings of an answer. CHC came together at the beginning of the pandemic as a small group of friends, neighbors, and UC Berkeley graduate students to create alternative ways to produce and distribute hand sanitizer and high-filtration face masks in the Bay Area when these basic resources had disappeared from store shelves.

CHC’s momentum grew as more people joined the effort—expanding to over 300 volunteers, who coalesced into decentralized groupings across the Bay—to build PPE and slow the spread of COVID-19. So far, the collective has distributed over 60,000 DIY face masks and over 7,000 gallons of sanitizer, all for free.

Now, recognizing the harmful effects of smoke and air pollutants during the wildfire crisis, the collective is building high-quality DIY air purifiers so individuals and families can filter the poisonous air that billows into their homes.

Every other Saturday since the first signs of smoke, community members, students, teachers, organizers, tenants, and workers of the East Bay have come together to build these air purifiers and get them out to the most affected parts of their communities.

Over 130 people from over 10 different Bay Area organizations have participated in these builds. The efforts have grown to include members of the tenant group, Tenant and Neighborhood Councils; East Bay and SF chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America; the Sunrise Movement; Mask Oakland; other mutual aid groups, as well as friends, families, and loved ones.

These DIY purifiers are comparable to significantly more expensive ($100+) commercial purifiers and can filter a room full of smoke and particulates down to healthy levels within a similar period of time as commercial products.

CHC distributes purifiers to the most polluted and least-resourced communities in Oakland and Berkeley, occasionally in partnership with organizations such as East Oakland Collective and Tenant and Neighborhood Councils. The group also makes a determined effort to recruit the recipients of the purifiers to participate in future builds and personally distribute purifiers they assemble to their neighbors and friends.

Traditional nonprofits that act as a stopgap measure against government austerity often have a deactivating and demobilizing effect on the beneficiaries of their goodwill. This can perpetuate a vicious cycle of alienation and reliance among working people.

In contrast, by urging such people to assume ownership of the processes of production and distribution of these essential tools, the work of mutual aid aims to increase their autonomy, their solidarity, and their participation in decisions that affect their survival.

The attendance at each build event has, accordingly, increased each week (there were over 60 volunteers at the previous event) with over 800 high-quality purifiers assembled so far.

So, what can we do? We may not be able to flip a switch to eradicate the pandemic or the wildfires, but we can build tools to help each other breathe through these crises. We don’t have to feel helpless alone: we can grow stronger together.

     Air purifier builds occur every other Saturday through the wildfire season. Come build air purifiers with us and take one home with you, sign up here at tinyurl.com/chcpurifierbuild. 5515 We are located at 5515 Doyle St, Emeryville, CA 94608 in the parking lot across from the Doyle Street Café. Follow CHC on Instagram/Twitter at @chumanityc and contact us with any questions or ideas you have. 

 

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Bay Area

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm Visits Bay Area

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) welcomed U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm last Friday to California’s 13th Congressional District for two events highlighting innovative responses to the global climate crisis.

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Jennifer Granholm

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) welcomed U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm last Friday to California’s 13th Congressional District for two events highlighting innovative responses to the global climate crisis.

Congresswoman Lee and Secretary Granholm, a former UC Berkeley faculty member, first toured the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to hear from the nation’s leading scientists about their efforts to discover new technologies, ensure a clean and sustainable water supply, decarbonize the planet and solve the climate crisis.

Following the tour and discussions with scientists such as Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, Congresswoman Lee and Secretary Granholm joined East Bay mayors and other local officials at a solar-powered Berkeley home to promote the Department of Energy’s Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+), an online tool helps local governments cut red tape on the review and approval of residential solar power.

State Senator Nancy Skinner, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and other local leaders participated in the event at the home of Berkeley resident Pablo Diaz-Gutierrez. With the sky covered in gray smoke from the California’s massive wildfires, Congresswoman Lee, Secretary Granholm, and local leaders spoke about the importance of residential solar power at a time when threat of fire is causing shutdowns of traditional power sources across the state.

“Here in California, we’re experiencing the climate emergency first-hand. We have lost so many homes and lives – and entire towns – to wildfires over the last few years,” said Congresswoman Lee. 

“We know that these unprecedented fires are driven by climate change. We also know that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis both here and around the world,” she said.

“Increasing access to residential solar in communities like Oakland and Berkeley – where certain neighborhoods have experienced generations of environmental racism – helps to keep us on the path to justice. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Granholm and President Biden to build back bolder and address the climate crisis with the urgency that it deserves.”

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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Bay Area

Who Is Janani Ramachandran, Candidate for Assembly District 18? 

Social justice lawyer Janani Ramachandran is a runoff election for State Assembly District 18, which will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

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Janani Ramachandran/ Photo Courtesy of Janani Ramachandran

Social justice lawyer Janani Ramachandran is a runoff election for State Assembly District 18, which will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

Post columnist Richard Johnson conducted the following interview with the candidate, which has been edited for length and clarity.

(RJ): Tell us about your background and upbringing?

(JR): I am the granddaughter of immigrants from a small village in South India who immigrated to this country for a better life, education, jobs and health care. My grandparents were represented by labor unions that eventually led to stable jobs, higher living wages, health care and decent benefits. I am grateful to have been part of a family that was lifted out of poverty because of the strength of their labor unions.

When I went to my undergrad at Stanford, I worked at a community health clinic for a few years serving teen moms and immigrant mothers while providing Case Management services for many folks. A majority of my work there was with survivors of domestic violence. Many were on the brink of homelessness.

(Later), I lived in Oakland and attended Berkeley law school and continued to do a lot of direct Community Services representing elderly tenants who were facing eviction. I worked on restorative justice programs to address community violence, interpersonal violence, and continuing to represent survivors of violence.

All of these experiences got me thinking about the corruption in many parts of the system whether it is Oakland Calif., local governments or across the country. So, I joined the City of Oakland Public Ethics Commission to determine where the corruption really lies, to uncover bribery and lack of transparency. 

(RJ): What do you bring to the table that others are lacking?

Firstly, real compassion. You know, we have a lot of leaders working in politics but are faking it, because they want political power. They are driven by ego and greed.  I have provided Community Services my entire life.  I’m driven to do this, because I’ve seen the unintended consequences of our laws that are not written with the interests of us and not written with the interests of communities in Oakland.

(RJ): Can you name two main challenges that you feel passionate about that would benefit the people?

(JR): One thing is raising the minimum wage because $15 does not cut it for anyone, especially here in the East Bay. In Oakland, if you made $15 an hour, you would have to work 89 hours a week for a one-bedroom apartment. Our wages are too low, and I want to raise the minimum wage to $22 an hour.

The second thing is housing. A lot of my work as an attorney was representing elderly tenants in Oakland who are being evicted and/or survivors of violence. Many of these people are being evicted despite the global pandemic. So, our state does not put any priority on tenants. 

(RJ): Far too many legislators in office tend to renege on their promises that govern them.

(JR): Corporate money is a huge reason why people don’t keep their promises. Our own governor, Gavin Newsom, promised that he would implement a “Medicare for All” system that would be paid for by the government. This system will save lives and save our state money. The only people that it would harm are big pharmaceutical companies, or big health insurance companies. 

These are the very industries that are lining the campaign’s pockets of even our so-called progressive Democrats, including my opponent who insists she is for universal health care. 

To the contrary, she’s gotten over $200,000 from the healthcare industry and Big Pharma who do not want a universal health care system because it’s going to impact their profits. This happens time and again! 

(RJ): What do you put first in your life to help you remain on the right path?

(JR): I believe in God and I’m spiritual. This is important to me because my spirituality guides me to make sure that I’m not operating in greed, but I’m doing so for the service of others.

(RJ): What is your position on LGBTQA issues?

(JR): I support them as I am LGBTQ myself. I identify as a queer woman and as a lesbian woman.

(RJ): How has women’s liberation helped or hinder the community?

(JR): It’s important that genders are equal, and we need to start treating all genders as equal. Women do not make the same money, and we earn approximately .35 cents to the dollar. 

We need to make sure that we have equality. We need to make sure that women have paid leave to take care of family members, children and elders without having to risk their jobs.  We have so many women who are incarcerated for reasons unrelated and even though they’re Victims of Crime themselves. We need to unpack this and dive deeper and make sure we have equality in so many different ways.

(RJ): What is your position on providing living spaces, employment training and substance funding to those who have paid their dues to society by serving their time?

(JR): Absolutely, we need to make sure that we are providing all the required social, mental, housing and employment opportunities for those who are re-entering society. We need to make those pathways easier, not more difficult in the way that we have them.

(RJ): Will you support more family visits (for inmates? Will you support legislation that requires education and training for inmates?

(JR) Yes. We need to provide all sorts of services and opportunities for all inmates. I previously volunteered in the San Quentin Restorative Justice Project. I learned so much from and about these men. The programs offered prepared them to engage in a conversation about growth, learning and the restorative justice process with fellow inmates and leaders. These types of programs should be funded more and eliminated.

(RJ): Given the fact that we live in a divided country, one blue and one red, how can you help to bring people together in unification?

(JR): We need to return to compassion and empathy. We need to see humanity and each other right now. But I need to say this is not only the case in California. It’s not just about blue versus red. You know, it’s about Democrat versus Democrat as well. I’m going up against an opponent who slammed it and she was a fellow Democratic and woman of color who slanders, comes up with lies, and dirty-nasty smear campaigns that violate all sorts of ethics. So, we need to look within our own party.

(RJ): Since marijuana has been legalized, (why are offenders still incarcerated)?

(JR): I don’t understand why we still have individuals incarcerated for crimes related to marijuana and cannabis. They need to have an immediate pathway to release and to be pardoned. It is unacceptable that we haven’t already implemented that. 

(RJ): How do you see the role of the police? Do they truly serve and protect the communities?

(JR): I know we need to hold police accountable. We really do need to make sure that police are not getting away with committing crimes and with a sense of impunity. Last year, there were 1172 people killed at the hands of police. How many of their families got any sense of justice? How many of those police officers faced justice? Few cases have been fully investigated.

(RJ): What should the voters know about you that they don’t already know?

(JR): I’m real, I’m authentic. I’m not going to be someone who makes empty campaign promises while turning my back on the people. When I say I’m listening to the people, I am. When I am elected, I’m coming back to make sure that I continue to hear from you and implement the answers. 

I want us to march together, protest together and fight together because politics can’t be the answer alone. It has to be politics along-side social movements that create change. We have to work together, and I will continue to ask for your feedback, ideas and solutions. 

(RJ): How do you see the recall of Governor Newsome?

(JR): I oppose the recall. If we as voters decide that we’re not happy with what he’s doing, then next year is an opportunity for voters to vote him out. I think about what those hundreds of millions of dollars could have gone towards instead of being used on a recall: public education, recovery, supporting small businesses, raising the minimum wage.

(RJ): Back to religion, how can churches assist someone in your position?

(JR): I’ve had the honor of speaking at several churches in Oakland with pastors inviting me to address their congregation. I also spoke to their church members who reside in East and West Oakland to share my message and connect with folks. I really appreciate having the opportunity to speak at churches.

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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